Borage

 

 

Borage

Family:     Boraginaceae, Borage, or Forget-me-not
Genus:      Borago
Species:    officinalis

 

Synonyms and Common names:  Burrage, common bugloss, starflower, beebread, bee plant

Description and Habitat:   Borage is a hardy, annual herb, coming originally from Aleppo, but now naturalised in most parts of Europe, and frequently found in Britain.   It is found on rubbish heaps, and near dwellings, although it can be found growing freely in kitchen gardens.   It is useful not only as a herb and for use of its flowers, but Borage is sought after by bees, which then yield excellent honey.

The herb is rough, with white, stiff and prickly hairs.  Its round stems grow to about one and a half feet high, are branched, hollow and succulent.  Its leaves are alternate, large wrinkled, deep green, and are oval and pointed, and three inches long or can be longer, they are around one and a half inches across.  The lower leaves are stalked, with stiff, one-celled hairs on the upper surfaces, and on the veins.

Borage’s flowers are bright blue, and star-shaped.  They are distinct from every other plant in this Family by their prominent black anthers, which form a cone in the center, and have been described as their beauty spot.   The fruit consists of four brownish-black nutlets.


Parts used
:    Leaves, flowers, and seed oil.

Collection and preparation:  Borage flowers are collected between April and September, and the seeds when ripe in the autumn.  The leaves should be gathered just as the plant is coming into flower, but they can be harvested throughout the growing season.

Constituents:
Leaves and flowers: saponins, up to 12% mucilage, tannin, vitamin C, malic acid, choline, potassium, calcium, essential oil, and pyrrolizidine alkaloids.
Seeds: Essential fatty acids, which are gammalinolenic and linoleic.

Actions:
Leaves and flowers: adrenal gland stimulant and restorative, galactagogue, diuretic, demulcent, emollient, antirheumatic, refrigerant, diaphoretic, expectorant, and anti-depressive
Seeds: antirheumatic, and anti-inflammatory.

Indications:
The traditional use of ‘Borage for Courage’ suggests that it has a supportive effect on the adrenal glands.  It has since been confirmed that the plant encourages the production of adrenaline, which helps the body cope with stressful situations, as well as possibly acting as a restorative agent on the adrenal cortex.   It is often prescribed to restore the adrenal glands after steroid therapy.

An infusion of the leaves and flowers can be taken as a tonic after stressful situations or for mental exhaustion and depression.  Clinical trials have shown that borage seed oil reduces stress.

Borage helps prevent inflammation of the gastrointestinal mucus in cases of allergy and infection, and it may also assist in the absorption of iron.

It can be used externally as a compress, or a poultice for inflammation, or as an eyewash to relieve irritation.   A hot infusion of Borage induces a sweating effect in the treatment of colds and flu, and the presence of saponins is probably responsible for its expectorant action.

The mucilage in the leaves helps to soothe the respiratory tract in dry, rasping coughs.  It is indicated in bronchitis, catarrh, congested membranes, and pleurisy, and the flowers have long been a traditional ingredient of cough syrups.

The pressed seed oil of Borage, is rich in gammalinolenic and linoleic acid, it is used in the same way as Evening Primrose oil in the treatment of menstrual problems, eczema, and other chronic skin conditions, and It is often combined with Evening Primrose oil to help reduce blood cholesterol levels.


Contraindications
:   There are no contraindications for Borage in Britain.

Preparation and dosage:
Infusion:  One cup of boiling water poured over one tablespoonful of dried Borage aerial parts.  Allow it to infuse for ten to fifteen minutes, drink three times a day.

Tincture:  1-4 ml. drops taken three times a day.  This can be taken in warm water if required.

Additional comments and Folklore:

A traditional belief tells us that the leaves and seeds of the plant can increase the milk supply of nursing mothers; it is also said to improve mood in menopausal depression.

The Celtic name for borage, is borrach, and translates to ‘courage,’ and both the Greeks and Romans regarded it as being, not only comforting, but also imparting courage, and it is said that the beautiful blue flowers were floated in stirrup cups to give courage to the Crusaders before they set off.   Gerard made even more ambitious claims, stating the ‘gallant blue flowers in wine, drive ‘away all sadness, dullness, and melancholy’, stating also that ‘those of our time use the flowers in salads, to exhilarate and make the mind glad’.

Note: Homer mentioned that borage caused forgetfulness when mixed with wine.

In Provence, the older people used borage for fritters, whilst in London, it was said that putting borage flowers in a salad it makes cucumber easier to digest.

Crushed Borage leaves can be used in a Pimms drink, and they resemble the smell of cucumber.

It is said that planting Borage next to Strawberries caused both plants to grow large.

Strawberries and a Pimms sound good to me!!