Every morning I drink Earl Grey tea. I love its floral fragrance and unique flavor. Earl Grey gets its distinctive qualities in part from a variety of citrus fruit, the bergamot orange. But there is also a member of the mint family commonly called bergamot, and its fragrance is very near that of Earl Grey tea, at least to me.
Many people grow this plant in their flowerbeds and may never realize the strong aroma carried in its leaves. Bees love it too, hence the common name bee balm.
Bergamot has been known for centuries for its herbal properties. Native Americans used it extensively for medicinal purposes. The USDA Plant Guide website offers the following information:
Ethnobotanic: The Tewa Indians because of the flavor it imparted cooked Wild bergamot with meat. The Iroquois used the plant in the making of a beverage. The plant has a wide variety of medicinal uses.
The Ojibwe put a wad of chewed leaves of this plant into their nostrils to relieve headache. The tops of the plant were dried and used as a sternutatory for the relief of colds. The leaves were placed in warm water baths for babies. The Flambeau Ojibwe gathered and dried the whole plant, boiling it in a vessel to obtain the volatile oil to inhale to cure catarrh and bronchial affections. The Menomini also used this plant as a remedy for catarrh, steeping the leaves and inflorescences in a tea. The Meskwaki used this plant in combination with other plants to relieve colds.
The Hocak (Winnebago) used wild bergamot in their sweat bath and inhaled the fumes to cure colds. A decoction of boiled leaves was used as a cure for eruptions on the face. The Cherokee made a warm poultice of the plant to relieve a headache. The Teton Dakota boiled together the leaves and flowers as a cure for abdominal pains. The Blackfoot made a tea from the blossoms and leaves to cure stomach pains. They also applied boiled leaves to the pustules of acne.
The Tewa dried the plant and ground it into a powder that was rubbed over the head to cure headaches, over the body to cure fever, and as a remedy for sore eyes and colds. Early white settlers used it as a diaphoretic and carminative, and occasionally employed it for the relief of flatulent colic, nausea and vomiting.
It would seem this plant is a cure-all to read this! Personally, I like it simply for its lovely flowers, aromatic leaves and the benefit to our honeybees. That's enough for me.
Copyright 2012 Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.