Botanical Name:Borago officinalis L
Family: Boraginaceae (borage family)
Species: B. officinalis
Parts Used:Fresh leaves. The blue flowers are sometimes tried as a food colourant
Habitat: Originating in Syria, but naturalized throughout the Mediterranean region, as well as Asia Minor, Europe, North Africa, and South America.The plant grows wild in Central and Eastern Europe.
Borage (Borago officinalis L.) is an annual herb.It grows to a height of 60-100 cm (2-3 feet), and is bristly or hairy all over the stems and leaves; the leaves are alternate, simple, and 5-15 cm (2-6 in) long. The flowers are complete, perfect with five narrow, triangular-pointed petals. Flowers are most often blue in color, although pink flowers are sometime observed. White flowered types are also cultivated. The flowers arise along scorpiod cymes to form large floral displays with multiple flowers blooming simultaneously, suggesting that borage has a high degree of geitonogamy. It has an indeterminate growth habit which may lead to prolific spreading. In milder climates, borage will bloom continuously for most of the year.
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The bright blue, star-shaped flowers (which bloom most of the summer) make borage one of the prettiest herb plants, thought the dark green leaves are rather plain. The flavor of the leaves resembles that of cucumber. The plant will grow to a height of about 18 inches, and spread about 12 inches. This hardy annual has a messy, straggling habit.
Borage is not a fussy plant, but the richer the soil, the bushier the plant will be. It prefers full sun, and needs protection from wind as it is easily blown over. Seeds can be sown throughout the season, and once growth is established, it will continue to seed itself. Place plants close together so they can support each other. A plant or two in an indoor pot will provide leaves all winter, but it will need lots of sun.
Borage is an excellent companion plant for tomatoes, squash and strawberries. The plant actually improves the flavor of tomatoes growing nearby.
The leaves contain an essential oil (below 0.1%) dominated by 2,6 nonadienal, which is also a main components in cucumber aroma (cucumber aldehyde).
Several non-volatile components have also been identified, among those the toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids intermedine, lycopsamine, amabiline and supinine. Pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which are extremely common in the Boraginaceae family, are powerful hepatotoxins that cause severe liver damage on chronic ingestion, often with lethal outcome. Although the total concentration in borage is extremely small (around 10?ppm in the dried herb), it has been argued that borage is an unsafe herb when used in folk medicine; the risks associated with casual culinary usage are probably negligible. In the flowers, thesinine (a non-toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloid) has been found.
The fatty oil obtained from borage seeds (“borage oil”, “starflower oil”) is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, e.g., ?-linolenic acid (20%). Pyrrolizidine alkaloids seem to occur only in negligible traces in this oil, if at all.
The seed oil is desired as source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA, 18:3, cis 6,9,12-octadecatrienoic acid), for which borage is the highest known plant-based source (17-28%). The seed oil content is between 26-38% and in addition to GLA contains the fatty acids palmitic acid (10-11%), stearic acid (3.5-4.5%), oleic acid (16-20%), linoleic acid (35-38%), eicosenoic acid (3.5-5.5%), erucic acid (1.5-3.5%), and nervonic acid (1.5%). The oil is often marketed as “starflower oil” or “borage oil” for uses as a GLA supplement, although healthy adults will typically produce ample GLA through dietary linoleic acid.
Borage production does include use as either a fresh vegetable or a dried herb. As a fresh vegetable, borage, with a cucumber like taste, is often used in salads or as a garnish. The flower, which contains the non-toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloid thesinine, has a sweet honey-like taste and is one of the few truly blue-colored edible things, is often used to decorate dessert.
Vegetable use of borage is common in Germany and the Spanish regions of Aragón and Navarra. Although often used in soups, one of the better known German borage recipes is the Green Sauce (Grüne Sauce) made in Frankfurt. The leaves and flowers were originally used in Pimms before it was replaced by mint. It is used to flavour pickled gherkins in Poland.
*Borage flowers and leaves are the traditional decoration for gin-based summer cocktails, and may be set in ice cubes to garnish other drinks.
*The flowers and young leaves may be used to garnish salads. dips, and cucumber soups.
*Candied borage flowers make attractive cake decorations.
*Chopped leaves can be added to soups and stews during the last few minutes of cooking.
*The leaves can be cooked with cabbage leaves (two parts cabbage, one part borage.)
*Borage does not dry well for culinary use.
Naturopathic practitioners uses of borage for regulation of metabolism and the hormonal system, and consider it to be a good remedy for PMS and menopause symptoms such as the hot flash. Borage is sometimes indicated to alleviate and heal colds, bronchitis, and respiratory infections in general for its anti-inflammatory and balsamic properties. The flowers can be prepared in infusion to take advantage of its medicinal properties. The oleic and palmitic acid of borage may also confer a hypocholesterolemic effect.It is notable that the leaves have been found to contain small amounts (10 ppm of dried herb) of the liver-toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids: intermedine, lycopsamine, amabiline and supinine.
Tea made from the dried flowers is a traditional calming drink in Iran (Echium amoenum ). It has a rich purple color that turns bright pink by adding a few drops of lemon juice
The ancient Greek naturalist Pliny said that borage ‘maketh a man merry and joyful.’ Dioscorides, the first century Greek physician, mentioned the use of borage to ‘comfort the heart, purge melancholy and quiet the lunatic person.’
John Evelyn, the seventeenth century English herbalist, spoke of borage ‘to revive the hypochondriac and cheer the hard student’, while his contemporary Culpepper used the plant for ‘putrid and pestilential fever, the venom of serpents, jaundice, consumption, sore throat and rheumatism.’
For centuries it was thought to be a mood elevator when ingested as a tea or as leaves steeped in wine. This may or may not be the case. There is some evidence that perparations made from seed oil have a use in soothing and relieving inflammations associated with respiratory disorders
*Because it is a tonic plant for the adrenal glands, borage provides an invaluable support for a stressful lifestyle.
*Borage is rich in minerals, especially potassium.
*A tea made with borage helps to reduce fevers and ease chest colds.
*An infusion of borage acts as a galactogogue, promoting the production of milk in breastfeeding mothers.
*Borage makes an excellent facial steam for improving very dry, sensitive skin.
*The flowers may be dried to add color to potpourri.
Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.