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Using and Growing Borage: A Guide to One of the Prettiest Garden Herbs

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Fiona is a qualified naturopath, herbalist, and aromatherapist with thirty years of experience which she wants to share.

 What Does Borage Look Like?

What Does Borage Look Like?

What Is Borage?

People have used the Star Flower for centuries as a medicinal herb and for cooking. It is reputed to soothe stress and calm frayed nerves. No crusader set off without Borage, as they believed it strengthened courage and helped calm the mind.

The Elizabethans believed that, when added to wine, Borage helped to improve their mood and tolerate alcohol better. No party was complete without a Pimm's cup cocktail with some Borage flowers.

Modern versions of this famous cocktail now incorporate cucumber slices or mint instead. Still, I think the Borage flowers are a great addition if you have them.

Growing Borage is popular today because it attracts bees and butterflies to the garden. In addition, the leaves make valuable green manure and work well in compost.

Borage growing in high-heat areas provides valuable protection for more heat-sensitive plants. In addition, the leaves shade the roots of plants adjacent to them and help keep them cool.

Growing Borage near vegetable gardens boosts the yield and improves the taste and tomatoes and strawberries.

Medicinally, herbalists incorporate Borage flowers into cough syrups and tonics to treat coughs and colds. Herbalists also use this herb in treating anxiety and symptoms of depression.

No other herb has blue flowers and such a wide range of uses.

Quick Borage Poll

Borage is the Prettiest Blue Flower

health-benefits-and-other-uses-for-borage

Warning for People Prone to Seizures

While we need more research on the effect of the compounds within Borage on seizures, this study shows a potentially harmful link.

The patient studied had only taken Borage oil for a week before experiencing a seizure. It's, therefore, better to err on the side of caution and avoid the supplement if you are prone to attacks.

Tips for Growing a Blue Borage Plant

Borago officinalis is native to the Mediterranean and is a hardy plant. They withstand heat and cold weather and thrive best in plant or hardiness zones 3 to 10. However, these annual plants are frost-sensitive and will die down in winter.

As one of the easiest herbs to grow, Blue Borage is rewarding for the home gardener. Once established in your garden, you will always have Borage, as it self-seeds pretty quickly.

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Read More From Remedygrove

Looking at these plants, it is hard to imagine they are so heat resistant because they look delicate and fleshy.

Plant Near Heat-Sensitive Plants

What few people know is that the plant has natural refrigerant properties. It cools the soil. Plant it near plants that don't manage heat well and keep their roots cool.

Use It In Your Compost

Chop the leaves when you cut the plants back and add them to the compost heap. Alternatively, use them as mulch or dig them into poor soil. The leaves are rich in nutrients and will perk up poor-quality soil as they decompose.

Grow Your Own

It is pretty easy to grow from seed. Here is how to do it:

  • First, plant them in seed trays and keep them moist until they are big enough to transplant into your garden.
  • Do not worry about planting the seeds directly in the garden - the seedlings transplant well.
  • If you have limited space, consider planting them in a pot instead. They might become a nuisance otherwise.
  • They tend to grow into a medium-sized bush, so give them space to spread out.
  • It is best to plant them in compost-rich soil that you've dug over well. Also, the soil should drain well.
  • They will thrive in full sun to light shade—mulch well and water twice a week for the best results.
  • They can also survive in less-than-ideal circumstances quite well too.

I leave the herb to its own devices. I have a sizable Borage garden, all from one plant. I'm always amazed at how easily it spreads. I often find new little seedlings springing up at the opposite end of the garden as the wind scatters the herb seeds.

These hardy tiny plants are survivors and, once established, stand up well to the extremes of weather.

Borago officinalis Originates From the Mediterranean

Read This Before Taking Borage Internally

This herb's leaves are rich in Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids, just like Comfrey. I don't recommend using Borage every day for extended periods. Using a few leaves in a salad once a week or so is fine. The tea is more concentrated, so use it only for a few days at a time. Borage oil is derived from seeds and doesn't have harmful alkaloids in it.

Borago officinalis Deserves the Name Star Flower

  • These are easy flowers to grow and make excellent home garden plants.
  • The leaves and flowers make an excellent skincare lotion.
  • You do need to be careful not to eat too many Borage leaves. They contain Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids. Borage flowers have far lower levels, and Borage oil is safe.
  • This is one of the best companion plants for fruiting vegetables.
  • It helps to cool the soil and plants around it.
  • Borage tea makes an excellent tonic for ailing plants.
  • One cup a day over short periods can help settle a bad cough and loosen mucous in the chest.
  • You can dig it back in after its seeds set, and the ground will be ready for the next planting within two weeks.
health-benefits-and-other-uses-for-borage

Medicinal Uses of Borage Leaves and Flowers

This can be a valuable little herb, as long as you are careful to monitor your intake. It has high potassium and calcium levels and can assist in purifying the blood and boosting the system, especially during illness or recovery.

