Borage (Borago officinalis)

Borage (Borago officinalis)

Other common names: Starflower, burrage, common borage, common bugloss, cool tankard

borage

Diagram courtesy of Johann Georg Sturm (Painter: Jacob Sturm) / Wikimedia Commons

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Family: Boraginaceae

Actions:

Emollient, demulcent, soothing diuretic, cardiac tonic, diaphoretic, adrenal tonic, expectorant, anti-inflammatory, anticoagulant, antitumorigenic, hormone balancer, anti-carcinogenic.

Harvest:

Harvest borage in the morning, after the dew dries but before the heat of the day sets in. Ideally it should be harvested just before the flowers fully open, which is usually in summer to early fall.

Part used: Flowers, leaves

Constituents: Gamma-linolenic acid, palmitic acid, oleic acid, stearic acid, linoleic acid, erucic acid, nervonic acid,  eicosenoic acid, thesinine, potassium, calcium, mucilage and others.

Leaves contain  intermedine, lycopsamine, amabiline, supinine,  lycopsamine and amabiline. These constituents have been linked to liver toxicity when used in large doses, in those with compromised liver function or if used long term.

Indications:

borage

Photo courtesy of AnemoneProjectors / Wikimedia Commons

Used to treat fevers, adrenal fatigue, endocrine disorders (flowers only), dry skin conditions, urinary tract infections, grief, stress, exhaustion, eczema, menopausal symptoms, PMS, dysmenorrhea, rheumatoid arthritis, ADHD, pain, inflammation, preventative heart health, cancer prevention, tumours, Raynaud’s phenomenon and some forms of lupus (not without a doctor’s guidance, and never if organs have been compromised).

It has also been known to help alcoholism, however this is not something I would do in the case of a current/relapsing drinker, or someone who has already incurred liver complications, as borage could increase the risk of liver damage.

Medicinal preparations:

borage

Photo courtesy of Magnus Manske / Wikimedia Commons

Internal

Flowers are used both in culinary preparations and medicinally. You can eat them directly off the plant (they have a very pleasant taste), or use them in cold or hot infusions, elixirs, syrups and other preparations.

Use leaves only in those with no compromised organ function, and only for short-term use at modest doses. Do not consume them fresh, as they can be an irritant to tissues – they are best when dried and processed via infusion or encapsulation. I personally choose to err on the side of caution and use flowers for internal use.

External

Touching fresh leaves can cause contact dermatitis, so they should be processed in an oil infusion or other method before being applied to skin. The crushed, steeped leaves are helpful for bruising, inflammation and painful skin or musculoskeletal conditions. Flowers can be used in the same way, as an ingredient in infused oils, salves, washes, etc.

NOTE: If you purchase a bottle of seed oil, you should check to ensure that it is free of pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), as they have been linked to liver toxicity.

If infusing borage in oil, dry overnight first, as borage has a high moisture content. Add Vitamin E or Vitamin C to prolong shelf life, and keep refrigerated.

Contraindications:

borage

Photo courtesy of Magnus Manske / Wikimedia Commons

Do not use if pregnant or nursing, or if you have compromised organ function, a bleeding disorder,  or a history of liver complications. Stop using at least two weeks before undergoing a surgery, due to its blood-thinning capacity and also its ability to interact with anesthesia (if this is not possible, inform all medical staff involved that you have been taking it, the interactions that are possible, and let them know the last day you took it/how much). Consult with a physician before using if you are taking anticoagulant/antiplatelet drugs,  medications that increase liver metabolism of other substances, anticonvulsants, sedatives, antidepressants or other pharmaceuticals.

I suggest consulting a pharmacist or physician before starting any herbal supplement if you are taking a prescription medication or have serious underlying health concerns. 

Energetic/traditional use:

Borage is known for being a herb of confidence and courage. It is used to infuse a soul with vigor, renew their strength and motivate them to have faith in themselves and conquer the world. It was used traditionally for grief and sorrow, easing depression by boosting the body’s defenses and lifting the spirits without being overstimulating. Crusaders, knights, explorers and warriors throughout history have used borage both symbolically and internally to bolster their courage before an adventure.

Disclaimer: The information on this website is intended as general education on herbs and is not intended to take the place of medical care. Please consult a health care professional before embarking on any health regime.

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