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Bergamont Beebalm (Monarda fistulosa) is a native perennial from slender creeping rhizomes and thus commonly occurs in large clumps. Plants are up to 3 feet tall with a few erect branches. Leaves are 2-3 inches long, lance-shaped, and toothed.
Flower clusters are solitary at the ends of branches. Each cluster is about 1 1/2 inches long and contains about 20-50 flowers.Look for wild bergamot in rich soils in dry fields, thickets, and clearings, usually on limy soil. It ranges from northeastern North America: from Quebec to Minnesota and south to Texas.
The plant is noted for its fragrance, and is a source of oil of thyme. One authority states that Native Americans recognized four varieties that had different odors. Leaves were eaten boiled with meat and a decoction of the plant was made into hair pomade. The herb is considered an active diaphoretic (sweat inducer). Wild bergamot flowers from June – August.
Wild bergamot was also considered a medicinal plant by many Native Americans including, (but not limited to) the Menominee, the Objibwe, and the Winnebago. It was used most commonly to cure colds, and was frequently made into a tea. Today, many families still use wild bergamot during the cold and flu season. The tea may be sweetened with honey, as it tends to be quite strong.
A tea made from the plant was also used to treat mouth and throat infections caused by dental caries and gingivitis. Beebalm is the natural source of the antiseptic Thymol, the primary active ingredient in modern commercial mouthwash formulas.