Borage - Borago officinalis Borage - Borago officinalis

Herb: Borage

Latin name: Borago officinalis

Family: Boraginaceae (Borage Family)

Medicinal use of Borage:

Borage is a fairly common domestic herbal remedy that has been used since ancient times. It has a particularly good reputation for its beneficial affect on the mind, being used to dispel melancholy and induce euphoria. It is a soothing saline, diuretic herb that soothes damaged or irritated tissues. The leaves, and to a lesser extent the flowers, are demulcent, diaphoretic, depurative, mildly diuretic, emollient, expectorant, febrifuge, lenitive and mildly sedative. An infusion is taken internally in the treatment of a range of ailments including fevers, chest problems and kidney problems, though it should not be prescribed to people with liver problems. 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 and lowers blood pressure. It is used both internally and externally, helping to relieve skin complaints and pre-menstrual tension.

Description of the plant:


60 cm
(2 feet)

June to

Habitat of the herb:

Waste ground near houses in Britain.

Edible parts of Borage:

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. 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. An edible blue dye can be obtained from the flowers. It is used to colour vinegar.

Other uses of the herb:

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

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.

Cultivation of the herb:

Waste ground near houses in Britain.

Known hazards of Borago officinalis:

The 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.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.