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Bee Balm Of The Butterfly Gardens Of Wisconsin
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Bee balm plants are a showy and fragrant group of plants indigenous to northeastern North America which have long been prized for their medicinal and culinary properties as well as showy flowers which attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Bee balm plants are members of the genus Monarda and grow best in zones 4 - 9. Their showy, spiky flowers are typically crowded into head-like clusters and range in color from pink to crimson red, red and light purple hues. M. fistulosa, commonly known as wild bergamot, has lavender or smoky pink flowers. M. citriodora and M. pectinata have light lavender to lilac-colored blooms and have slightly decreased flower quantities. Bee balm is a member of the mint family with fragrant minty leaves and flower buds which taste like a mix of spearmint and peppermint with oregano. Today, bee balm can be used to spice up a variety of foods.
Bee balm is the natural source of the antiseptic thymol, the main active ingredient in modern commercial mouthwash formulas. Several bee balm species, including M. fistulosa and M. didyma, have a long history of use as medicinal plants by Native Americans including the Blackfoot, Menominee, Ojibwa and Winnebago. The Blackfoot Indians recognized the plants strong antiseptic properties and used bee balm poultices for skin infections and minor wounds. Bee balm tea was used to treat mouth and throat infections caused by dental caries and gingivitis. The Winnebago used a tea made from bee balm as a general stimulant. Bee balm was also used as a carminative herb and an infusion of crushed bee balm leaves in boiling water has been used to treat headaches and fevers. Bee balm was also traditionally used by Native Americans as a seasoning for wild game, particularly birds.
July 30th, 2013
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