It’s that time of year, again. My Bee Balm is in full bloom. What actually is Bee Balm? I recently learned, despite having this in my garden for many years, is that it is wild Bergamot. This plant is a member of the mint family and is widespread in North America. It has beautiful pink to lavender flowers and smells minty and sometimes like oregano! I love that it attracts bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies. Some delicious honeys are made from this wildflower.
I have always enjoyed Early Grey tea because of the Bergamot it contains. However, most of the production of Bergamot is from black tea leaves and the fruit of the Citrus Bergamia tree, which provides a combination of sour orange and lemon flavors.[i] Bee balm smells similar to Bergamot and has been used medicinally by Native Americans for centuries. Sometime wild bergamot tea is used as a substitute but is not the same as classic bergamot or Earl Grey tea.
Here are a few things that bergamot is known for:
- Antimicrobial properties and used to treat colds and flus.
- Soothing effect on digestion and used to treat indigestion, bloating, nausea.
- High in beneficial polyphenols which act as antioxidants, making them helpful to clean up free radicals that cause damage and disease and reduces inflammation[ii]
- Reduces inflammation
- Lower cholesterol, as it contains flavanones which may inhibit enzymes that produce cholesterol. According to one study, Bergamot juice was found to reduce cholesterol (29.27%), triglycerides (46.12%), and LDL (51.72%) and an increase in HDL (27.61%) levels versus hypercholesterolemic controls.[iii]
- May potentially help people with an organism called H.Pylori which is known to cause stomach ulcers and possibly lead to stomach cancer.[iv]
- May promote hair growth when the essential oil, Bergamot is applied to the scalp.[v]
The plant, itself is supposed to be edible. That said, too much Bee Balm or Bergamot-containing products can have some side effects. Excessive consumption may lead to muscle cramps, cause caffeine jitters, or reduce iron absorption.[vi]
So, whether you enjoy the beautiful flowers or the tea, know that this can have some positive effects on your health. I think I will keep drinking my Earl Gray and check out the close up picture of the blooms from my plant on this blog.
[i] Navarra M, Mannucci C, Delbò M, Calapai G. Citrus bergamia essential oil: from basic research to clinical application. Front Pharmacol. 2015;6:36. Published 2015 Mar 2. doi:10.3389/fphar.2015.00036
[ii] Perna S, Spadaccini D, Botteri L, et al. Efficacy of bergamot: From anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative mechanisms to clinical applications as preventive agent for cardiovascular morbidity, skin diseases, and mood alterations. Food Sci Nutr. 2019;7(2):369-384. Published 2019 Jan 25. doi:10.1002/fsn3.903
[iii] Nauman MC, Johnson JJ. Clinical application of bergamot (Citrus bergamia) for reducing high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease markers. Integr Food Nutr Metab. 2019;6(2):10.15761/IFNM.1000249. doi:10.15761/IFNM.1000249
[iv] Filocamo A, Bisignano C, Ferlazzo N, Cirmi S, Mandalari G, Navarra M. In vitro effect of bergamot (Citrus bergamia) juice against cagA-positive and-negative clinical isolates of Helicobacter pylori. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2015;15:256. Published 2015 Jul 30. doi:10.1186/s12906-015-0769-2
[v] Perna S, Spadaccini D, Botteri L, et al. Efficacy of bergamot: From anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative mechanisms to clinical applications as preventive agent for cardiovascular morbidity, skin diseases, and mood alterations. Food Sci Nutr. 2019;7(2):369-384. Published 2019 Jan 25. doi:10.1002/fsn3.903
[vi] Finsterer J. Earl Grey tea intoxication. Lancet. 2002;359(9316):1484. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(02)08436-2
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