Borage / Starflower Benefits

Borage / Starflower
Latin Name

Borago officinalis

Also Known As

Burage, Ox-tongue, Bee Plant or Bee Bread, Starflower

Origin

Mediterranean

Parts Used

Leaf and Flowers

Traditional Use and Health Benefits

Borage is also commonly known as Starflower due to its breathtakingly pretty, vibrant blue star-shaped flowers.

As a medicinal herb, Borage was used to treat “melancholic” conditions – especially those relating to the heart. Borage leaves were also used for rheumatism, colds and bronchitis, and to increase lactation in women.

The benefits of Borage come from different parts of the plant. Borage Oil (more commonly known as Starflower Oil) is pressed from the seeds and Borage leaves are used as a fresh culinary herb and to make teas and tinctures.

Borage / Starflower Oil Benefits

Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

The seeds of this herb are comprised of roughly 25 percent oil which is one of nature’s richest sources of gamma linolenic acid (GLA). GLA is a type of Omega 6 fatty acid which cannot be made by the body, requiring it to be obtained from outside sources. It is powerfully anti-inflammatory and converts into beneficial prostaglandins, which have a profound reduction on the impact of inflammation on cardiovascular disease, lung function, autoimmune conditions and metabolic abnormalities.

The GLA from Borage Oil is converted into a compound known as dihomo-γ-linolenic acid (DGLA). Studies have shown DGLA to be responsible for lowering inflammation and a lack of this critical nutrient has been associated with various physiologic and patho-physiologic states, including aging, diabetes, alcoholism, atopic dermatitis, premenstrual syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and cardiovascular disease. Starflower Oil has been shown to elevate DGLA concentrations and may be of considerable value in alleviating some of the symptoms of these various diseases.

Arthritis

The GLA found in Borage Oil can regulate the body's immune system and fight joint inflammation. Research has shown around 6 to 11 grams of Borage Oil taken daily can positively affect the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis within one month of starting supplementation, continuing to improve them for a year or longer.

Other research suggests that even at lower doses Borage Oil can be effective. A clinical trial was conducted where individuals were given 1.4 grams per day of Borage Oil, cotton seed oil was used as a placebo. It was observed that Borage Oil supplementation reduced joint tenderness by 36 percent, the tender joint score by 45 percent, swollen joint count by 28 percent, and the swollen joint score by 41 percent. No significant improvement was seen in the placebo group.

Skin Health

According to an article published in “Dermatology News”, Borage Oil can relieve childhood eczema, dermatitis and other skin conditions including cradle cap. Human skin cannot synthesise GLA from the precursor linoleic acid. GLA is believed to contribute to skin hydration and topical application of Borage Oil can repair and hydrate the skin. Powerfully anti-aging, it has the capacity to restore the intracellular moisture barrier, meaning that skin is nourished and replenished with hydration from the inside out.

Borage Leaf Benefits

Adrenal Health

Borage Leaf is an excellent adrenal tonic that works on the adrenal cortex to revive and renew the adrenal glands. Borage Leaf tea or tincture can be used over a period of time to nourish and support the adrenals. It has a soothing and toning effect on the central nervous system and is especially useful in cases of nervous exhaustion.

Borage also contains silicon, which can have a powerful rebuilding effect on the nervous system. Borage benefits in the transmission of the nerve impulses and also prevents nerve damage.

Detoxification

Borage leaves are naturally diuretic, increasing the frequency and output of urine and helping to cleanse the system of excess fluids and stimulating the kidneys. This causes the body to flush out uric acid and excess crystals that can cause many problems including gout, arthritis and kidney stones.

They are also rich in phenolic compounds that act as antioxidants, helping to mitigate the free radical damage that can lead to illness and premature aging.

Stomach Health

Borage has antibacterial effects against Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria that can cause stomach ulcers and other unpleasant gastro-intestinal disorders.

Typical Use

Borage / Starflower Oil

Typically taken in capsule form.

Borage Leaf Tea

Take 1-2 teaspoons of the herb per cup of boiling hot water. Do not exceed 3 cups of Borage Leaf Tea per day. 

Folklore and History

The word Borage comes from the Celtic “borrach”, meaning courage, and throughout history this herb has been said to bring courage to the heart and drive away sadness.

According to the ancient Greek naturalist Pliny, Borage "maketh a man merry and joyful".  Dioscorides, the first century Greek physician seemed to agree, mentioning the use of Borage to "comfort the heart, purge melancholy and quiet the lunatic person". 

As a culinary herb, fresh Borage leaves and flowers have been used in wines and salads since ancient times. More recently they were used by Victorian women in “claret cups” (a mixture of wine, brandy, water, fruits and sugar), to lift the mood and enliven the spirit.

Borage / Starflower
Constituents

The seeds contain 26-38% of Borage Seed Oil, of which 17-28% is gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), the richest known source. The oil also contains the fatty acids palmitic acid (10-11%), stearic acid (3.5-4.5%), oleic acid (16-20%), linoleic acid (35-38%), eicosenoic acid (3.5-5.5%), erucic acid (1.5-3.5%), and nervonic acid (1.5%).

Leaves and flowers: saponins, up to 12% mucilage, tannin, vitamin C, malic acid, choline, potassium, calcium, essential oil, pyrrolizidine alkaloids (including lycopsamine, intermedine and their acetyl derivatives).

Precautions

The plant (but not the oil) contains small amounts of pyrrolizidine alkaloids that may cause toxicity in the liver, Borage should never be taken in large doses (many times the recommended amount) or for a long period of time. If you are taking any blood thinning medications, please speak with your healthcare practitioner before using Borage.

Not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women.