What is Borage?
Borage is an annual that is a native of Europe but has been widely naturalized in other areas. The stem and leaves are covered with coarse, prickly hairs. The bright blue flowers are star-shaped. The fresh plant has a salty flavor and a cucumber-like odor
What is it used for?
Traditional/Ethno botanical uses
Borage leaves have been used as a potherb and in European herbal medicine since the Middle Ages, and are mentioned by Pliny, Discords, and Galen. The name “borage” derives from the medieval Latin “burra,” meaning rough-coated, which refers to the hairs. An alternative explanation suggests a corruption of the Latin “corago” (courage), as in Gerard’s rhyme “ego borago gaudia semper ago” (I, borage, bring alwaies courage), in line with its reputation as an herb to dispel melancholy. Borage leaves and flowers were added to wine and lemon juice to make the popular beverages “claret cup” and “cool tankard.” Borage leaves also have been used for rheumatism, colds, and bronchitis, as well as to increase lactation in women. Infusions of the leaves were used to induce sweating and diuresis.
Modern use of borage primarily comes from the use of the seeds to make borage seed oil, which contains a high content of the essential fatty acid known as gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). Other current commercial sources of GLA include evening primrose oil, and black currant seed oil. GLA is part of the inflammatory mediation process. Thus GLA supplements might be expected to have an impact on a variety of diseases and inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, and atopic eczema. Limited information involving the use of borage seed oil is available on treating any of these conditions. Most studies were done with other sources of GLA. Clinical tests verify that GLA has health and medical benefits.
Borage may also be useful in the treatment of osteoporosis. Fish oil plus borage seed oil has shown improvement in bone density in a study of elderly osteoporotic women. A review of trials of GLA for impaired nerve function in diabetics concluded that GLA may hold promise for treatment of diabetic neuropathy. Information is limited for the use of borage in these medical conditions.
What is the recommended dosage?
Borage seed oil has been given in doses of 1.4 to 2.8 g/day in several clinical trials for arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. The content of gamma-linolenic acid is between 20% and 26% of the oil.
How safe is it?
Contraindications have not yet been identified.
Documented adverse effects (pyrrolizidine alkaloids). Avoid use.
None well documented.
No adverse effects have been found.
Although no side effects have been reported, borage leaves, flowers, and seeds contain small amounts of pyrrolizidine alkaloids that may be hepatotoxic (damaging to the liver) especially at high doses for long periods of time.
Do not ingest the leaves and flowers because they may contain hepatotoxic compounds.
1. Borage. Review of Natural Products. factsandcomparisons4.0 [online]. 2006. Available from Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. Accessed April 16, 2007.