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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

aka Bee bread, Bee Clover, Borrage, Burrage, Cool Tankard, False Bugloss, LLanwenlys (Welsh), Star flower, Talewort
(Borago officinalis)
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• Therapeutic use not recommended due to presence in all parts of pyrrolizidine alkaloids,
although not present, or in extremely minute amounts in the oil.
• Subject to legal restrictions in some countries.
• Plant is 'hairy' and can cause contact dermatitis in susceptible individuals.
• CALYX is NOT edible.

DRUG INTERACTIONS: NOT used with hepatoxic drugs (ie. anabolic steroids, phenothiazines, ketoconazole). OIL NOT used with tricyclic antidepressants and phenothiazines.

CONTRAINDICATED: NOT used internally nor for prolonged periods of time. NOT when pregnant or nursing. NOT used externally when skin is broken. NOT used when there is a history of liver disease.

CONTAINS: Pressed SEED OIL contains GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) used to treat PMS; also cis-linoleic.
PLANT contains low levels of unsaturated types of pyrrolizidine alkaloids such as amabeline which are potentially carcinogenic and traces of essential oil.
LEAVES and FLOWERS contain saponins, mucilage, malic acid, tannins, vitamin C, calcium, potassium.

Tall (2 to 3 feet), brittle-stemmed, hairy annual with vivid blue star-shaped flowers (to 1-inch in diameter) with 5 stamens having black anthers appearing in terminal drooping racemes on long peduncles and possessing a 5-segmented calyx; leaves grayish green, wrinkled, elongated oval with a definite point appearing at the base as a rosette and becoming alternate ovate to oblong along the stems; fruit is a large black seed which contains 4 nutlets. Native to southern Europe and the Middle East. The origin of the species name is undetermined, but probably taken from the Latin 'bova' meaning 'hairy beast' in reference to the bristly leaves; or another possibility is a corruption of the Latin 'corago' meaning 'I bring courage'; while yet again it could have come from a Celtic word meaning a brave person.

Borage has a long history of brightening people's spirits, especially when added to wine. Pliny said it made a man 'merry and joyful'. An ancient Roman verse, spoken to this day, goes: "I, Borage, always bring courage." Another old saying, this one English, goes: "To enliven the sad with a joy of a joke, Give the wine with the borage put in to soak". In the 17th century, John Evelyn suggested that it might prove of use to hypochondriacs. It is believed by some to be the "Nepenthe" of Homer which, when steeped in wine brought forgetfulness.

Astrologically ruled by Leo and the Sun.

PROPAGATION: By seed (viable up to 8 years with proper storage) which may be sown 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep 2 to 3 weeks before the last frost is expected, OR, sow in spring, thinning seedlings 12 to 18 inches apart; 7 to 10 days to germination. Once established for a season is hardy and will self-sow. Has a long tap root (if container planting, the pot must be large) and resents transplanting.
NEEDS: An annual grown as an ornamental requiring full sun and rich, moist (will tolerate some dryness), well-worked soil. (Best in garden) Susceptible to mildew in dry conditions and at end of season.
HARVEST: Leaves before flowering; flowers as available. Both used fresh or dried for infusions and extracts. Deteriorates quickly when picked and must be used immediately; dried materials must be renewed annually. Flowers to be candied are picked when fully developed, but not completely open to keep from fading; calyx is not edible and must be removed. Seeds are taken when ripe to be pressed for oil. For CRAFT uses, pick flowers when fully formed, but before they expand to avoid the color fading.
PART USED: Leaves, flowers, seed oil
FLOWERS: From late June till frost if blooms are kept picked. Attractive blue, or occasionally pink.
Borago officinalis 'Alba' has white blooms.


