Summer’s Spice: Beebalm Flower Infused Honey
It won’t be long now until the first brilliant purple flowers of Beebalm explode into bloom here in the Canyon. Locals call this gorgeous wildflower either Oregano de la Sierra or just Wild Oregano. Because yep, it tastes spicy and rather Oregano-like. The botanical name of this particular species is a bit long, being Monarda fistulosa var. menthaefolia, but really, any Monarda species will work just fine for most medicinal, culinary and other uses. The specific actions will, however, vary with the exact flavor and impression of the particular plants you work with.
There can be quite a bit of taste variation through the genus of Monarda, all are aromatic but some veer more toward the sweet end of the taste spectrum while others are definitely most appropriately called spicy. Our own wild Beebalm certainly has the capacity to make your eyes water and to elicit surprised yelps from the sensitive mouths of those who didn’t quite believe me when I said it was hot. There’s also often a buttery or oily aftertaste, a smooth slickness left on the tongue after ingestion of a leaf. This buttery effect doesn’t seem to be present in all species but is certainly an element of our local Beebalm.
This versatile plant has myriad uses in food, medicine and beyond and its one of my favorite herbs to talk about at length. It can be prepared a variety of ways, from the dried leaf to the tincture of the flowering tops to a sweet elixir of the flowers. What we’ll be talking about here though, is the preparation and use of the flower infused honey.
- About a pint jar full of recently harvested, roughly chopped Beebalm flowers
- Appr. a pint of local raw honey
- Fill jar with Beebalm flowers
- Fill again with honey
- Stir with butter knife, chopstick or something similar to remove air bubbles
- Top off with honey
- Repeat until jar is full of flowers and honey
- Cover and allow to infuse for about 4 weeks
Now you have Beebalm flower infused honey. You can either warm it gently and strain it or use it as is. The flower bits taste good and make the medicine stronger but not everyone appreciates the texture.
Here are a few ways in which Beebalm honey can be helpful:
- Burn/Wounds – An excellent dressing for wounds and burns, even severe or extensive burns. Honey itself is very healing and can help to prevent or resolve infections, but the blood moving properties of Beebalm speed healing, lessen pain and treat infection. I especially love a combo of Evening Primrose (Oenothera)/Beebalm flower infused honey for moderate to severe burns or wounds.
- Sadness & Stagnant Tension – Beebalm is a relaxant nervine. Being vary aromatic, it tends to be dispersive, moving energy and fluids up and outward. This makes it especially helpful for Kapha types with a tendency toward stagnation on a emotional level. It can help with sadness or tension that won’t seem to go away, especially when accompanied by a sense of stuckness and coldness. Be aware that it can make already spacey Vatas even more spacey (it’s that upward movement thing, when Vatas often need grounding, downward moving herbs). They’ll often like that euphoric feeling but it may or may not be helpful to them overall. Beebalm is also common ingredient in my formulas for those with seasonal affective disorder.
- Tummy Troubles – Being an aromatic with an affinity for the gut (otherwise known as a carminative), Beebalm works very nicely on achy, bloated bellies where there’s a sense of stuckness and dampness. It also combines well with many bitters, which would also usually be indicated in such a scenario.
- Sore Throat – Especially good for those achy, sorta scratchy sore throats. If there’s a sense of rawness, add in some Mallow root or Elm bark. If it’s more of a sharp, burning sort of sore throat, add in or substitute Rose petals.
- Respiratory Infection/Congestion – I’ve often talked about Beebalm leaves used in an herbal steam for cold/damp respiratory infection and congestion but the honey also makes a great addition to many respiratory formulas.
- Inflammation – Beebalm is great for many forms of systemic inflammation. I seem to use it where a lot of people would use Ginger, which makes sense with its spicy, diffusive taste. However, Beebalm is more variable in temperature (a la herbal energetics) and has a more complex mix of stimulant/relaxant effects. I also learned from West Viriginia Herbwife Rebecca Hartman that Beebalm can be mighty useful in addressing acute Lupus flareups, especially where there’s concurrent rheumatoid arthritis and the flareups manifest as acute joint inflammation and body pain. I usually work with the tincture/elixir for this purpose, but the hones seems to work pretty well too.
- Infections – Those of you who’ve read my other writings on Beebalm will be familiar with how often I use it for many sorts of systemic or local infections. However, the sugar content of honey makes this particular preparation less than ideal for that use, so stick with the tea, elixir or tincture for that application.
- Food – Well yeah, it just plain tastes good. Add it to nearly any hot tea, to all sorts of sauces and desserts or even just straight from the spoon (not the whole jar at once though, folks).
All Photos ©2010 Kiva Rose