Family: Lamiaceae (Labiatae), Monarda didyma L.
Source: Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. 1984.
Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature
on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate
Zone. Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT.
Bergamot, bee balm, Oswego tea, scarlet monarda, red balm, American
melissa, Indian's plume, and mountain balm all generally refer
to Monarda didyma L., a plant native to North America and
naturalized in Europe. This perennial herb, sometimes reported
as Monarda coccinea Hort. and Monarda kalmiana, is called
bergamot because of its pungent lemony scent, reminiscent of bergamot
oil extracted from Citrus aurantium L. subspecies bergamia
Wright et Asn. Bergamot reaches a height of about one meter and
has scarlet flowers. Many cultivars and forms exist, providing
a wide variety of growth habits and colors. The plant is adaptable
to a broad range of growth environments.
The Monarda species are generally known for an extractable
oil in thymol, with smaller amounts of para-cymene, d-limonene,
carvacrol, linalool, and hydrothymoquinone (11.1-136, 14.1-8).
Total content of the essential oil ranges from 60 to 80%, and
chemotypes differing in concentrations of carvacrol and thymol
have been identified (14.1-8).
The plant has been valued for ornamental, culinary, and medicinal
uses. Young leaves are dried and used in herbal teas, such as
Oswego tea, or as flavoring in wines, jellies and fruit dishes.
Leaves are used in potpourris. The blossoms, appearing in dense
clusters stem terminal, last for several weeks and make the plant
an attractive addition to gardens. Bees are especially attracted
to the blossoms, hence the name bee balm.
Bergamot has been used as a carminative, rubefacient, stimulant,
and relaxant, and as medicine against colds. Extractable thymol
from Monarda is a strong antiseptic and is used against
fungi, bacteria, and such parasites as hookworm (14.1-35).
The toxicological effects of thymol include gastric pain, nausea,
vomiting, convulsions, and external rashes, although there have
been no reports of toxic ingest plants or extracts of the Monarda
species (11.1-136, 14.1-35).
Monarda punctata L., known as horsemint and sometimes referred
to as Monarda lutea, is a perennial of North America that
grows to 0.7 meters and has a strong aromatic odor because of
its high concentration of thymol. The flowers have a yellow corolla
and are spotted with purple flecks. Similar to Monarda didyma
L. in its medicinal uses, Monarda punctata L. has also
been used as a diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, and antiemetic,
and as a cure for backaches. In addition, it is believed to act
as a cardiac stimulant. Although once considered a potential source
of thymol, horsemint was not economically competitive.
Wild bergamot, Monarda fistulosa L., is a perennial herb
native to the eastern United States. The plant reaches a height
of about one meter and has a wider geographical distribution than
other Monarda species. Wild bergamot has been used for
medicinal purposes similar to those of Monarda didyma L.
and Monarda punctata L. Lemon bergamot, Monarda citriodora
Cerv. (formerly classified as Monarda pectinata Nutt, or
lemon mint) is an annual or short-lived perennial native
to the midwestern and western United States. As the common name
suggests, the plant is noted for a lemony scent, which comes from
the citral and carvacrol in its volatile oil. Monarda menthaefolia,
a species similar to Monarda fistulosa, is native to North
America and has an essential oil high in carvacrol rather than
in thymol. Bergamot mint refers to Mentha gentilis L.;
(red mint), Mentha citrata Ehrh., or Mentha odorata.
Monarda punctata L., horsemint, is generally recognized
as safe for human consumption as a plant extract/essential oil/oleoresin
(21 CFR section 182.20 ).
[Note: References listed above in parentheses can be found in
full in the original reference].
Last modified 6-Dec-1997