Sunday, February 12, 2012

Herbal Medicine Part 2: Bee Balm and Bee Stings

During the recent herbal medicine workshop I attended, the first herb the instructor discussed was Bee Balm. Monarda Didyma (red flowering) and Monarda Fistulosa (lavender flowering) bee balm, or wild bergamot, she said, is an invaluable addition to a medicinal herb garden. She began her talk holding her single sheet of typed notes at arm's length, she had forgotten her reading glasses... a member of the class loaned her a pair and she laughingly remarked, "Oh, I DID write this in English!"

Bee balm is excellent for treating systemic candida (yeast infections, thrush, impetigo, mouth ulcers, sore throat, diaper rash) and is also good for quickly treating burns (by adding saliva and using as a compress on the burned area).
Lavender flowering bee balm (Monarda Fistulosa)

To make a tincture of bee balm, she recommended using the top third of the plant and to tincture it in brandy rather than vodka or EverClear... why? because bee balm doesn't need a large percentage of alcohol to obtain the medicinal tincture (although if all you have is vodka, it's perfectly acceptable to use), the end product is better tasting using brandy.

In herbal terminology "tincturing" is the process of making an herbal extract by steeping ground herb in a liquid "menstruum" (the "solvent" or "liquid" portion of a tincture, usually alcohol)... usually at a 1:5 ratio (one part dried herb to 5 parts menstruum, fresh herb tinctures are more complicated due to the differing amounts of water in different herbs)... a great book with "recipes" for herbal tinctures is Making Plant Medicine by Richo Cech.

Once you get the ground herb mixed with the menstruum (a canning jar is perfect for mixing tinctures) you simply set it in a cool, dark place and give it a shake once a day for several weeks, strain it out and decant into amber glass bottles, preferably with a dropper lid on top.

Robin McGee (herbalist instructor) recommended (with a huge grin on her face and a mischievous twinkle in her eyes) shaking the mixture daily and singing to it... she calls it PFM... (Pure Freakin' Magic)

For making salves for topical use, the herb is steeped in a good quality oil (olive is great) for several weeks, then beeswax is added to thicken.

Red flowering bee balm (Monarda Didyma)
Bee balm also has the added benefit of attracting bees to your garden, helping with pollination... and we all know that good pollination makes for bigger, better, more abundant crops!

Bee balm, of course, makes me think of bees... which takes me down another branch of my memory lanes...

When I was growing up, I was the oldest grandchild on my Mama's side (Mama was the oldest child in her family)... so I had the enviable task of watching out for all the little cousins who descended on our home in the summer when Mama and the aunts got together to can, cook, paint rooms, or just visit. My two brothers and I were older than the little cousins by several years (we taught the little ones things, like how to ride a bike, we pushed them on the big tire swing, helped them catch crawdads in the creek or lightning bugs at dusk, watched out for them, teased them)... there was always a group of toddlers around and we seemed to have cornered the market on girls... one little boy cousin (my cousin Brad) amongst that gaggle of little girls... they spent their time playing in the yard, riding Big Wheels, tricycles, bikes with training wheels... running, jumping, climbing... everybody dressed in shorts and sleeveless tops, NOBODY wearing shoes... it was a happy, barefoot world... and there was always the chance SOMEBODY would step on a honeybee and the tears would begin... the one stung would cry, then some of the others would start in sympathy for the injured toddler...

The "medicine" on hand for bee stings? Well, if chewing tobacco was to be had, a big wad of wet tobacco would be applied to take the sting away... but more often than not, the "medicine" of choice was more simple... my little cousin Brad (the only little boy in that group of girl cousins) was elected to pee on the injury... he thought it was great fun and it worked every time, took the pain away and lessened the swelling of the sting... the tears were dried, everyone was given a popsicle to cool off and "paint" their lips purple or red or orange... and the summer play continued...




20 comments:

  1. Great article! Thanks for the detailed info on tinctures...I've read about making tinctures, but never researched how to.

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  5. Thanks for an informative blog! My husband and I have several hives of bees, but in all my years of working them and getting stung, I've never tried that remedy! Lol.
    We do have bee balm growing but have never made a tincture with it. That's something I will have to try! Thanks

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