What is Borage?
Borage (Borago officinalis), also known as the Star Flower, is a herb native to parts of Asia, North Africa, and Europe .
Borage has been used since ancient times in Iranian traditional medicine as a tranquilizer. When consumed at proper doses, the herb offers several benefits to deal with modern ailments .
Polyunsaturated fatty acids make up a large portion of borage .
The herb is an excellent source of Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA), the compound responsible for many of the healing powers of borage. GLA helps maintain animal cell membranes’ structure and function. It is the precursor to many vital active compounds and hormones (prostaglandins, thromboxanes, and leukotrienes) .
Borage contains another fatty acid called stearidonic acid. Both stearidonic acid and GLA help treat conditions where people’s bodies lack these fatty acids, such as blood clotting, inflammation, and cancer [3, 4].
- Intermedin- a protein that aids in the normal function of the gut, heart, and other processes 
- Saponin- a compound that lowers cholesterol and may reduce heart disease 
- Alpha-linolenic acid- an essential fatty acid that may prevent heart disease and is important in fetal development [10, 11]
- Rosmarinic acid– a fatty acid that protects against bacteria, inflammation, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and has antioxidant effects 
- Flavonoids- compounds with antioxidant effects that prevent the spread of harmful cells 
- Polyphenols- antioxidant compounds that protect against many chronic diseases 
- Potassium, calcium, and vitamin C
Health Benefits of Borage
1) Rich in Antioxidants
Borage’s antioxidant properties are responsible for many of its health benefits.
Borage leaves had high antioxidant activity when in hot water. Borage had high levels of tannins, flavonoids, and phenols. These compounds increase antioxidant capacity, which protects against mutations that cause cancer, diseases, and aging .
In one study of 38 participants, the subjects drank borage twice daily for 2 weeks. The total amount of antioxidants in their blood samples increased. This study attributed the herb’s ability to combat oxidative stress largely in its key antioxidants .
2) May Improve Brain Function
In a study of 238 premature infants, the infants were given borage and fish oil supplements for 9 months after birth. They had benefits in overall growth and development. However, there was no significant difference between the 2 groups in regards to brain development .
In mice with an induced-brain decline, borage extract treatment helped maintain their brain function. Borage constituents reduced oxidative stress in the brain and therefore may be used for the treatment of memory impairment and Alzheimer’s disease .
Borage extract also reduced anxiety in rats .
3) Protects Against Cancer
In a study of 72 subjects, individuals that regularly consumed borage had a 3x lower risk of stomach cancer .
In fruit flies, phenols from borage detoxified chemical particles, thus protecting them from cancer .
GLA from borage also caused liver cancer cell death in rats. Borage oil antioxidants also protected normal cells from oxidative stress .
In another study, small silver compounds from borage leaf extract reduced cancer cell growth .
4) Protects the Heart
In an 8-week study of 59 subjects, a combination of oils from borage and echium reduced total and LDL (bad) cholesterol. The oil also increased HDL (good) cholesterol levels and lessened the severity of type 2 diabetes in the short term .
In a 28-day study of 30 men, the participants had their heart response to stress tested. Those given borage oil supplement experienced lower blood pressure and heart rate and better performance under stress .
In mice, borage oil treatment protected against heart failure and heart attacks. Unlike other drugs and anti-inflammatory medicine, borage oil did not leave deformations or scars in heart tissue .
A borage oil diet in mice also reduced plaque buildup in the arteries that lead to coronary heart disease. The high amount of fatty acids in the oil reinforce cell membranes and blood, which is associated with improved heart health .
5) Reduces Inflammation
In an 18-month study of 150 participants, the participants who took borage seed oil capsules had less rheumatoid arthritis symptoms .
A GLA-rich diet reduced acute and chronic (long-term) inflammation in rats with arthritis .
6) Improves Skin Health
Borage oil contains high levels of omega-6 fats that are vital to the proper structure and function of the skin barrier .
Borage oil promotes a healthy skin barrier. In one study of 37 children, 3 to 4 weeks of topical borage oil treatment cleared skin symptoms of infantile seborrhoeic dermatitis .
In another study of 32 children with eczema, wearing undershirts coated with borage oil for 2 weeks improved their skin barriers. They also had relief from itch .
About 2 g of borage oil supplements a day increased skin hydration and reduced skin roughness and scaling in a study of 45 healthy women with sensitive and dry skin .
7) Relieves Asthma
Borage can be used as a supplemental relief in reducing symptoms of asthma.
Ingesting 5 mL of borage extract 3 times daily for 1-month improved symptoms of coughing, shortness of breath, mucus production, and airway narrowing in a study of 38 patients with moderate asthma. In addition, asthmatic flare-ups and trips to the emergency room decreased significantly over the course of the study .
8) Helps with Weight Loss
In a study of 50 obese subjects, consuming 5 g of borage oil daily for 33 months of borage oil helped formerly obese individuals reduce the amount of weight that they gained back .
9) May Improve Bone Health
Osteoporosis is the weakening of bone and loss of bone density. As bones become more brittle, one becomes more susceptible to breaks and injury.
In mice, a 10-month borage and fish oil diet prevented age-related bone loss by reducing inflammation .
10) May Promote Liver Health
In mice with alcohol-induced liver disease, borage’s antioxidant properties helped protect the liver. Treatment with borage improved liver shape, reduced fat content, set liver enzymes back to their normal function, and reduced oxidative stress .
In another mouse model, borage oil improved fat breakdown in the liver and improved fatty liver disease symptoms .
11) Protects Against Radiation
Borage oil fed to rats reduced liver injuries induced by gamma-irradiation. The vitamin E (tocopherols) and GLA gave borage antioxidant properties that protect the liver. It prevented free radical production and thus may help patients undergoing radiotherapy treatment .
12) Kills Pathogens
Borage extract killed various pathogens, including E. coli. and Staphylococcus .
Borage extract stopped the growth of Staphylococcus, the virus that causes staph infection .
May Fight Malaria
Alkaloid extract from borage inhibits the buildup of plaque (amyloids) in the body. It operates by reducing the clumps of misfolded proteins and promotes proper folding. It is likely that malaria proteins are built in the same way that the plaque is; therefore it has the potential to inhibit malaria .
Limitations and Caveats
Studies on borage should be taken with caution due to the minimal amount of human trials reported. There are not many publications on the side effects of long-term use.
Side Effects & Precautions
Common side effects are :
Borage should not be taken during pregnancy. It can induce labor and harm fetal growth or cause abortion .
Borage supplements can negatively interact with anticonvulsants in elderly patients .
- Borage seed oil
A recommended dosage has not been established. However, most studies used less than 2,000 mg a day .
Many users report that borage improves skin appearances and clears the redness and itch of eczema. Additionally, improvements in inflammation have also been reported.
However, other users state that they did not see any health benefits at all.