Bee Balm Tincture is an easy-to-make herbal remedy that helps relieve sinus congestion, sore throats, and other cold/flu symptoms. It’s also used to treat stomach upset, gas, diarrhea, and menstrual cramps.
Bee balm is a truly exceptional garden flower. It’s easy to grow, stunningly beautiful, and it brings all the pollinators to the yard.
Believe it or not, bee balm also happens to be both edible and medicinal.
There are literally dozens of ways to use bee balm, and it’s commonly used as a seasoning in Mediterranean cooking (the leaves taste a bit like oregano).
Those same herbal constituents that make it tasty and a bit spicy also contribute to its medicinal potential, and it’s used to treat colds, flu, congestion, and sore throats…as well as a whole host of other things.
There are many different types of bee balm, both wild and cultivated, and this tincture recipe will work with any of the monarda species that are edible. This includes the common red bee balm grown in so many perennial gardens, but also the native wild pink bee balm that you can find in wild places all over the country.
(If you don’t have bee balm close at hand, it’s easy enough to grow from seed. Here’s where you can find Scarlet Bee Balm Seed Packets (Monarda didyma) as well as Wild Bergamot Seed Packets (Monarda fistulosa).)
(Always consult your doctor or a clinical herbalist before trying any new herbal remedy, as there’s always the possibility of unintended consequences, allergic reaction, or interactions with other medication. If you’re harvesting wild plant material, make sure you’re 100% confident in your identification and consult multiple sources for your ID. The following is based on my research and experience, but I don’t claim to have any certifications that would qualify me to advise you on your health. Please do your own research and always verify with multiple reputable sources.)
Bee Balm Medicinal Benefits
The name “bee balm” is an umbrella label for over 17 species and 50 cultivars of this aromatic plant that is a member of the mint family. Bee balm has been used for thousands of years by Native Americans for its antimicrobial and stomach-soothing capabilities.
Bee balm has a high thymol content, which is a compound with antiseptic qualities. Because of the plant’s surplus of thymol, it has traditionally been used to treat colds, flu, and congestion as well as gas, diarrhea, nausea, sore throat and fever. In addition to these uses, bee balm extract can be taken to relieve menstrual cramps.
Bee balm is also taken as a nervine tonic, which means it helps soothe the nervous system and relieve anxiety in both children and adults.
When used externally, bee balms can help calm stinging scrapes and rashes.
How to Make Bee Balm Tincture
To make a bee balm tincture, you’ll need the following ingredients and equipment:
- Bee Balm flowering tops and leaves, dried or fresh
- Vodka (or any other palatable alcohol that’s at least 80 proof/40 percent — there’s no need to splurge here, I always use Smirnoff because it’s inexpensive and has a neutral taste)**
- One-pint mason jar with lid (amber glass is ideal, but as long as you keep the tincture away from light at all times it won’t make a difference)
- Fine mesh sieve
- Amber glass tincture bottles (with dropper)
**Never use isopropyl/rubbing alcohol for tinctures (or any other remedy you plan on ingesting). Even in small amounts, this type of alcohol is toxic and meant for external applications only.
To make the tincture, add fill a jar about 3/4 of the way full with fresh bee balm (or about halfway full with dried flowers/leaves). Bee balm flowers are very light, so pack them down to make sure they really take up space in the jar.
Cover the bee balm with vodka, or whichever alcohol you’ve chosen, and seal the jar with its lid.
Keep the developing tincture in a cool, dark place, and give the jar a gentle shake every few days. (If you remember, every day is better, but at least once a week will do.)
After about 4 to 6 weeks, it’s time to decant the tincture.
To do this, you’ll need to line a funnel with a few layers of cheesecloth. Carefully strain the tincture into small amber glass tincture bottles, squeezing the bee balm blossoms to make sure all the liquid is expelled.
Once the tincture has been decanted, label the tincture bottles with the date and suggested dosages (I use a small piece of masking tape and a marker, it peels off easily when I’m ready to use the bottle for something else).
For more information on the general process, I’d suggest reading this guide to making herbal tinctures at home.
Bee Balm Tincture Dosage
For an exact dosage specific to your body and needs, I’d suggest consulting a clinical herbalist.
Generally, the dosage for Bee Balm Tincture is around 1 to 2 dropperfulls, taken several times daily (1 to 4 times) as needed to relieve symptoms.
Bee Balm Formulations
Since bee balm is generally used for congestion and sore throats, it’s nice in combination with other herbs that target similar cold/flu symptoms.
Elderflowers are a gentle remedy with similar effects, and they’re relaxing and anti-inflammatory.
Elecampane is a potent cough remedy, so that’s another good choice, but be careful here; it can be strong. It’s one of my favorite cough syrups, and the flavor is spicy and a bit similar to bee balm.
If you’re interested in the science behind combining herbs to enhance their effectiveness, I’d recommend taking this online course in Mastering Herbal Formulations from the Herbal Academy. It covers the science of blending herbs into homemade formulations in detail.
Bee balm tincture is commonly used to treat cold and flu symptoms, including sore throat and congestion.
- Fresh or dried bee balm flowers and leaves
- Vodka or other high-proof alcohol (*see notes for making a glycerite tincture)
- Pint mason jar (or any other jar with a tight-fitting lid)
- Dark amber dropper bottles
- Adhesive label or masking tape (for labelling tincture)
- Fill a clean, empty mason jar 3/4 full of fresh bee balm or 1/2 full of dried bee balm.
- Cover the fresh or dried bee balm with alcohol, making sure the contents of the jar are completely covered.
- Screw the lid on tightly and gently shake the contents of the jar. Place in a cool, dry location away from light, allowing the extraction to occur over the next 6 to 8 weeks.
- Give the contents of the jar a gentle shake every couple of days. Keep an eye on the alcohol level, adding more alcohol to cover the plant material if needed.
- Once the tincture is ready to be decanted, line a funnel with cheesecloth and place the tip of the funnel into the neck of a dark amber glass bottle. Pour the solvent and the bee balm into the cheesecloth-lined funnel, pressing to make sure all of the liquid makes into the bottle.
*To make an alcohol-free glycerite tincture (glycerite): cover dried plant material completely with a preparation of 3 parts glycerin to 1 part distilled water (instead of alcohol). If using fresh bee balm, use all glycerine and skip the water. As the glycerite tincture develops, it will need to be shaken daily. Proceed following the same directions as if making an alcohol-based tincture.
Disclaimer on Homemade Herbal Remedies
I’ve been foraging wild medicines and treating my family with herbal remedies for the past 20 years, but I’m self-taught. Be aware that I am not a clinical herbalist, and this is based on my own research and personal experience using medicinal plants. I do not claim to have the experience that’d qualify me to advise you on your health, and I’m only providing this as a reference to encourage a broader interest in medicinal plants.
Please use this as a jumping-off point, but always do your own research and verify anything you read with multiple sources.
It’s always possible to have an adverse reaction to any medicinal herb, and plenty of people are allergic to even gentle herbs like chamomile. Always consult your doctor or a certified herbalist before trying any new medicinal plant. Often, they can have unintended reactions in combination with other herbs and supplements, and many herbs have side effects even when they are effective for their intended purpose.
If you are seriously interested in herbal medicine, I’d suggest investing in a course in herbal medicine, and I’d recommend any of the online courses put out by the Herbal Academy of New England. Specifically, the introduction to herbal medicine course and the family herbalist group of courses.
Interested in making other homemade herbal tinctures?
- Yarrow Tincture
- Chickweed Tincture
- Elderberry Tincture
- Dandelion Tincture
- Burdock Tincture
- Echinacea Tincture
Herbal Medicine Making
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