These species of annuals and perennials make up this genus, native to the Mediterranean region and W Asia. Borago may be derived from the Latin burra, a hairy garment, alluding to the bristly foliage. Two species, B. officinallis (borage) and B. pygmaea, are grown for their clear blue flowers. Though stocked by herb nurseries, B. pygmaea cannot be used as a substitute for culinary or medicinal uses of borage. Borago officinalis was called Euphrosinum by Pliny, because of its euphoric effect, which was summarized by John Gerard in The Herball, or Generall Historie of Plantes (1597); "Those of our time do use the floures in sallads to exhilerate and make the minde glad. There be also many things made of them, used for the comfort of the heart, to drive away sorrow, & increase the joy of the minde. The leaves and floures of Borrage put into wine make men and women glad and merry, driving away all sadnesse, dulnesse, and melancholy, as Dioscorides and Pliny affirme. Syrrup made of the floures of Borrage comforteth the heart, purgeth melancholy, and quiteth the phrenticke or lunaticke person." The presense of pyrrolizidine alkaloids in members of the borage family now gives doubts about the safety of borage as a culinary and medicinal herb where regular or large amounts of foliage are consumed.

The ability of borage to counteract melancholia has been known for centuries. In the 1600s, diarist John Evelyn wrote that borage could "revive the hypochondriac and cheer the hard student", possibly by supporting the adrenal glands.

Perhaps the best source of gamma-linolenic acid (outdoing even black currant oil and evening primrose oil), borage seed oil has anti-inflammatory properties and may also act as a blood thinner and blood vessel dialator. Several studies have shown that borage seed oil is helpful in reducing joint inflammation and other symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Bristly annual with upright, hollow stems, and lanceolate leaves, to 15cm (6in) long. Blue, 5-petaled flowers, 1cm (3/8in) across, appear in summer, followed by tiny, brown-black seeds. Plants may appear with variegated foliage.

