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Herbs may be medicine for the body and the mind, but hummingbirds are medicine for the soul.
My grandmother fostered my love of hummingbirds – in fact, all birds really – from an early age. Many feeders hung along the eaves of the house, one in particular outside the breakfast table window where one could watch the tiny birds flit by for a quick sip for hours at a time. I remember standing on a small yellow stool beneath that feeder, as still as I could, to be a little closer to the vibrant hummers. Something I did with my own children many years later.
Perhaps my grandmother has always known about hummingbird medicine, without really “knowing.” Hummingbirds exist only in the Americas, and as such, have a strong connection to the native peoples of western continents. Not surprisingly, many Western cultures associate hummingbirds with joy and happiness. Hummingbirds stay aloft and owe their unique flying patterns to flapping their wings in an infinity symbol pattern – connecting the tiny birds with a sense of eternity. These tiny creatures also symbolize resurrection as the sleep in hibernation, death-like state called torpor, but awaken to their industrious buzzing and flitting with the warmth of the sun. Simply said, hummingbird medicine is the uplifting medicine for the soul.
Attracting these delicate and beautiful birds to your home is an easy task if you are a gardener or herbalist. In fact, many culinary and medicinal herbs perfect fodder for hummingbirds! Here are a few that pull double duty as herbal medicine and hummingbird nectar:
Bee Balm: This showing medicinal herb is a total knock out in the landscape and major attractor of pollinators. Red (Monarda didyma) and lavender (Monarda fistulosa) varieties have great medicinal value as a diffusive and digestive herb perfect for herbal facial steams and for feeding hummingbirds.
Common Sage: Unsung culinary and medicinal herb, sage is cooling and relaxing, with some studies suggesting it has some really positive benefits for neurological issues. When allowed to flower, sage produces lovely blue-purple flowers that will bring hummingbirds to your yard.
Borage: The quintessential summer herb with its cucumber flavored blossoms is a beloved herb of hummingbirds too. Try freezing a few blossoms in cubes of ice for a festive treat while leaving the rest for our little, feathered friends to enjoy.
Pineapple Sage: If you have never experienced the wonderful scent of pineapple sage, you are missing out. I love to add a few sprigs to my ice water or iced tea on hot summer days to infuse its fabulous flavor and aroma. Seems that our favorite little birds are equally attracted to this lovely herb.
Anise Hyssop: Licorice-y hyssop is a powerful attractor of pollinators, and is also a sterling respiratory herb. Foliage from dark green to lime-y chartreuse with tall spires of regal purple, this is a stunning herb to lure the hummingbirds to the garden.
Rosemary: Who knew that culinary and respiratory workhorse rosemary could bring all the hummingbirds to the yard? I can’t help but brush my hands through rosemary every time I pass by, and it seems that hummingbirds can hardly resist the plant’s attractive blue flowers.
Catmint: Perhaps one should think twice about planting this herb for the hummingbirds if they also have critters of the feline persuasion, but catmint is a powerful attractor of our favorite little flitters too!
Now that you’re considering all the wonderful ways to attract hummingbirds with culinary and medicinal herbs, consider filling a feeder or two with this recipe from my friend Chris at Joybilee Farm.