Borage, what is Borage, benefits of borage, borage seed oil, Borage herb, Baraga

Baraga officinalis Boraginaceae.

A rampant herbaceous annual, borage is the bane if many a gardener. It tends to grow on rough ground or at the roadside - but it loves flowerbeds too. The whole plarlt is covered with prickly hairs and grows up to 60cm tall. In summer, bright blue flowers appear followed by little nut-like fruits, each containing a seed.

Parts used

Flowers, leaves and seeds

The flowers contain a diuretic. The seeds are commercially harvested and crushed for their oil. . The fresh leaves, which have a mild cucumber-like taste, can be used to flavour summer punches.


Both leaves and flowers are rich in diuretic minerals. The plant also contains a substance called mucilage. This is a demulcent, which means it soothes and relieves the pain of inflamed mucous membranes.The oil, extracted from the seeds, is rich in unsaturated fatty acids.

However, the leaves and flowers have been found to contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids, substances thought to damage the liver and cause cancer. The European Commission is currently considering banning the sale of all species of borage that contain these alkaloids.


  • Do not use borage without consulting a doctor or medical herbalist, as it contains potentially harmful pyrrolizidine alkaloids.
  • Do not use borage as an infusion. . Borage should not be taken when pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • People suffering from epilepsy schizophrenia, or those taking phenothiazine tranquillisers should not use borage.
  • The hairy leaves and stems may cause contact dermatitis.

Medicinal uses

Traditionally, borage flowers were used for their sweat-inducing, soothing and diuretic effects. In 1989, Canadian researchers found that borage reduced the effect of stress on the cardiovascular system. It is also said to soothe the throat and possess expectorant properties.

Polyunsaturated fats found in borage seed oil are believed to be beneficial for some skin ailments, such as the loss of elasticity and dryness that result from ageing. The seed oil may also have anti -inflammatory properties: it contains g-linolenic acid, an unsaturated fatty acid, which was shown in 1993 by US researchers in Pennsylvania, to be an effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. The oil may help to combat lung disease, too: in 1997 American scientists found that borage oil in combination with fish oil helped to prevent inflammation caused by acute lung injury in rats.


This hardy plant grows best in a sunny location from seeds planted in spring and will then self-sow in the same spot. However, it should only be taken medicinally as directed by a medical herbalist.


Borage preparations should only be used in consultation with a qualified medical herbalist.



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