Borage, borago officinalis
By AnemoneProjectors (Flickr: Borage (Borago officinalis)) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Borago officinalis-Borage

Family: Boraginaceae

Other names: Borago advena, Borago aspera, Borago hortensis,Burrage, Bee Bread, Starflower, Herb of Gladness, Bugloss, Cool Tankard

hazardsmallThe plant, but not the oil obtained from the seeds, contains small amounts of pyrrolizidine alkaloids that can cause liver damage and liver cancer. These alkaloids are present in too small a quantity to be harmful unless you make borage a major part of your diet, though people with liver problems would be wise to avoid using the leaves or flowers of this plant .

Habitat: Indigenous to Great Britain, Europe, and North Africa, naturalized in North America.

Borago_officinalis,BorageDescription of Borage:

Borago officinalis is a ANNUAL growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 0.3 m (1ft in).
It is hardy to zone 7 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jun to October, and the seeds ripen from Jul to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees.It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

Cultivation of Borage:

A very easily grown plant, succeeding in ordinary garden soil , preferring a dry soil  and a sunny position . It grows particularly well in loose, stony soils with some chalk and sand. Plants are tolerant of poor dry soils, though much bigger specimens are produced when the plants are growing in better conditions . Tolerates a pH in the range 4.8 to 8.3. Borage is often grown as a culinary plant in the herb garden . Although an annual, it usually maintains itself by self-sowing, sometimes in quite a prolific manner, as long as the soil is disturbed by hoeing etc. Plants often develop mildew when growing in dry conditions or towards the end of the growing season . Flowers are a deeper blue when grown in poorer soils. The flowers are rich in a sweet nectar and are very attractive to bees.

Companion plant:

The growing plant is a good companion for strawberries, tomatoes, courgettes and most other plants. It is said to deter Japanese beetle and tomato hornworms.

Propagation of Borage:

Seed – sow April/May in situ. The plants quickly develop a stout tap-root and do not transplant successfully. The seed can also be sown in situ in the autumn, this will produce larger plants and earlier flowering. The plant usually self-sows prolifically.

Collection: The leaves should be gathered when the plant is coming into flower in the early summer. Strip each leaf off singly and reject any that are marked in any way. Do not collect when wet with rain or dew.

Culinary uses of Borage:

Edible Parts: Flowers;  Leaves;  Oil.
Edible Uses: Colouring;  Oil;  Tea.

Leaves – raw or cooked . They can be used as a pot-herb or be added to salads . They are also added whole as a flavouring to various drinks such as Pimms and wine-based drinks . The leaves are rich in potassium and calcium, they have a salty cucumber flavour . Very hairy, the whole leaves have an unpleasant feeling in the mouth and so they are best chopped up finely and added to other leaves when eaten in a salad.. The leaves should always be used fresh, because they lose their flavour and colour if dried .

Flowers – raw. They are used as a decorative garnish on salads and summer fruit drinks . The flowers are very nice, both to look at and to taste with a sweet slightly cucumber-like flavour. A refreshing tea is made from the leaves and/or the flowers . An edible blue dye can be obtained from the flowers. It is used to colour vinegar .

The dried stems are used for flavouring beverages. The seed yields 30% oil, 20% of which is gamma-linolenic acid . Total yields are 0.35 – 0.65 tonnes per hectare . Unfortunately, the seed ripens intermittently over a period of time and falls from the plant when it is ripe, this makes harvesting the seeds in quantity very difficult . 

Borago_Officinalis_botanicalMedicinal uses of Borage:

Actions: Diaphoretic, expectorant, tonic, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, galactogogue, nervine, emollient, hormone regulator,


Borage acts as a restorative agent on the adrenal cortex, which means that it will revive and renew the adrenal glands after a medical treatment with cortisone or steroids. There is a growing need for remedies that will aid this gland with the stress it is exposed to, both externally and internally. Borage may be used as a tonic for the adrenals over a period of time. It may be used during fevers and especially during convalescence. It has a reputation as an anti-inflammatory herb used in conditions such as pleurisy. The leaves and seeds stimulate the flow or milk in nursing mothers. Borage contains potassium and calcium. Externally it is used as a poultice for inflammatory swellings. The leaves are harvested in late spring and the summer as the plant comes into flower. They can be used fresh or dried but should not be stored for more than one year because they soon lose their medicinal properties . The seeds are a rich source of gamma-linolenic acid, this oil helps to regulate the hormonal systems especially the female ones and lowers blood pressure . It is used both internally and externally, helping to relieve skin complaints and pre-menstrual tension. Used for the treatment of phlebitis (inflammation of the veins) .

Preparations & Dosage of Borage:

Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 2 teaspoonfuls of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.

Tincture: take 1-4ml of the tincture three times a day.

Other uses:

Dye;  Oil;  Repellent, litmus

The growing plant is said to repel insects. A blue dye is obtained from the flowers. This turns pink on contact with acids.

borage fairyEsoteric uses of Borage:

Courage and psychic powers. Float the flowers in a ritual bath to raise one’s spirits. Carry or burn as an incense to increase courage and strength of character. Sprinkle an infusion of Borage around the house to ward off evil.



The chemistry:

  • Pyrrolizidine alkaloids, including lycopsamine, intermedine and their acetyl derivatives, with amabiline and supinine
  • Choline. Allantoin is reported to be absent.