General: 30-70 cm tall, with minty odor. Growth habit: perennial from creeping rhizomes. Stems: erect, 4-angled, seldom branched, finely hairy throughout, rarely with longer spreading hairs.
Leaves: basal lacking, stem leaves opposite, the blades lance-triangular to rather narrowly ovate, 2.5-8 cm long and 1-3 cm wide, more or less sharp-toothed. Leaf stalks short, seldom 1 cm long.
Flowers: tubular, bright rose to purplish, 25-35 mm long, opening into a long, narrow upper lip and a 3-lobed lower lip. Many flowers in a round, terminal, head-like cluster above leafy bracts. Corolla short-hairy, the long, arching, upper lip surpassed by the stamens. Calyx 7-11 mm long, the teeth only 1 mm long, the opening markedly white-hairy within and sometimes also outside.
Moist to moderately dry, open places in the valleys and at moderate elevations in the mountains, in most parts of MT except some n. and e. parts. Also from Quebec to B.C. and s. to GA, AZ, but seldom w. of the Rocky Mt. region.
The leaves of wild bergamot are edible, raw or cooked. The entire plant above ground level can be used as a potherb, though it is rather aromatic. It is also used as a flavoring in salads and cooked foods. The flowers make an attractive edible garnish in salads. The fresh or dried leaves can be brewed into a refreshing aromatic tea.
Wild bergamot was often employed medicinally by several native North American Indian tribes who used it to treat a variety of complaints, but especially those connected with the digestive system. It is still sometimes used in modern herbalism. The leaves and flowering stems have agents that relieve and remove gas from the digestive system, that induce sweating and urination and are stimulants. A tea is often used internally in the treatment of colds, catarrh, headaches, gastric disorders, aching kidneys, to reduce low fevers and soothe sore throats. Externally, it is applied as a poultice to skin eruptions, cuts etc. and as a wash for sore eyes. The Winnebago Natives used a decoction of leaves on pimples and other skin eruptions on the face. The leaves can be harvested before the plant flowers, or they can be harvested with the flowering stems. They can be used fresh or dried. The plant contains the essential oil 'bergamot oil' which can be inhaled to treat bronchial complaints. The leaves also contain 'thymol', an essential oil that can be used to expel gas from the digestive tract.
The leaves have been used as an insect repellent.
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