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What is borage? This healing flower is a plant in the Boraginaceae family, along with the Virginia bluebell. It is indigenous to the Mediterranean region where the flower still grows in the wild. Borage is cultivated in North America, although it is not nearly as readily available as it is in Europe where there are not only many well-known uses for borage as a healing herb, but also the medicinal leaves are often added to salads, and the purple-blue flowers are candied. The benefits of borage oil are more well-known, as the seeds are compressed to extract a nutritional, omega fatty acid-rich oil with similar healing properties to evening primrose and black currant seed oil.
The use of this herb dates back to Roman times when men would drink a borage tea mixed with wine for courage before battle, when the medicinal leaves were a common food, and when the plant itself had a reputation as a feel-good herb.
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Healing with Borage Herb
What is borage used for in traditional medicine? The primary medicinal property of this herb is the ability to restore the adrenal glands. This explains the ancient uses for borage to uplift and strengthen the spirits, especially in times of grief or trial. Today's translation of this healing herb is to help people deal with everyday stress and exhaustion, and to nourish and balance the adrenal glands after the use of cortisone or steroids.
Many people experience a weakening of the adrenal glands, which are overused in modern society from constant situations of external or internal stress, and rare occasions for the release of the energy the adrenal glands produce. From medication to caffeine to being late for work, the adrenal cortex is constantly at work, releasing adrenalin for the body to be able to either fight its situation, or run from it. As we rarely get to do either one of these activities, energy becomes unresolved, and acts internally. Over time, this leads to adrenal fatigue, and potentially opens up the body for disease.
Taking advantage of the medicinal uses for borage consistently and over time can reverse the negative effects of adrenal fatigue. Like other adrenal nourishers, such as licorice and ginseng, borage is a vital remedy in today's world. The medicinal leaves are dried and can be brewed to make borage tea — infuse one cup of boiling water with up to two teaspoons of the dried herb for ten minutes. Borage has a pleasing taste and aroma, reminiscent of fresh cucumbers. It can also be taken as a tincture, taking one dropperful a day in juice or tea.
There are other medicinal uses for borage. With a high mucilage and saponin content, this herb is ideal for both internal and external inflammation, as it protects and soothes tissue. It is useful with respiratory problems where there is inflammation or irritation, such as a sore throat or cough, as well as for treating rheumatism. Borage also serves as a galactagogue, stimulating milk flow in nursing mothers.
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The Benefits of Borage Oil
The uses for this herb extend beyond the medicinal leaves and decorative flowers; borage seeds yield an oil that is very high in gamma-linolenic acid, GLA. This essential fatty acid is an omega-6 oil, usually derived from linoleic acid within the body. Borage oil is one of the most potent sources of GLA, with a higher concentration than both evening primrose oil and black currant oil. Borage oil supplements are most beneficial for arthritis and chronic dry skin, such as eczema.
What is borage? Whether you make a tea out of the dried herb, use candied flowers for cake decorations, add the medicinal leaves to your salad, or prefer the healing benefits of borage oil, this fragrant and beautiful herb is a delight for the body, mind, and soul.
Hoffmann, David. "The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal: A Safe and Practical Guide to Making and Using Herbal Remedies." (Element Books, 1996).
photo credit: Fireflies604