Make Borage Tea

It is best to make tea. Here is how to do it:

  • Use a quarter cup of the flowers and leaves for each cup of boiling water. Leave to stand for five minutes. Strain and sip slowly.
  • It is important to drink no more than one cup of this tea a day. Sip throughout the course of the day.

Borage Uses

Has an Immuno-Modulatory Function

An interesting use case for Borage is in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. While we need more research, studies to date have proven that the immuno-modulatory functions of the seed oil are useful in treating Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Helps Respiratory Ailments, Coughs, and Flu

This tea is excellent at easing respiratory ailments and treating chronic coughs, tight chests, bronchitis, and excessive mucous production.

Reduce Inflammation in the Short-Term

Borage seed oil is high in antioxidants and essential fatty acids. This decreases pain and inflammation in the body overall.

The Oil Manages Menopausal Symptoms

The essential fatty acids in Borage Seed Oil can be instrumental in calming hormones and managing menopause. Consult an herbal practitioner if this is what you are after, or take a supplement rather than drinking the tea too frequently.

Borage produces masses and masses of flowers.

Borage produces masses and masses of flowers.

Borage Oil is Rich in Gamma-Linolenic Acid

Borage Seed Oil

Borage Seed Oil is a convenient alternative to using tea or leaves. It is rich in the essential fatty acid Gamma-Linolenic Acid. In trials, this EFA proved helpful in:

  • Reducing inflammation and the need for anti-inflammatory painkillers in arthritis
  • Improving symptoms of dry eye and increasing tear production, which improved inflammation
  • Improving the speed at which nerves in people with diabetes relayed signals improved circulation and reduced tingling.
  • Combination with EPA to improve respiratory function for lung injuries. It also enhances Tamoxifen's effectiveness for some breast cancer patients and reduces the potentially adverse side effects.
  • Easing the symptoms of pruritis in end-stage renal patients through topical application.



Borage Seed Oil Capsules are a Convenient Way to Take in GLA

Borage Seed Oil capsules are processed to carefully remove pyrrolizidine alkaloids

Borage Seed Oil capsules are processed to carefully remove pyrrolizidine alkaloids

Use Borage Oil for Skin Complaints

Borage is packed with saponins and tannins, making it great for soothing painful and inflamed skin conditions.

  • Boil up one cup of leaves in three cups of boiling water, covered, for ten minutes. Allow the mixture to cool and then strain.
  • Apply to the skin using cotton wool or pour into an atomizer and spray onto affected areas.
  • Use regularly to treat chronic skin problems such as psoriasis and eczema and common issues such as rashes and sunburn.
  • You can also simmer the herb in an aqueous base for ten minutes (1 cup herb to three cups cream) to create an intensive moisturizer. Finally, add one capsule of Vitamin E to boost the goodness and act as a natural preservative.

Borage has proven to be a valuable moisturizer and skin soother, and it is also an excellent treatment for varicose veins and thread veins.

I use a Borage aqueous cream daily and add some lavender essential oil. I love using it after a hot summer's day because the cream cools the skin. It softens the skin well and is an excellent skin soother. If you want to ramp up the moisturizing power of the blend, add Shea butter to the mix.

If you don't have the herb in your garden, look for Borage Seed Oil instead.

Borage combines well with the common herb, Bulbine frutescens, or Bulbinella, to combat eczema and skin irritation. You can find the recipe in this post.

Borage Flower

Borage Flower

Culinary Uses of Borage

Because of the alkaloids in the plant, you do not want to eat them too often. Instead, keep the leaves for herbal preparations and use the flowers in the kitchen. The flowers have a very fresh flavor that is reminiscent of cucumber. They look and taste great in cordials.

Consider freezing a few flowers in ice to really up the wow factor at your next party.

You can also add flowers to salads and desserts.

Star Flower is an Excellent Companion Plant for Strawberries

In the garden, borage will help protect your strawberries from pests and also attract bees to pollinate the flowers. The borage will also help prevent your strawberries from overheating during hot weather.

In the garden, borage will help protect your strawberries from pests and also attract bees to pollinate the flowers. The borage will also help prevent your strawberries from overheating during hot weather.

Borage is Valuable as Green Manure and as a Foliar Feeder

If you have soil in the garden that has become unproductive, plant some Borage as green leaf manure. Allow growing until the seed sets, harvest the seeds, chop up the plant, and dig it in.

This restores much-needed calcium and potassium in the soil. The calcium makes soil alkaline again, and fruiting vegetables benefit from the potassium. You may use that plot of land again as soon as two weeks after digging the leaves in

You can also use it to make your plant tonic. Take half a bucket of sprigs, fill it with boiling water, and let it stand overnight. Then, strain out the plant material, throw it onto the compost heap, or use it to mulch around tender plants.

