More than just a beautiful addition to a garden, bee balm holds potent antimicrobial properties that can be harnessed in an easy fresh herb tincture.

Bee balm (Mondarda fistulosa) is rarely found on the commercial herb market, but it’s a darling of backyard herbalists because it’s gorgeous, grows abundantly, and often provides more potent and easy-to-harvest medicine than its more famous relatives oregano and thyme.

Prized for its antimicrobial properties, bee balm helps kill germs, such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Generally, antimicrobials like bee balm are used for fighting infections of the respiratory and digestive tracts, skin, or other areas of the body.

Fresh herb tinctures are easy to make, easy to take, and remain shelf stable for many years. They can be a highly effective way of administering herbal remedies because they extract both water- and alcohol-soluble constituents from plants.

bee balm monarda fistulosa

Bee balm. Photo by Homer Edward Price (Bee-Balm) CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How to Make a Fresh Herb Tincture

Without measuring anything. this technique makes an approximately 1:2 extract. That is, for every 1 ounce (by weight) of herb, you’ll add 2 ounces (by volume) of alcohol.

  1. Chop up your fresh herb material, and really stuff it in a jar until you can’t fit any more.
  2. Fill the jar to the brim with whole-grain alcohol, high-proof vodka, or brandy. A day later, the liquid level will have dropped a bit; top off the jar with more alcohol.
  3. Let the jar sit in a dark spot for at least 1 month (or as long as you like). If the ingredients (e.g., roots) settle, shake the mixture periodically.
  4. Strain the tincture, using a fine-mesh strainer and muslin or cheesecloth to squeeze out the last bit.

Tincture Storage

Alongside teas, tinctures may be the most popular form of herbal medicine, particularly for at-home remedies. Store your finished tincture in an airtight (preferably dark glass) container in a cool, dark, dry spot. Most tinctures will keep for up to 10 years, though some may lose potency earlier or get unpleasantly gloppy.

Text excerpted and adapted from Body into Balance © 2016 by Maria Noël Groves. All rights reserved.

Maria Noël Groves

Maria Noël Groves is the author of Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies and Body into Balance. She is a clinical herbalist and herbal medicine teacher… See Bio

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Body into Balance

by Maria Noel Groves

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