Salty, aperient, analgesic, diuretic, diaphoretic, demulcent, emollient, refrigerant, febrifuge, mild sedative (since it was always mixed with wine, it casts doubt on its effectiveness), mild laxative, nervine, anti-rheumatic, expectorant, to purify blood, promotes lactation, leaves and flowers stimulate the adrenal glands (restorative to adrenal cortex); soothing to irritated or damaged tissue (pulped leaves have been used as poultice for bruises, inflammations, and swellings, as well as being base for salves and liniments); cleansing and stimulating to the kidneys and has been used in Europe as a tonic herb for convalescents. Said to affect lungs, heart (to strengthen), circulation, and skin.
Seed oil has been used to lower blood pressure (stress related) and regulate hormonal system as well as for eczema, irritable bowel syndrome, hangover, and to regulate menses. Has also been rubbed into fingers for Raynaud's disease and been used as a substitute for Evening Primrose Oil.
Leaves have been used as an adrenal tonic to counter the effects of steroid therapy.
Plant has been used for fevers, bronchitis, cirrhosis, chronic nephritis, hysteria, palpitations of the heart, phlebitis, dry rasping cough, pleurisy, depression, diarrhea, menopausal problems, dry skin itch, ringworm, tetters, scabs, sores, ulcers, mouth and throat infections, as a calmative, and to relieve liver and kidney troubles. Has been used as an infusion in the early stages of fevers associated with the onset of pleurisy, feverish colds, and whooping cough. Has been used externally as cooled infusion as an eyewash (to strengthen), gargle, mouthwash, and poultice.
Tea has been used in Central and South America for lung problems.
The juice has been used for depression, anxiety, grief, and as a lotion for dry, itchy skin. The juice in syrup form has been used for fevers, jaundice, itch and ringworm.
The flowers have been made into a cough syrup which has also been used for kidney and bladder inflammations; candied flowers were once given to those recovering from long illnesses and those who easily swooned. The distilled flower water and conserve of the flowers was once used to "comfort the heart, relieve the faint, cheer the melancholy, and purify the blood" (Herbal of John Pechey 1695). Distilled water was also warmed and used as a gargle for sore throat.
Fresh leaves have been used in salads to increase milk flow in nursing mothers.
Combined with basil for mid-morning pick-me-up tea.

!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
FLOWERS = for aperient and pectoral, 60 grains.
INFUSION = 2 tsp dried leaves (or 1 tsp dried flowers), steeped in 1 C. boiled water 10 minutes; 1/2 cup 3 times daily.
TINCTURE = 5 ml (1/5 tsp) three times daily; taken for stress and to counter steroid therapy. Also added to salves and liniments for external problems of the skin.
FLUID EXTRACT= 1/2 to 1 tsp
JUICE = leaves are pulped in a juicer and 10 ml (2/5 tsp) taken 3 times daily for depression, grief, or anxiety.
LOTION = Juice is diluted with an equal amount of water; used externally for dry, irritated skin, or nervous rashes.
SYRUP: Puree 1/2 lb. fresh flowering plant; strain and make syrup with 1 C. white sugar; taken 1 Tbsp per day. OR, an infusion plus sugar which is boiled down to a syrup. ALSO: leaves and stems juiced - to 1 cup juice, add 1 cup honey and bring to boil, remove and bottle (1 tsp taken 4 times daily for sore throats and coughs). Has been used for congestion (sometimes with the addition of mullein or marshmallow flowers).
CAPSULE = (oil) 500 mg

Used to increase lactation in bitches.
Added to licorice and other herbs as a cough remedy in dogs.
In livestock, used for heart ailments, lung problems, eye ailments, ringworm, rickets, to increase milk, and as a mild laxative. Dose is 2 to 4 handfuls mixed with bran or other grains and given 1 to 2 times daily. A lotion is prepared by adding 1 handful to a 1 cup of water.

Remove the prickly backs (calyx) from flowers before serving as these are inedible.
Leaves and flowers have a cucumber taste.
Used for tea (sugar and lemon often added).
The leaves raw, steamed, or sauteed for delicate cucumber taste to enhance cheese, poultry or other vegetables; also chopped in salads, salad dressings, pickles and egg dishes (stems also used).
Borage vinegar.
Flowers used fresh in salads (will turn pink when in contact with vinegar), in cream cheese, candied (to use as decorations on cakes, ice cream and in wine cups), also added to flavor clarets and ciders; cooked like a vegetable in some parts of Italy, and as a garnish in drinks. Freeze flowers in ice cubes to float in drinks. Flowers are also made into a syrup.
Borage punch was a particular favorite of Charles Dickens.
Also see: Borage - Cooking with Herbs and Wild Foods

An infusion is used for a face wash for dry skin; also, soggy leaves as face pack for dry skin.

Dried flowers used for potpourri. Also dried in silica and glued to wreaths.

Attracts bees insuring pollination of surrounding plants.

Tomatoes (to repel tomato hornworm)
Roses (to repel Japanese beetle)
Strawberries (for general benefits to both)


Borage flavored wine was a favorite of Celtic warriors preparing to go into battle; it was believed to bolster their courage.
Borage was once placed in the drink of a potential husband to give him the courage to propose.
Tea was once given to competitors during tournaments as a morale booster.
Has been used ceremonially in ritual baths or burnt with incense for daily meditation.

©2000 & 2004 by Ernestina Parziale, CH