Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden
Borage, Borago officinalis, is also known as starflower, (common) bugloss and burrage. It is related, though not closely, to alkanet (also called Spanish or dyer’s bugloss) and viper’s bugloss. It’s a hairy annual with very pretty flowers which reaches a height of about 1ft (30cm), and although if it’s happy it will self-seed all over the place, it is unlikely to become invasive, as the plants are very easy to pull up.
Borage leaves are sometimes used in salad, and are supposed to taste like cucumber, but since they are so hairy they have never appealed to me, so I’ve never tried them, even chopped up as is usually suggested. The flowers are edible, and make a great addition to salads (just on account of their attractiveness), whether fruit or vegetable based, and can also be frozen individually in ice cubes, to add to cocktails or other drinks.
Borage is grown commercially for the sake of the oil produced in its seeds, which is very high in gamma linolenic acid (GLA). However, as the seeds are very small, it requires huge quantities to obtain a usable quantity of oil, and this is not practicable for the home grower.
Flowers and leaves can be gathered in late Spring and Summer as the plants come into flower, and may be dried for later use, but will not retain their medicinal properties beyond a year.
Medicinally, borage has long been used in folk medicine to dispel melancholy. Make a standard infusion using 2 tsp dried/4 tsp fresh flowers or 2-3 tsp dried/a handful of fresh leaves to 250ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) of boiling water. Stand for 5-15 minutes and drain before use to treat nervous conditions, and also for pleurisy and other types of inflammation, and as a digestive tonic with beneficial effects on the kidneys, heart and adrenal glands. The same tonic can also be used to increase milk flow in nursing mothers. In all cases, one cup night and morning is the standard dose. As it may have sedative effects, it’s best to avoid driving or operating machinery while taking borage medicinally.
Ringworm can be treated by extracting the juice from fresh leaves and applying to the affected area. However, contact with the leaves may cause dermatitis in susceptible individuals.
I offer borage oil, which can be used as a carrier oil in aromatherapy and is also excellent used alone for skin care, particularly for dry, mature or damaged skin, and starflower (borage) oil 500mg capsules in my online shop.
As with all herbs grown for medicinal use, borage should be grown organically to ensure that its properties are not changed by the uptake of foreign chemicals. To find out more about growing organic borage visit the Gardenzone.