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
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
[Note: References listed above in parentheses can be found in
full in the original reference].
Last modified 6-Dec-1997