Herbs for Health – Borage Borago officinalis


A common Mediterranean weed thought to originate from Southern Spain and Morocco, Borage Borago officinalis is grown as a garden herb, it is also extensively cultivated for its seed oil.

Borage has large hairy leaves, and is worth growing just for the lovely blue star shaped flowers that can be frozen into ice cubes as a ‘party-piece’.

An annual growing to 80 cm with a pulpy stem, it can become top heavy and fall over, but will self- seeds easily.

The origin of the name is obscure. The French ‘bourrache’ is said to derive from ‘rough’ or ‘hairy’, which describes the leaf, but the pure blue flowers are supposed to have inspired the painting of the robes of the Madonna. LouisXIV of France was so charmed by them, that he ordering the herb to be planted at Versailles. The Welsh name translates as ‘herb of gladness’; and in Arabic it is ‘the father of sweat’, which we can accept as borage is a diaphoretic. The Greeks and Romans regarded borage as both comforting and imparting courage. The Celtic word ‘borrach’ means ‘courage’, and this belief persisted so that Gerard was able to quote, “ I Borage., bring always courage” in his Herbal. It was for courage, too, that borage flowers were floated in stirrup cups given to the Crusaders.

The American Settlers took the seed with them and records were found in seed orders of an American in 1631, where it was called burradge.

The aerial parts, including the flowers are used, and the seed is distilled as Star flower oil.

With its high mucilage content, borage is demulcent and soothes respiratory problems. Its emollient qualities make it helpful for sore and inflamed skin, the flowers encourage sweating and the leaves are diuretic. The seed oil is particularly rich in polyunsaturated fats, and is superior to Evening Primrose oil.

Borage seed oil is used to treat pre-menstrual complaints, rheumatic problems, eczema and other chronic skin conditions.

Colds and flu to induce sweating – make an infusion of fresh leaves (small handful) to 600 ml water steep for 5 minutes drink as required.

Freshly squeezed leaf juice can be applied direct for Itchy, sore or inflamed skin – or as an infusion as a wash.

Due to the presence of pyrrolizidine alkaloids,the herb should only be taken for short periods of time. It is subject to legal restrictions in some countries.
Do not take the oil if you are epileptic or schizophrenic

Until next time.
Yours in herbs,
Diane Aldworth 082 808 1519 dragonair@lantic.net