- Family Boraginaceae
- Borago officinalis
- Burrage, Bugloss, Burage, Beebread, Bee plant, Ox’s Tong, cooltankard, Starflower, Borraja (Spanish)
- It can cause contact dermatitis.
- It is contraindicated in those with kidney stones.
- The plant contains lasiocarpine (a liver carcinogen) and two poisonous alkaloids (lycopsamine and supinidine viridiflorate). It is now being advised that borage not be taken internally. However, these cautions DO NOT apply to the borage seed oil.
Borage is a common Mediterranean weed thought to have originated from southern Spain and Morocco. A hairy annual or perennial growing to between two and three feet in height producing a pulpy stem, large basal leaves, and bluish-lavender, star-shaped flowers, it is now cultivated worldwide mainly for its seed oil. Both the leaves and the flowers have a cucumber flavour and have been used as a salad item as well as to flavour beverages.
Centuries ago, Europeans made a tea from the leaves by soaking them in wine to allay boredom and melancholy. However, it is not known whether this effect was attributed to the herb or to the wine. What is known is that the result would cause a significant rise in the blood-adrenaline level, producing something like a "fight or flight" response, except with the Celts, with whom it seemed to be all fight and no flight.
The Celtic name borrach meant “courage” and the Welsh name translates into an “herb of gladness”.
In 1597, the herbalist, John Gerard, extolled the virtues of the herb and said that a syrup made from the flowers helped with depression.
Borage was planted in many gardens, not only to attract bees (and hence its nickname), but also to help stimulate the growth of strawberries and to control the tomato worm, if grown near these plants.
The blue flowers were often included in page borders of herbals.
The flowers were often floated in stirrup-cups and given to Crusaders before their departure as an emblem of courage. “I, Borage, bring always courage”, was a familiar rhyme for centuries.
The fresh leaves were also used as a vegetable and are still included in salads and fresh fruit drinks and desserts.
The flowers were often candied and are still used that way as a decoration.
- soothes mucous membranes
- vitamin C, calcium, potassium (leaves)
- pyrrolizidine alkaloids which are toxic to the liver
- essential fatty acids (40% linoleic and 26% gamma linolenic) in the seeds only
Aerial parts, flowers, and seed oil
Borage oil is one of the three major supplemental sources of linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid that serves as a percursor of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are hormone-like compounds that help regulate diverse physiologic processes. The PG1 prostaglandin family is a factor in widening blood vessels, reducing the tendency of blood to form clots, lowering cholesterol production, and regulating the immune system. Borage oil contains more linolenic acid than is found in evening primrose oil or black currant oil. It also contains linoleic acid, the omega-6 essential fatty acid from which gamma linolenic acid (GLA) is derived.
Very little GLA is found in the Western diet. To complicate matters even further, some conditions impair the body’s ability to convert linoleic acid to GLA efficiently, including aging, alcoholism, diabetes, eczema, high intake of saturated fats, high cholesterol levels, mastitis, viral infections, and deficiencies of B6, zinc, magnesium, biotin, or calcium.
Many studies have shown that those with rheumatoid arthritis have found a reduction in the number of tender and swollen joints when borage seed oil capsules were taken over a period of several months. Similar results were found in studies of systemic lupus erythematosus, a disease similar to rheumatoid arthritis. GLA was also effective in reducing skin inflammation in eczema, as well as relief from itching and the size and severity of the lesions.
GLA is also the standard treatment for fibrocystic breast disease and is recognized as such in the AMA’s official Drug Evaluations textbook. In one study, GLA was compared to three prescription drugs (danazol, bromocriptine, and progestins), and 56% of the GLA group found the therapy effective in reducing the pain.
GLA is also widely used in Europe to treat diabetic neuropathy and symptoms of PMS. Other conditions that respond well include asthma, allergies, bursitis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and prostate abnormalities.
- Freshly squeezed juice in a poultice or as an infusion is used to treat sore and inflamed skin.
- Juice from fresh leaves is used to treat depression, grief, or anxiety.
- Infusions are used to treat respiratory conditions, especially the early stages of pleurisy or whooping cough as well as for other conditions with a dry, rasping cough.
- Infusions, when combined with fennel, stimulate lactation.
- Tinctures are used as a tonic for stress and following steroid therapy.
- Lotion is made from the juice to treat dry skin or rashes.
- Seed oil contains the essential fatty acids needed to correct many physical complaints.
- Syrup from the flowers is used as an expectorant and can be combined with mullein or marshmallow flowers.
Its high mucilage content acts as a demulcent and soothes respiratory problems.
Its emollient properties makes it useful for sore skin.
It is often used to treat stress-related conditions, tiredness and lethargy, improve immunity and lactation, colds, flu, and fevers, arthritis, and allergies.
It has commonly been used to ease the discomfort of fibrocystic breast disease, relieve inflammation and pain of diabetic neuropathy, eczema, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and PMS symptoms.
Traditional healers also use it for coughs, kidney and bladder disorders, a diuretic, a heart tonic, and a sedative.