The beautiful borage, with its star-shaped blue flowers, has been cherished for centuries for both its culinary and medicinal uses.
A native to the east Mediterranean region, the herb is cultivated in many regions around the world including most of Europe and North America. Commercially, it is used to produce borage seed oil, an extract that is rich in essential fatty acids that can contribute to the benefits you’re going to read about in this post.
Borago officinalis, as it is scientifically known, is traditionally used in cooking, herbal medicine, and in companion planting. The plant deters cabbage and tomato pests and can help improve their resistance to disease.
Borage also has a rich history as a medicinal plant, mostly used to treat depression. Catherine Parr, the last wife of King Henry VIII used it in a concoction to treat melancholy.
Johann Sauer’s Herbal Cures (1762-1778) relates that the “distilled water of borage delights and enlivens the heart, guards against fainting spells and tremblings of the heart, cleanses the blood, and banishes melancholy and tormented dreams, provided six to eight loths of the cordial are drunk regularly according to one’s preference.”
In this article, we’ll learn more about the modern health benefits of borage as it relates to herbal medicine. We’ll look at 7 of the most common benefits of this delightfully versatile plant.
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Borage Nutrient Profile
Borage’s versatility as a herbal remedy can be attributed to it’s rich nutrient profile. The plant is rich in many key vitamins, minerals and compounds that contribute to it’s many benefits.
- Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA) – seeds are very rich in this omega-6 fatty acid.
- Vitamin C – provides 60% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of this vitamin.
- Vitamin A – provides 140% of the RDA of this important vitamin
- B-complex vitamins (niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, pyridoxine, folates)
- Iron – has very high iron content 41% of RDA
Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA)
Borage is known for it’s high gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) content. This essential omega-6 fatty acid plays a vital role in reducing inflammation in the body.
GLA is particularly useful in the restoration of joint health, immunity, healthy skin, and mucosa.
Many of the benefits of borage comes from the presence of gamma-linolenic acid in the plant and its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant effects.
There are high levels of vitamin C (ascorbic acid), and vitamin A in the fresh leaves of the borage plant. B-complex vitamins are also present in moderate amounts.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that is responsible for removing harmful free radicals from the body. When combined with other antioxidants, this can have great immune-boosting, wound-healing and even anti-viral effects.
With more than 140% RDA of vitamin A in the fresh herbs of the plant plus other carotenes, borage can protect against oxygen-deprived free radicals and reactive oxygen species that play a vital role in aging and other disease processes.
Vitamin A is also important when it comes to vision health. It is also an important vitamin for maintaining healthy mucosa and skin. Eating foods rich in vitamin A and carotenes has also been known to help protect against various types of cancers including those of the lung and oral cavity.
B-complex vitamins like niacin (vitamin B3), riboflavin and pyridoxine are also present. Borage is a rich source of niacin, which is responsible for lowering LDL cholesterol levels in the body. The other B-vitamins are present at average levels and may be beneficial in enzymatic metabolism inside the human body.
Borage is a good source of iron. It has about 41% recommended daily value of the mineral that is important for the producing hemoglobin (proteins that help your red blood cells carry oxygen to different parts of the body).
Other minerals present in moderate amounts in borage include copper, manganese and magnesium. Zinc, calcium and potassium are also present. All of these minerals play important parts in the growth and functioning of the human body.
7 Ways To Benefit from Borage
Borage is available commercially mainly as borage seed oil and marketed as a pure source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). You can also find skin lotions and creams.
If you have access to the plant itself, you can take the fresh herbs and make borage tea. Seeds are available online if you would like to grow your own borage.
In this section, there are 7 of the best ways in which you can benefit from the star flower plant.
1. Heals and moisturizes skin
Borage’s most important compound, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. This makes it great for treating skin conditions that are caused by inflammation such as eczema, dermatitis, acne and rosacea.
Borage seed oil’s GLA content is almost double that of another valued GLA oil, that of the evening primrose. Both oils are sometimes combined. GLA has the ability to hydrate and moisturize skin. This can help to prevent dryness, flakiness and dullness, making the skin feel and look soft, supple and smooth.
There are also some anti-aging properties in borage oil as it is found to stimulate collagen production, which is essential in maintaining the skin’s elasticity and firmness. This reduces wrinkles and fine lines so that the skin can look more youthful and radiant.
Borage seed oil is great for the skin and this is one of it’s biggest benefits as a herb. You should always consult a dermatologist before using borage oil for specific skin conditions.
2. Healthy for the heart
Consuming borage may have a positive impact on cardiovascular health. The omega-6 fatty acids present in borage cannot be made in the body and have to be obtained from sources like this GLA-rich herb.
These essential fatty acids help to reduce LDL cholesterol levels. Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels can help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Furthermore, studies suggest that borage may help to regulate blood pressure thus promoting overall heart health. Compounds present in borage may support vasodilation, improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure.
Borage also has antioxidant properties which may be beneficial in protecting cardiovascular cells by combating oxidative stress. Antioxidants may help lower inflammation which supports a healthier cardiovascular system.
