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Wild Bergamot

Image from USFWS Mountain-Prairie, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons 

Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), also known as a Bee Balm or Oswego Tea, is native to much of North America, from northern Mexico to southern Canada. It is a perennial herb in the Mint family that can grow up to four feet tall, characterized by leaves up to four inches in length and clusters of pink to purple flowers of one to three inches in diameter. Wild Bergamot is an important native species for pollinators in the United States, and is one of the most preferred species for bees, especially bumblebees (Rowe, Gibson, Landis, Gibbs, & Isaacs, 2018).   

Historical Use

The plant was used by many Native American tribes for a number of purposes.  There are first-hand accounts that members of the Hidatsa would crush dried leaves and flowers of Wild Bergamot to perfume their clothes (Wilson & Scullin, 2014). There are also a few reports that Wild Bergamot was used to treat wounds and dental infections, as well as gastrointestinal complaints. 

Fore more information, see the John R. Martin Rare Book Room.

Current Use

One of the most common contemporary uses of Monarda fistulosa is as an ornamental plant, though it is also being used widely in prairie restoration and to restore forage for wild bees (Rowe et al., 2018). However, there are a number of current investigations into useful chemicals derived from Wild Bergamot. One of the most promising is carvacrol, which has been shown to have antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anticancer properties (Marchese et al., 2018; Sharifi-Rad et al., 2018). Carvacrol has been investigated for treating E. coli and Salmonella infections (Sharifi-Rad et al., 2018). In addition, essential oils from Monarda fistulosa have displayed some value as a mosquito repellent (Tabanca et al., 2013). 

Latest Research

  • Addressing Detection Uncertainty in Bombus affinis (Hymenoptera: Apidae) Surveys Can Improve Inferences Made From Monitoring
    by Clint R V Otto on November 22, 2022 at 11:00 am

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service developed national guidelines to track species recovery of the endangered rusty patched bumble bee [Bombus affinis Cresson (Hymenoptera: Apidae)] and to investigate changes in species occupancy across space and time. As with other native bee monitoring efforts, managers have specifically acknowledged the need to address species detection uncertainty and determine the sampling effort required to infer species absence within sites. We used single-season,…

  • The chemical biogeography of a widespread aromatic plant species shows both spatial and temporal variation
    by Ken Keefover-Ring on September 30, 2022 at 10:00 am

    Plants produce a wide variety of secondary metabolites, but intraspecific variation in space and time can alter the ecological interactions these compounds mediate. The aim of this work was to document the spatial and temporal chemical biogeography of Monarda fistulosa. I collected leaves from 1587 M. fistulosa individuals from 86 populations from Colorado to Manitoba, extracted and analyzed their terpenes with gas chromatography, mapped monoterpene chemotypes, and analyzed chemical variation…

  • The effects of thymoquinone on pancreatic cancer: Evidence from preclinical studies
    by Monica Butnariu on July 10, 2022 at 10:00 am

    Thymoquinone (TQ) is a secondary metabolite found in abundance in very few plant species including Nigella sativa L., Monarda fistulosa L., Thymus vulgaris L. and Satureja montana L. Preclinical pharmacological studies have shown that TQ has many biological activities, such as anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anticancer. Both in vivo and in vitro experiments have shown that TQ acts as an antitumor agent by altering cell cycle progression, inhibiting cell proliferation, stimulating apoptosis,…

  • Carvacrol as a prospective regulator of cancer targets/signalling pathways
    by Jyoti Singh on July 6, 2022 at 10:00 am

    CONCLUSION: Until now, its anticancer mechanism is not yet fully explored. A limited number of research studies have been done on carvacrol instead of possessing promising anti-cancer potential. It possesses both cancer prevention and cancer therapeutic properties. This molecule needs more validatory research so that it could be analyzed precisely and sensibly.

  • Molecular Modeling and Experimental Evaluation of Non-Chiral Components of Bergamot Essential Oil with Inhibitory Activity against Human Monoamine Oxidases
    by Raffaella Catalano on April 23, 2022 at 10:00 am

    Human monoamine oxidases (hMAOs) are well-established targets for the treatment of neurological disorders such as depression, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Despite the efforts carried out over the years, few selective and reversible MAO inhibitors are on the market. Thus, a continuous search for new compounds is needed. Herein, MAO inhibitors were searched among the non-chiral constituents of Bergamot Essential Oil (BEO) with the aid of computational tools. Accordingly, molecular…


Marchese, A., Arciola, C. R., Coppo, E., Barbieri, R., Barreca, D., Chebaibi, S., . . . Daglia, M. (2018). The natural plant compound carvacrol as an antimicrobial and anti-biofilm agent: mechanisms, synergies and bio-inspired anti-infective materials. Biofouling, 34(6), 630-656. doi:10.1080/08927014.2018.1480756 

Rowe, L., Gibson, D., Landis, D., Gibbs, J., & Isaacs, R. (2018). A Comparison of Drought-Tolerant Prairie Plants to Support Managed and Wild Bees in Conservation Programs. Environ Entomol, 47(5), 1128-1142. doi:10.1093/ee/nvy091 

Sharifi-Rad, M., Varoni, E. M., Iriti, M., Martorell, M., Setzer, W. N., Del Mar Contreras, M., . . . Sharifi-Rad, J. (2018). Carvacrol and human health: A comprehensive review. Phytother Res, 32(9), 1675-1687. doi:10.1002/ptr.6103 

Tabanca, N., Bernier, U. R., Ali, A., Wang, M., Demirci, B., Blythe, E. K., . . . Khan, I. A. (2013). Bioassay-guided investigation of two Monarda essential oils as repellents of yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti. J Agric Food Chem, 61(36), 8573-8580. doi:10.1021/jf402182h 

Wilson, G. L., & Scullin, M. (2014). Uses of Plants by the Hidatsas of the Northern Plains. Lincoln, UNITED STATES: Nebraska.