Borago officinalis

This wonderful plant is definitely one of the unsung, underused heroes of the medicinal herb world. Known as ‘The plant that cheers.’ it restores adrenal function after steroid use or prolonged stress, mental exhaustion, and depression. It is used to treat toxicity, allergy or infection affecting the digestive tract, and in convalescence. Borage may used to prevent inflammation of the stomach and intestines in such conditions as: colitis, gastritis, gastric ulcer, Crohn’s disease, chronic catarrh, fevers, and pulmonary disease. It is excellent used externally for soothing rashes and inflammation, and as a re-moisturizer.

The seeds provide good quality oil, high in linoleic acid and gamma linolenic acid, valuable omega 6 essential fatty acids that may be used to treat menstrual irregularities, eczema, irritable bowel, rheumatoid arthritis, and to reduce cholesterol deposits.

Botanical Description:

Borage is a hardy annual which can grow to a height of up to 50cm but prefers to spread out over an area of four square feet. All parts of the plant are covered with rough, prickly hairs (wear gloves!). The alternate leaves are oval, dark green, deeply veined, and have a cucumber-like fragrance. The flowers may be blue or pink, sometimes on the same plant. They are small but strikingly star-shaped, were often candied for cake decoration, and will liven up the visual appeal of cold drinks and salads!


This plant readily grows in ordinary soil, may be propagated from root divisions or stem cuttings, but springs easily from seed, and indeed will self-sow in proliference. Sow March through May. The flowers appear throughout the season and may be gathered as desired. Gather the leaves when the plant is coming into flower, on dry days. Borage is a good companion plant for strawberries as an insect and disease deterrent.


Small amounts of pyrrolizidine alkaloids, choline, saponins, mucilage, tannins, essential oil, potassium, calcium, mineral salts

Safety Considerations:

  • There have been traces of erucic acid, which is known to damage heart tissue in high amounts, sometimes found in the seed oil (it is also found in canola oil).

  • As a member of the same family as Comfrey, it does contain trace amounts of pyrolizidine alkaloids though I imagine that they dissipate upon drying as they do with Comfrey. It would be prudent to exercise caution in cases of liver disease.

  • This plant has a long history of folk use as a pot and salad herb as well as for medicinal use but it has been banned in some countries, and some sources recommend short term use of only one week at a time. Most herbalists strongly feel that these measures are unwarranted.

  • Avoid in pregnancy.

How to Use Borage Leaves

  • The juice may be taken internally at 1tsp three times per day, as an external emollient, or in syrup for cough to clear phlegm.

  • As an infusion, steep 1 tsp dried herb in 1 cup coiling water for 15 min and take ½ cup three times per day.

  • A tincture is made in a 1:5 ratio, and may be taken in doses of 3 ml three times per day to a maximum dose of 60 ml per week.

  • Powder may be taken in capsules, 250 mg three times per day.

  • The seed oil is available in 500 or 1000 mg capsules and may be taken at a rate of 1000 mg three times per day.

In Combination:

A simple, this herb works well on its own but may be combined with beneficial herbs to the system being treated, for instance, with Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) for cough, with Calendula for healing internal and external membranes, or with a nervine like Valerian for stress.

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