Borage, an Herbal Profile
Borage, an herb on the more unusual side but one you might have heard of if you love growing plants for pollinators. It is a tried and true plant, used for thousands of years by wise women and men for medicinal use and as a symbol of courage and bravery. Roman soldiers often drank borage wine before battle to give them courage, or perhaps a bachelor would be given a drop of borage extract in his tea to give him the fearlessness needed to propose marriage.
The fresh leaves and flowers of borage are edible, the roots are not, and have been used in salads and wines for centuries, even as far back as the Ancient World.
Known for its bright blue flowers and hairy foliage, borage grows to stand 2-3 feet in height. It is native to the Middle East and, as stated above, has a long history of serving as a token of courage. The leaves have a cucumber-like flavor which is wonderful in refreshing drinks or tea. It grows quickly and acts as a perfect companion plant to many fruits and vegetables. It is wonderful to use as a prevention method for insect pests and can even help keep plant disease levels down. It is often paired with strawberries and tomatoes for growth encouragement as well as improving the flavor of both fruiting plants. You can also use it as a companion for cucumbers, beans, grapes, zucchini, squash, peppers, and other fruits. It is a great way to prevent the destruction of tomato hornworms as well!
They will self sow every year, in a favorable climate, and blooms typically in June or July depending upon your gardening zone. Bees and butterflies love this plant as well as other native pollinators. If you hope to plant this uncommon herb, it is best to direct sow the seeds over starting them in a pot.
The leaves of borage are high in calcium, potassium, B vitamins, beta-carotene, fiber, choline, and trace minerals. It was long used as a cure for depression and anxiety so as to comfort the mind and heart. Now it is known as the highest plant source of gamma-linolenic acid, an Omega 6 fatty acid. You may see the seed oil in GLA supplements. You may want to use it as a way to relieve stress or even as a lactation stimulant.
Use this herb for multiple reasons. It is adaptogenic, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, and anti-inflammatory. You may find it useful as a benefit after recovering from surgery, relieve fevers, promote sweating, cure a hangover, soothe a dry cough, ease a chest cold and bronchitis, and relieve irritable bowel syndrome.
I've also read that borage is a fabulous compost ingredient as it adds trace minerals back into the soil!
So what are you waiting for? Go plant some borage for the bees and yourself!