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Borage

Medically reviewed on June 7, 2018

What is Borage?

Borage is an annual plant that is native to the Mediterranean region but has been widely naturalized in other areas. The stem and leaves are covered with coarse, prickly hairs. The bright blue flowers are star-shaped. The fresh plant has a salty flavor and a cucumber-like odor.

Scientific Name(s)

Borago officinalis

Common Name(s)

Borage is also known as burrage, common bugloss, bee-bread, bee fodder, star flower, ox's tongue, and cool tankard.

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Borage leaves have been used as a potherb and in European herbal medicine since the Middle Ages. Borage leaves and flowers were added to wine and lemon juice to make the popular English beverages claret cup and cool tankard. The leaves have been used to treat rheumatism, colds, and bronchitis, as well as to increase lactation in women. Infusions of the leaves have been used to induce sweating and urination.

General uses

Borage has been used alone and in combination with fish oil for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, skin disorders, and bone weakening, although clinical evidence to support these uses is limited.

What is the recommended dosage?

Borage seed oil 1 to 3 g/day has been given in clinical trials (1 g/day has been used in children, and up to 3 g/day has been used in adults). A 2 g dose of dried herb brewed in 1 cup of boiling water taken 3 times daily has been suggested. Oral doses of 2,000 to 4,000 mg/day in adults and 1,000 to 2,000 mg/day in children with skin disorders have been studied.

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Documented adverse effects. Avoid use.

Interactions

Because borage contains low concentrations of substances that have been associated with liver damage, it should not be used with drugs that could affect the liver, such as anabolic steroids, phenothiazine, or ketoconazole. Borage may also lower the seizure threshold and should not be used with drugs that can also have this effect, such as tricyclic antidepressants and phenothiazines. Borage oil should also be used cautiously with any medication that may increase the risk of bleeding.

Side Effects

Borage oil should be used cautiously in people with epilepsy. A case report describes the development of seizures ultimately progressing to continuous seizures in a healthy 41-year-old woman who consumed borage oil 1,500 to 3,000 mg/day for 1 week. Additionally, borage has been reported as the likely cause of several cases of a blood disorder in infants in Europe. In patients with rheumatoid arthritis taking borage, belching and soft stools occurred.

Toxicology

Internal use of whole borage leaf is not recommended.

References

1. Borage. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons [database online]. St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Health Inc; August 2013.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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