Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

Uses for Bee Balm

By Isabel Prontes ; Updated September 21, 2017
Bee balm has attractive red flowers

Bee balm is the common name for Monarda didyma, a perennial flower in the Lamiaceae family. The plant is also also known as Oswego tea, bergamot and horsemint. Bee balm originates in North America. As its name indicates, the plant attracts bees, as well as hummingbirds and various other pollinators. Bee balms have flowers that appear in colors such as lilac, purple, pink and red. There are several uses for bee balm.

Traditional Medicinal Use

Native Americans have traditionally used bee balm to treat a number of health ailments and conditions. These health ailments include increasing flow of urine, heart disease, sleeplessness, fever and ceasing blood flow from wounds. Bee balm has also been used to regulate menstrual periods for females, and to stimulate the appetite. Herbalists also commonly use bee balm to treat stomach upset, nausea and vomiting, according to online resource Herbs 2000. Tea made from bee balm can be used to treat throat and mouth infections due to gingivitis.


Bee balm has various culinary applications. Bee balm flowers are common additions to salads. In tomato-based dishes, fresh or dried bee balm flowers can be used to complement flavors. It also is frequently used to replace sage to stuff poultry and other meats, such as turkey, veal and pork, according to Herbs 2000. Fresh leaves of bee balm also can be used for fruit drinks and fruit salads. Earl Grey tea is flavored with monarda leaves.


Bee balm is also useful in arts and crafts, particularly for floral arrangements. Bee balm flowers are often used to add brightness to floral arrangements, either dried or fresh. The dried flowers are sweetly fragrant, and are a common addition to both potpourri and wreaths.


Thymol is an antiseptic that is derived naturally from bee balm. Thymol is the main active ingredient that is used in mouthwashes like Listerine, according to Georgetown University Medical Center. The leaves are also high in geraniol, a compound said to help prevent cavities.


The leaves of bee balm can also be used as a facial steam. They are suitable for any skin type, whether it is dry or oily. The herbal steam opens up the pores and makes the skin feel revitalized and softer.