The herb tea is an incredibly excellent foliage feeder and is excellent at nourishing plants in containers and new seedlings that need a bit of a boost. It is an excellent addition as a tonic for your plants because of the essential nutrients.

health-benefits-and-other-uses-for-borage

Star Flowers Ward Off the Tomato Hornworm Moth and are an Excellent Companion Plant

Protection Against Tomato Worm

If you thought that marigolds and tomatoes did well together, you haven't seen anything yet. However, Star Flowers make great tomato companions by warding off Hornworms.

Boost Your Basil Output

If you'd like to boost the nutrient value of your homemade tomato and basil soup, add a Star Flower border to your vegetable garden. The borage draws nutrients from deep in the soil.

Basil plants benefit because they have more ready access to nutrition. Basil, in turn, improves the flavor of the tomatoes. Putting this trio together is a win, win, win.

Star Flowers Improve the Yield of Fruiting Plants

Pumpkins and other fruiting plants also benefit from having star flowers in the vicinity.

Bees Love Borage

Plant Star Flowers, and you'll attract bees to your garden. These pollinators are equally helpful for food and decorative gardens.

Save Other Plants From Overheating

The Starflower has another quality that makes it useful as a companion plant. It draws heat from the soil around it, providing a cooling effect. This quality makes it worthwhile near heat-sensitive flowers that like their roots to be cool.

An Interesting, Quick Video About Borage From City Farmer

People Also Ask

What do you use Borage for?

The Star Flower helps treat inflammation and skin conditions. This is because Borage Seed oil contains high levels of the essential fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).

Can You Eat Borage Leaves Raw?

If you pick the leaves when they're young, you can eat them raw. As the leaves age, they develop a prickly coating that is unpleasant on the tongue. It's better to stick to the flowers or to cook the leaves.

Is Borage Good for the Garden?

Yes, it cools the soil around it and is an excellent addition to the compost. In addition, it is an excellent companion plant for strawberries, tomatoes, and squashes.

Does Borage come back every year?

Yes, it self-seeds well. It dies off in winter and shoots up again in spring.

Is Borage toxic to dogs?

If your dog eats enough of it, it can cause severe digestive upsets. If your dog is likely to chew plants, it's safer not to plant Star Flowers.

Is Borage invasive?

Unlike mint, Star Flowers are relatively restrained in the garden. As a result, they thrive but don't take over.

Is Borage poisonous?

The Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids (PAs) present in the plant has been linked to cancer. High-quality Borage Seed oil will not contain significant amounts of these compounds, so choose a reputable brand when buying it.

The Alkaloids are most concentrated in the leaves, so don't ingest them over extended periods or in large doses.

Is Borage good for bees?

Yes, bees love the nectar and will flock to your gardens.

What can I plant next to Borage?

Plant Star Flowers with strawberries, tomatoes, and squashes.

Can Borage be used as a fertilizer?

You can make tea using the leaves and stalks as a foliar feeder. Alternatively, chop it up finely, add it to your compost pile, or dig it into the soil.

As green manure, it's an excellent Nitrogen fixer. First, plant it in a veggie patch you're leaving fallow for a season. Then, plant corn, tomatoes, greens, peppers, okra, and cucumber during the next growing season.

Can Borage be grown in pots?

Yes, but it has a tap root, so it requires a pot at least 12-inches deep.

Is Borage easy to grow from seed?

Yes, Star Flowers are relatively easy to grow from seed. You'll find that the plants come up quite easily on their own.

Does Borage need sun?

Yes. Plant it in full sun to get the best performance. It will also grow in semi-shade but won't do quite as well.

Will deer eat Borage?

No plant is completely safe from deer. They don't particularly like Starflowers, but they might munch on it if they're hungry.

References

Bibliography

Barnes, Joanne; Linda A. Anderson & J. David Phillipson: Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals.2nd Ed. London. Pharmaceutical Press 2002.

Bown, Deni: The Royal Horticultural Society New Encyclopedia of Herbs & Their Uses. London, Dorling Kindersley 2002
Duke, James A.: The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook. Rodale / Reach 2000.
Foster, Steven: 101 Medicinal Herbs. Loveland, Colorado. Interweave Press 1998.
Hoffmann, David: The New Holistic Herbal. Boston, Element Books Ltd. 1990.
Hoffmann, David: Medicinal Herbalism. The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, Vermont. Healing Art Press 2003.
Volák, Jan & Jiri Stodola: The Illustrated Book of Herbs. London. Caxton Editions 1998.
Williamson, Elisabeth M.: Potter’s Herbal Cyclopaedia. Essex, England. Saffron Walden 2003.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Questions & Answers

Question: What does Borage taste like?

Answer: It tastes similar to cucumbers.

© 2014 Fiona

Anything You Would Like to Add?

Pamela Lipscomb from Charlotte, North Carolina on August 11, 2014:

OK, it! I remember sip the tea through the day. Got it! Thanks

Pamela Lipscomb from Charlotte, North Carolina on August 11, 2014:

I have never heard of borage. I think I will try the tea for breathing problems. Great hub!

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