Herbs for Us and the Bees

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”, Hippocrates (400 BC). So what does this mean. Our modern medicines came from nature. Mostly plants, but other aspects of nature as well, such as fungi and microbes. For example, penicillin came from Penicillium moulds and used as an antibiotic. Aspirin was created from the pain relieving chemical compound silicin in willow bark. Many plants have antimicrobial, antifungal, and other chemical compounds that help protect them from disease and herbivores. Many of these plant chemicals also have healing properties for people, bees, and other animals.

So what is a herb? Merriam-Webster dictionary states – “1 botany: a seed-producing annual, biennial, or perennial plant that does not develop persistent woody tissue but dies down at the end of the growing season. 2: a plant or plant part valued for its medicinal, savoury, or aromatic qualities”. This is the type of herb we are talking about in this article. So Yarrow, is a native herbaceous plant (here in the lower mainland of BC and elsewhere) and is also a herb because of its medicinal properties. It has different uses, and one use is for cuts, sprains and rashes because of its blood clotting, antiseptic, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s called a backcountry first aid plant because you can chew some of it and apply it to a wound as a poultice, and bees love it.

All bees are in decline. Honeybees are in decline because they have to deal with pesticides, mites, and being shipped around to pollinate certain crops, such as, blueberries and almonds. Bees need a wide variety of plants to stay healthy, just as we need a wide variety of different whole foods to keep us healthy. We have lost so many flowering plants in our urban environments, and green spaces are just green lacking the bright colours of flowers. We are also losing wild native flowering plants due to forestry and mining, as well as, recreational uses and people taking plants from the wild. Gardens take time and effort to start and maintain, and many landscape companies want to come in, cut the grass, prune, and blow everything into a pile and haul it all away. With so many townhouse complexes and condominiums, there is not much room for green spaces and gardens, but we all can do a little which can turn into a lot.

Many of our culinary herbs have healing properties for both us and bees. We tend to use mostly the leaves of herbs, but most of them produce flowers full of nectar and beneficial properties for bees. So by having herb plants in our yards or on our balconies, we can use them for cooking or in teas, while providing healthy food for bees and other pollinators. 1/3 of the foods we eat need to be pollinated, and without bees and other pollinators to do the pollinating, it would cost billions if we had to do the pollinating ourselves. So, it is in our best interest to protect our pollinators.

There are so many choices when it comes to herbs and culinary herbs are probably the best place to start if you want learn about how to use and grow them. There are annual, biennial, and perennial herb plants and understanding a little about plants and their growing needs is helpful to have healthy happy plants.

Comments are closed.