Borage flowers

Borage

Borage, Borago officinalis, lends joy and courage to those who take it. It also soothes skin conditions, respiratory ailments, balances hormones, aids in rheumatic and rheumatoid issues, helps the skin to stay elastic and healthy and tastes good to boot.

ego borago gaudia semper ago
(I, borage, always bring joy)
Ancient Latin proverb

FAMILY

Boraginaceae (borage family)

OTHER NAMES

Starflower, beebread, bee plant, ox-tongue, tailwort, talewort, cool-tankard, common bugloss, borrage, bourage, burridge, burage

PARTS USED

Flowers, leaves and seeds

HABITAT

Borage is native to Syria and naturalized throughout Europe, North America and Australia

BOTANICAL DESCRIPTION

Prickly and bushy, the whole plant is rough and has hairs that can prick the skin.

Height: 60-100 cm (2-3 feet)
Width: 75 cm (2 1/2 feet)
Flowers: Abundant, blue, star-shaped with five united petals, five stamens and five separate hairy sepals. Initially, the petals are blue turning to a nice pink as they age.
Leaves: Prickly, elongated oval
Blooms: May to September
Fruits: Large black seeds

CULTIVATION

As it is a prolific self-sower, avoid letting borage set seed (unless you want it in every corner of your garden). The long taproot makes it hard to transplant a large plant, so sow it where you want it or transplant voluntary plants when they are still young.

Hardiness: Not applicable (annual plant)
Propagation: Seeds
Germination: Seeds need darkness to germinate, sow about 1 cm (1/2 in) deep, 30 to 60 cm (12-24 in) apart.
Spacing: 75 cm (2 1/2 feet)
Soil: Dry, poor and well-drained
pH: 6.1-7.5
Exposure: Full sun
Companion planting: Bush beans, peas, lettuce, potatoes, cabbage family
Garden Design: Wonderful as a filler in between young perennials.

HARVEST

Harvest flowers and leaves after the dew has dried but before it gets too hot. Use them right away. Harvest the seeds on dry days as wet seeds don’t keep well.

DRYING

The flowers are best consumed fresh as they lose their characteristic flavor during drying.

CONSTITUENTS

Flowers and leaves: 2-10 ppm pyrrolizidine alkaloid, intermedine, lycopsamine, amabiline, supinine, thesinine, calcium, potassium, mucilage.

Seeds: Gamma linoleic acid (the richest known source), palmitic acid, oleic acid, linoleic acid, eicosenoic acid, erucic acid, nervonic acid.

PROPERTIES

Anti-inflammatory, astringent, demulcent, diaphoretic, emollient, expectorant, galactagogue, tonic

ENERGETICS

Cold, moist

TASTE

Slightly sweet

MEDICINAL USE OF BORAGE

Borage flower and leaf are used to uplift the spirits, relieve skin inflammations, soothe the respiratory system, promote urination and encourage sweating.
The seed oil is a must for neurodermatitis and other skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, etc. It helps the skin stay elastic and healthy. It’s a great ally in relieving rheumatic and rheumatoid diseases. Borage oil is also very effective for balancing hormones and, therefore, used for PMS and menopausal complaints. It slows down the damage alcohol causes to the heart and liver and helps a recovering alcoholic to stay sober.

Used internally:

  • as a diuretic
  • to encourage sweating
  • for bronchitis and fevers
  • to soothe respiratory ailments
  • to stimulate milk production

Topic application:

  • to cool and soothe skin inflammations (poultice of leaves and flowers)

Recommended daily dosage:

Internal: 0.5-3.0 grams borage seed oil; 240-320 mg GLA

External: Cream or lotion with 5-10% borage seed oil

HOMEMADE PREPARATIONS
  • Infusion
  • Fresh-squeezed juice
  • Poultice
  • Tincture
  • Lotion
BORAGE SEED OIL (NOT AN ESSENTIAL OIL)

It’s used internally for balancing hormones and improving the mood.

Externally for:

  • Neurodermatitis and other chronic skin conditions (eczema, psoriasis, redness, irritation)
  • Skin regeneration and elasticity
  • Rheumatism
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • PMS
  • Helping alcoholics to stay sober

Properties of borage seed oil

Antiphlogistic, immunomodulatory, anticoagulant

The liver toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloid is also present in the seed oil.

CULINARY USE

Delectable to the eye and palate when added to salads, the flowers taste similar to cucumbers. The young leaves are also a wonderful when steamed or sauteed. Use mature leaves to flavor ice tea and water. Add it to smoothies to banish melancholy. Peel the stems and use it as celery. You can also candy it.
Make a “cool tankard” in medieval England fashion by steeping borage leaves in wine or cider with lemon and sugar. Enjoy it on a sultry Summer evening.

SIDE EFFECTS

None.

CONTRA-INDICATIONS

Internal use: Borage contains a small amount of the liver damaging pyrrolizidine alkaloid. Even though it is a small amount and generally considered safe, it is wise to watch one’s intake of borage leaves.

External use: None known

Borage

References
Bühring, U. 2014. Alles über Heilpflanzen. 4th ed. Stuttgart: Haug.
Werner, M. Von Braunschweig, R. 2016 Praxis Aromatherapy. 5th ed. Stuttgart: Haug.
Staub, J. 2008. 75 Exceptional Herbs for Your Garden. 1st ed. Layton: Gibbs M. Smith Inc.

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