Family: Boraginaceae, Borago officinalis L.

Source: Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. 1984. Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate Zone. Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT.

Borage, Borago officinalis L., an annual herb considered native Europe, Asia Minor, northern Europe, and Africa, has blue to purple flowers that appear throughout the growing season. The plant naturalized in North America. The reported life zone for borage is 5 to 21 degrees centigrade with an annual precipitation of 0.3 to 1.3 meter and a soil pH of 4.5 to 8.3 (4.1-31). Reaching a height of one meter borage thrives in most soil types and is adaptable to a wide range of environmental conditions.

The borage plant is cultivated primarily as a decorative ornament that is attractive to bees, although the leaves are sometimes used locally culinary. The medicinal value derives from the high concentration of -linolenic acid in the seed oil. The taste of borage foliage flowers is reminiscent of cucumber and are used in selected salads, soups, and some vegetable and meat dishes. The pubescent and prickly stems, however, make it somewhat undesirable as a culinary plant. Dry flowers have been used in potpourris. Parts of the plant are sometimes used as a flavoring agent in wine, gin, and other alcoholic nonalcoholic beverages. Flowers are often candied and added to confections.

Traditional medicinal uses of borage include the treatment of jaundice, coughs, fever, dermatitis, and kidney ailments. It has also been used to stimulate lactation and employed as a tonic, diaphoret diuretic, demulcent and emollient. Although little information is available on chemical constituents and biological activity of borage extracts, investigations have indicated that borage contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, such as lasiocarpine, which have been reported to cause liver damage and induce cancer in laboratory animals (11.1-154), though this does not appear to be a problem in the seed oil, used as a commercial source of -linolenic acid

Borago laxiflora, a purple-flowering perennial native to Corsica, suitable as an ornamental in rock gardens (14.1-3).

For further information, see:

Janick, J., J.E. Simon, J. Quinn and N. Beaubaire. 1989. Borage: A Source of Gamma Linolenic Acid. In: L.E. Craker and J.E. Simon (eds). Herbs, spieces, and Medicinal Plants. Recent Advances in Botany, Horticulture, and Pharmacology. Food Products Press Vol 4:145-168.

[Note: References listed above in parentheses can be found in full in the original reference].

Aromatic and Medicinal Plants Index

Last modified 6-Dec-1997