Common Name:
Other Names:
Bee Bread, Bugloss, Burrage, Herb of Gladness, Starflower
Botanical Name:
Borago officinalis
Native Location:
Mediterranean, W Asia
Well-drain, moist soil in full sun. Tolerates poor, dry soil but makes a much larger plant in better conditionss. May develop mildew in dry conditions or toward the end of the growing season.
By seed sown in situ in spring, and thinned to 45ccm (18in) apart.
Leaves are gathered in spring and summer, as the plant starts to flower, and are used fresh, or dried for infusions and liquid extracts. Flowers are picked as they open and separated from the calyx before using fresh, making into a syrup, or candying. Borage develops a thick tap root and does not transplant well. It is recommended in companion planting to deter Japanese beetles and tomato hornworms; also reputed to benefit strawberries. The flowers attract bees. Properties deteriorate rapidly; leaves and flowers must be processed promptly and stocks of dried herb renewed annually. Seeds are harvested with ripe for oil extraction.
Has white flowers
30cm-1m (1-3ft)
15-30cm (6-12in)
Half hardy
Since the time of the ancient Greek and Roman physician-philosophers, borage has been heralded as a depression reliever and courage booster. The Roman scholar Pliny called the blue-flowered plant Euphrosinum (after "euphoria") for its spirit-lifting effects, while the Greek physician and herbalist Dioscorides noted that borage "cheered the heart". Some scholars believe that the name borago is most likely from the Latin burra (meaning "furry coat") because of the plant's distinctive fuzzy leaves—which taste like cucumber. Others say that borage's name originally was corago, a combination of the Old Latin words, cor (for "heart") and ago (for "I bring")—after the herb's courage-boosting effects. Folk legend has it that medieval knights drank borage-flavored wine to give them courage before battle. The famed herbalists John Gerard and Nicholas Culpeper, writing in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries respectively, both hailed borage's ability to "comfort the heart". Borage traveled from Europe to colonial America—where it was called burradge—in the early 1600s and has been a prized plant in ornamental and herb gardens since. The star-shaped, periwinkle-blue flowers are used to decorate cakes and salads.
Parts Used:
Leaves, flowers, seeds, oil, stems
A cooling, saline, diuretic herb that soothes damaged or irritated tissues, increases perspiration, and had mild sedative and anti-depressant effects. Seeds are a rich source of gamma-linolenic acid. Oil regulates hormonal systems and lowers blood pressure. Plant (but not oil) contains small amounts of pyrrolizidine alkaloids (as found in Symphytum officinale, see comfrey) that may cause liver damage and liver cancer.
Vitamin Content:
Vitamin A
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for fevers, bronchial infections (including pleurisy and tuberculosis), mouth and throat infections, dry skin conditions, cirrhosis, and chronic nephritis (leaves, flowers); ringworm (juice); and an alternative to evening primrose oil for skin conditions, rheumatic complaints, and premenstrual syndrome (oil). Externally in eyewashes, gargles, mouthwashes, and poultices.
To treat coughs, various throat and bronchial conditions, rheumatism, menopausal complaints, and pain; to reduce inflammation; to purify the blood.
To treat premenstrual syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, stress, and eczema; to prevent stroke and heart disease.
Borage has fever-reducing, anti-inflammatory, sedating, and tonic properties. Herbalists prescribe borage to reduce fevers, soothe dry coughs, heal skin rashes, and stimulate milk production in nursing mothers. The herb's leaves are rich in calcium, potassium, and other minerals, and are often added to salads for their cucumber taste and extra nutrition. A tea made from the leaves and flowers is a restorative tonic that helps reduce anxiety, stress, and mild depression. Oil made from the seeds contains GLA (gamma-linoleic acid),an essential fatty acid that may help prevent hardening of the arteries. Borage is also recommended for treating many of the ailments that evening primrose oil also targets, including arthritis, eczema, high blood pressure, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), and menstrual irregularities.
Borage is available as dried herb and in oils, teas, and tinctures. To make a tea, pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of dried herb, or 2 teaspoons of fresh herb, and steep for 5 minutes. Strain, and drink up to 1 cup a day.
Typical Dose:
A typical dose of borage seed oil for eczema may range from 2 to 3 gm daily in divided doses; for rheumatoid arthritis the range is 6 to 7 gm daily in divided doses after meals.
Early research reports that borage might be toxic to the liver and have not been substantiated. However, all herbs should be used in moderation, and preferably on the advice of a qualified practitioner.
Possible Side Effects:
Borage's side effects include gastrointestinal distress.
Borage Seed Oil's side effects include diarrhea, bloating, and belching.
Drug Interactions:
Taking borage with these drugs may increase the risk of bleeding or bruising.
Abciximab, (ReoPro) Alteplase, (Activase, Cathflo Activase) Antithrombin III, (Thrombate III) Argatroban, (Argatroban) Aspirin, (Bufferin, Ecotrin)
Aspirin and Dipyridamole, (Aggrenox) Bivalirudin, (Angiomax) Clopidogrel, (Plavix) Dalteparin, (Fragmin) Danaparoid, (Orgaran)
Dipyridamole, (Novo-Dipiradol, Persantine) Enoxaparin, (Lovenox) Eptifibatide, (Integrillin) Fondaparinux, (Arixtra) Heparin, (Hepalean, Hep-Lock)
Indobufen, (Ibustrin) Lepirudin, (Refludan) Nadroparin, (Fraxiparine) Reteplase, (Retavase) Streptokinase, (Streptase)
Tecteplase, (TNKase) Ticlopidine, (Alti-Ticlopidine, Ticlid) Tinzaparin, (Innohep) Tirofiban, (Aggrastat) Urokinase, (Abbokinase)
Warfarin, (Coumadin, Jantoven)
Taking borage with these drugs may reduce or prevent drug absorption:
Ferric Gluconate, (Ferrlecit) Ferrous Fumarate, (Femiron, Feostat) Ferrous Gluconate, (Fergon, Novo-Ferrogluc)
Ferrous Sulfate, (Feratab, Fer-Iron) Ferrous Sulfate and Ascorbic Acid, (Fero-Grad 500, Vitelle Irospan) Iron-Dextran Complex, (Dexferrum, INFeD)
Polysaccharide-Iron Complex, (Hytinic, Niferex)
Taking borage seed oil with these drugs may increase the risk of bleeding or bruising:
Abciximab, (ReoPro) Antithrombin III, (Thrombate III) Argatroban, (Argatroban) Aspirin, (Bufferin, Ecotrin)
Aspirin and Dipyridamole, (Aggrenox) Bivalirudin, (Angiomax) Clopidogrel, (Plavix) Dalteparin, (Fragmin)
Danaparoid, (Orgaran) Dipyradimole, (Novo-Dipiradol, Persantine) Enoxaparin, (Lovenox) Eptifibatide, (Integrillin)
Fondaparinux, (Arixtra) Heparin, (Hepalean, Hep-Lock) Indobufen, (Ibustrin) Lepirudin, (Refludan)
Rofecoxib, (Vioxx) Ticlopidine, (Alti-Ticlopidine, Ticlid) Tinzaparin, (Innohep) Tirofiban, (Aggrastat)
Urokinase, (Abbokinase)
Warfarin, (Coumadin, Jantoven)
Disease Interactions:
May worsen the cause of liver disease.
Seed oil may worsen bleeding disorders and liver diseases.
Lab Test Alterations:
Seed Oil may alter these tests:
  • May increase bleeding time
  • May lower plasma triglycerides and increase HDL "good" Cholesterol
Supplement Interactions:
Borage Seed Oil
  • Increased risk of unsaturated pyrrolizidine alkaloid (UPA) toxicity when used with Eucalyptus.
  • Increased risk of additive toxicity when used with herbs and supplements containing unsaturated pyrrolizidine alkaloids (UPAs), such as Butterbur, Comfrey, and Colt's Foot.
Culinary Uses:
Cucumber-flavored leaves and succulent leaf stalks are traditionally added to Pimms and wine-based drinks; they are also chopped in salads and soft cheese, and in some areas are cooked as a vegetable. Fresh flowers are added to salad or used as a garnish but turn pink on contact with acids, such as lemon juice or vinegar. They are also made into syrup, or candied as cake decorations. Borage honey is popular in New Zealand.
Skin irritant and possible allergin.
All parts of the herb, except the seed oil, are subjec to legal restrictions in some countries.
Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited Pg 145
The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by George T Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD Copyright ©2007 by Barry Fox, PhD. Pp94-96
The Modern Herbal Primer by Nancy Burke Copyright©2000 Yankee Publishing, Inc. pp. 23-24