A couple weeks ago, I had an allergic reaction to a toothpaste. I won’t say which toothpaste, because that’s not classy, but I will tell you that it was SUPPOSEDLY for people with sensitive gums. Not these sensitive gums, apparently. I broke out in tiny, painful canker sores all over my mouth. If you get canker sores, then you know even ONE can be an all-encompassing, painful nightmare. Having them in every corner of your mouth leaves one positively LOONY with discomfort.
The usual cavalry for canker sores was, unfortunately, not much help. First of all, most of the over-the-counter remedies are designed for one or two canker sores, not a blanket of them. The number of sores I had would have meant drinking a bottle of Anbesol or Orajel, which you’re not supposed to do. It says so on the label.
For my situation, a mouthwash was in order; but the mere thought of rinsing my poor, poor mouth with something that had alcohol or fluoride in it (and many commercial mouthwashes do) made me so very sad. Plus, I no longer felt like leaving the house in case I had to talk or use my mouth in any way. I needed something I could make at home without any painful, burning stuff in it. In my festering fugue, I thought I remembered reading something about oregano being a good oral antiseptic, so I web-searched it.
It turns out, oregano is an effective remedy for mouth sores, gingivitis, and sore throats. In fact, it’s a useful remedy for a LOT of things due to a high content of an organic compound known as thymol.
The antimicrobial actions of thymol and its isomer, carvacrol, are well-established in the academic realm. Quick chemistry lesson (you can totally skip this part if you want): isomers are compounds with the same molecular formula, but a different chemical structure. The fact that they have the same molecular formula means they have a lot of properties in common, but that different chemical structure gives each its own unique features. Isomers are a bit like fraternal twins: they are biologically similar, but physically distinct. Here is a study that found that thymol and carvacrol isolated from a verbena species “exhibited potent antimicrobial activity against the organisms tested” (Bothelo et al, 2007).
But wait, this post is about Bee Balm. Sorry, allow me to get back on topic. Thymol is not just found in oregano. It is also found in species of thyme (hence the name), eyebright (more on that herb later), verbena, and Bee Balm, the star of this show.
Bee balm is native to North America. It has been used for centuries as a cure-all by Native American Tribes. It is also known as Horsemint and and Wild Bergamot. I was lucky enough to come across some at the beginning of this month. It was growing happily by the creek my son and I like to walk to. Here it is:
This particular species of Bee Balm is called Monarda fistulosa, and it is a great herb to pluck if you are a novice because it is not only unmistakable appearance-wise, it is unmistakable smell-wise. It absolutely reeks of oregano. There was a lot of it, so I took the liberty of taking a little handful home and hang-drying it. At the time, I was unaware of its potent oral antiseptic properties. I was told it makes a nice tea for chest colds and tasted great in salads (both of which are true, by the way).
After researching oregano and remembering how strongly the Bee Balm smelled of it, I was curious if it contained any amount of thymol. In fact it does. A lot of it. And the isomer carvetrol. HOORAY. I grabbed my little jar of the dried Bee Balm and set about making a mouthwash for my poor, poor mouth.
This stuff was great. It had a clean, warm taste with a slightly numbing sensation (probably from the carvetrol). I used it every day twice a day for one week. By the second day, the sores were already noticeably better and less angry. I have since learned that a mouthwash such as this can be used to prevent mouth ulcers, not just treat them. The antiseptic properties also help keep your breath fresh. Think I’ll just keep some on-hand.
I also have plans to make an Oxymel of Bee Balm for the coming winter months. Stay tuned for that posting!
Without further ado, here is the mouthwash recipe:
BEE BALM MOUTHWASH
1/8 oz dried bee balm (about 2-3 tbsp flowers and leaves)
8 oz boiling water
2 tsp salt
Place dried bee balm and 2 tsp salt into a heat-proof bowl/container. Pour boiling water over the top and allow to steep for twenty minutes. Strain the liquid into a sterilized container with a lid or seal. Let it chill in the fridge for an extra soothing treatment. Use as often as needed or at least twice per day for acute sores.