3. Supports hormonal balance
The high GLA content in borage plays an important role in hormone regulation, thus balancing hormones. It helps in the production of prostaglandin, which is a hormone-like substance that regulates various physiological processes.
Borage supplements can help women manage various premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms. may help manage PMS symptoms such as breast tenderness and mood swings.
It may also reduce menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and mood swings. The hormone-regulating effects of borage is responsible for these benefits.
Although borage may offer support and relief for both PMS and menopause, it is crucial to use the herb cautiously and monitor for effects. You should also consult with a healthcare provider (especially if you’re trying to achieve something), before using borage.
4. NSAIDs alternative for pain relief
NSAIDs are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs used to relieve pain, reduce inflammation and bring down high temperatures. Common examples include aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen.
Borage’s GLA content has anti-inflammatory effects and that can reduce the inflammation that is commonly associated with conditions like arthritis. Studies show that borage supplements may help to improve joint mobility and alleviate pain caused by inflammation. This makes borage an excellent herbal alternative to NSAIDs.
Further benefits that can be derived from borage’s anti-inflammatory nature include relief for muscle pain and soreness. Borage can be considered for post-exercise recovery to relieve potential muscle aches.
5. Supports respiratory health
Borage’s anti-inflammatory effects may also extend to the respiratory system, offering relief from irritation and inflammation. It can help to soothe the respiratory passages, which can be beneficial in dealing with conditions like bronchitis.
It is also a popular treatment for asthma and persons with allergies also use it to manage symptoms like nasal congestion and sneezing.
Traditionally, borage has also been uses as a cough suppressant and has been known to provide relief from respiratory infections.
To harness these respiratory benefits, it is common to drink borage tea during the cold and flu seasons.
6. A weight loss option to consider
For anyone who may be looking to lose weight, borage shows some promise as a diet aid in a number of different ways.
First, it can help to manage chronic inflammation that is often associated with obesity. Borage’s anti-inflammatory effects make this possible thus reducing the risk of any obesity-related health issues.
Consumption of borage oil may also activate brown adipose tissue in the body resulting in thermogenesis or the process of burning calories stored in white adipose tissue, the kind of fat the body wants to get rid of. One study shows that GLA may slow the accumulation body fat through the increase in BAT.
Finally, borage contains compounds that can boost your metabolism, effectively enhancing the body’s ability to burn calories. Borage may also help with appetite control, influencing satiety and reducing cravings.
7. Helps to reduce anxiety and stress
Borage can help reduce stress and anxiety, which in turn promotes relaxation and even sleep, in a number of different ways.
The herb can help to regulate cortisol, a stress hormone, resulting in a more balanced response to stress. It also helps to produce prostaglandin, a substance which play a role in regulating hormones, thus having a positive effect on mood and stress levels.
Borage has adaptogenic properties which means it can help your body respond to stress, anxiety, and fatigue. Drinking a cup of borage tea can help the body benefit from the adaptogenic compounds found in the plant, giving you much needed relief from anxiety and stress.
Is Borage Safe?
Although borage is deemed relatively safe to consume, care should be taken not to use it in high doses over a long period of time. This could result in side effects such as:
Furthermore, borage contains small amounts of unsaturated pyrrolizidine alkaloids (UPAs), which can cause damage to the liver if overused. Most commercial preparations of borage oil have to be certified free of UPAs and may not contain more than 1µg.
You should always consult a healthcare provider if you want to take borage for a particular condition.
Persons who have liver problems should avoid using borage. Pregnant women should avoid borage as it may cause premature labor or methemoglobinemia.
Drug interactions may include:
- hepatotoxic drugs – ie. ketoconazole, anabolic steroids. Borage itself contains low amounts of hepatotoxins that may cause damage to the liver.
- anti-inflammatory drugs – ie NSAIDs. Interactions are possible and these drugs may nullify borage’s own anti-inflammatory properties.
- anti-coagulants – ie. warfarin. A small study showed that 9 out of 12 patients on GLA supplementation experienced a significant increase in bleeding time.
Avoid using borage if you take any of these drugs or prescriptions.
Borage contains one of the highest concentrations of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) which has anti-inflammatory properties, is high in several key vitamins and minerals and has traditionally been used for centuries to treat a variety of conditions.
Mostly used for treating skin conditions caused by inflammation, eg. eczema, psoriasis, etc, and for healing the skin and keeping it moist, borage has other uses including:
- protecting heart health
- supporting hormonal balance
- pain relief especially for patients with arthritis
- supporting respiratory health
- as a weight loss aid
- helping to reduce stress and anxiety
Borage is a versatile plant that can be use in herbal medicine in addition to it’s culinary uses but you should also take care as it can present some adverse effects.
Borage is one of the herbs highlighted in The Lost Book of Herbal Remedies.
The Lost Book of Herbal Remedies by Nicole Apelian contains over 800 herbs along with pictures for easy identification and instructions and recipes on how to make teas, tinctures, oils, salves and more to improve your health.
You’ll find more great herbs like borage in this very useful book. Download it now and unlock the power of herbal remedies.