Thursday, September 6, 2012

Tincturing Bee Balm ~ A photo essay

Bee balm has been flowering in my garden for the past month. As its common name implies, bees flock to the bush, leaving it vibrating with their bzzzz bzzzz bzzzz. 

I love using bee balm (Monarda fistulosa) as medicine. It grows abundantly and it is super effective for a plethora of ailments. In the past month I've given it infused into honey for someone with a sore throat. I've given it to someone as a wash for dandruff and I've used it myself as a mouth wash. Not to mention all the teas I've enjoyed with it as well. 

Bee balm is so beautiful and is such an important part of my garden's eco-system that harvesting it leaves a hole where it once bloomed.

This year I took photos of the harvest and tincture process - to celebrate bee balm and keep it in my heart a bit longer. 

Here is bee balm growing wild in Montana. We had almost arrived at the Montana Herb Gathering when I saw it growing in the fields nearby. I screamed (yes screamed) for my husband to stop the car and I jumped out to get a closer look. (Yes, he is used to my antics by now). 

I took a bite and yes, it is quite spicy!!! 

I've often read that garden grown bee balm is not as spicy as the wild, and perhaps this is true to some extent. But when I tasted the wild growing bee balm my first thought was, "Wow, it's as spicy as garden bee balm!" 

And just in case you think I am biased - I have another story. 

I recently gave some bee balm to one of Xavier's apprentices, Morgan. I did warn him that it was spicy. About five minutes later I asked him what he thought of the bee balm. He replied, "It's hot! My tongue is still numb!" 

So yeah, in my experience garden grown can be just as hot, yummy and useful as the wild grown. Supposedly bee balm grows wild a few hours from where I live, but I haven't found it yet. Hopefully one day. Until then I enjoy it growing readily in my garden. This year the bush was probably 2 meters in diameter and taller than myself! 

Okay, here is my tincture photo essay! 

preparing the supplies

 I tincture the leaves and flowers, but not the stems. So the first step is stripping the leaves and flowers from the stems. 

I chop it up really well. 

Then fill a quart jar with the well chopped herb. I then weigh it in grams. 
This batch was 180 grams. 

 I originally measured out 360 mLs of everclear (95%), but it didn't come close to cover the herbs, even if I packed them in. So I added another 180 mls and that did the trick. So my final product will be 1:3 ratio at 95%. 

 I had lots of bee balm this year. Some of it I've infused into honey and the rest are hanging to dry. 

Do you use bee balm? I'd love to hear how! Leave me comments below! 


Jaelene Huffman said...

I Love Bee BAlm in my teas. Mix fresh a few leafs with a few catnip leafs, a few peppermint, and spearmint. My kids love it as well. Great for soothing soar throats!

forget-me-not said...

often if bee balm is grown in part shade, it has a mildew on some of the leaves, the bottom half of the plant actually. I avoided those leaves when tincturing bee balm (my first and only time to try it) and only used the top few leaves and flowerhead. Is this okay? It's Mondarda didyma.

Rosalee de la Forêt said...

I would simply avoid those leaves as well. Bee balm is notorious for powdery mildew. I've never seen it myself though - probably has something to do with our hot and arid climate. :)

Anonymous said...

Can this tincture be made before or after flowering?

Rosalee de la Forêt said...

I choose to tincture mine when it is half in flower and half in bud stage. The best way to see if it will work is to give it a taste. Is it really spicy? Yes? Go for it!

Anonymous said...

Do you leave it sit for 6 weeks? And can you use the red flowering Bee balm?

Rosalee de la Forêt said...

The red flowering bee balm is also used as medicine. My understanding is that it has a slightly different taste and energetic pattern - I haven't worked with it much myself though!

Sarah Head said...

My wild bergamot (monada fistulosa) is only just flowering, whereas the red bergamot (m.didyma) flowered a couple of months ago. I couldn't use any of it last year because of mildew, but this year's plants seem to have escaped despite our horrific wet "summer". I'm just drying it this year as I only have a small amount to use in teas. The first year I grew the plant, I made a lovely aromatic honey which I used in oxymels at work.