Fiona is a qualified herbalist and aromatherapist. She has twenty years' experience in the field and wants to share that knowledge.
What is Borage?
Borage has been used for centuries as a medicinal herb and in cooking. It is reputed to soothe stress and calm frayed nerves. No crusader set off without Borage, as it was thought to strengthen courage and help still the mind.
The Elizabethans believed that, when added to wine, Borage helped to improve the mood and helped stave off drunkenness. No party was complete without a Pimm's cup cocktail with some Borage flowers in it.
Modern versions of this popular cocktail now incorporate cucumber slices or mint instead.
The flowers have long been incorporated into cough syrups and tonics to treat coughs and colds. Borage flowers are also used in the treatment of anxiety and symptoms of depression.
Borage Originates From the Mediterranean
Quick Borage Poll
Tips for Growing Your Own Star Flowers
These plants originated in the Mediterranean, so they can stand up to some harsh conditions. Once it is established in your garden, you will always have Borage, as it self-seeds quite easily. Looking at them, it is hard to imagine that the plants are so heat resistant, because they look delicate and fleshy.
Save 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 it'll keep their roots cool.
Use It In Your Compost
Chop up the leaves when you cut the plants back and add them to the compost heap. Alternatively, use them as a 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 quite easy to grow from seed. Here is how to do it:
- Plant in seed trays and keep 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. 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.
These hardy little plants are survivors and, once established, stand up well to the extremes of weather.
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 the seeds, and doesn't have harmful alkaloids in it.
Top Facts About Borage
- It is easy to grow.
- The leaves and flowers make an excellent skin care lotion.
- You do need to be careful not to overdo internal consumption. Too much can be toxic.
- 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 simply dig it back in after its seeds have set and the ground will be ready for the next planting within two weeks.
Medicinal Uses Of Borage
This can be a valuable little herb, as long as you are careful to monitor your intake. It has high levels of potassium and calcium and can assist in purifying the blood and boosting the system, especially during illness or recovery.
Make Borage Tea
It is best to make a 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.
Treat Respiratory Ailments, Coughs, and 'Flu
This tea is excellent at easing respiratory ailments and in treating chronic coughs, tight chest, bronchitis, and excessive mucous production.
Reduce Inflammation in the Short-Term
Part of the reason that it works is that it stimulates the adrenal glands into producing cortisone of their own. This helps decrease pain and inflammation in the body overall.
Manage Menopausal Symptoms
The essential fatty acids in Borage can be instrumental in calming hormones and managing menopause. Consult an herbal practitioner if this is what you are after, or take a vitamin supplement rather than drinking the tea too frequently.
Use Borage Oil For Skin Complaints
Borage is packed with saponins and tannins, which makes 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 to battle more common problems such as rashes and sunburn.
- You can also simmer in an aqueous base for ten minutes (1 cup herb to three cups cream) in order to create a really intensive moisturizer. Add one capsule of Vitamin E to boost the goodness and to act as a natural preservative.
Not only has Borage proven to be a valuable moisturizer and skin soother, it is a great treatment for varicose veins and thread veins as well.
I use a borage aqueous cream every night and add in some lavender essential oil. I love using it after a hot summer's day because the cream literally cools the skin. It softens the skin really well and is an excellent skin soother. You can, if you want to really ramp up the moisturizing power of the blend, add shea butter to the mix as well.
If you don't have the herb in your garden, look for Borage Seed Oil instead.
Want to Make Your Own Cosmetics?
Because of the alkaloids in the plant, you do not want to eat it too often. Keep the leaves for herbal preparations and use the flowers in the kitchen. The flowers have a very fresh flavour that is reminiscent of cucumber. They look and taste great in cordials.
Consider freezing a few of the flowers in an ice tray for a really special party to really up the wow factor.
You can also add the flowers to salads and desserts.
Borage is Valuable as Green Manure and as a Foliar Feeder
If you have a soil in the garden that has really become unproductive, plant some Borage as a green leaf manure. Allow to grow until the seed sets, harvest the seeds and then chop up the plant and dig it in well.
This restores much-needed calcium and potassium to 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 own plant tonic. Simply take half a bucket of sprigs, fill the bucket with boiling water, and let it stand overnight. Strain out the plant material and throw onto the compost heap or use as a mulch around tender plants.
The resultant herb tea is an especially excellent foliage feeder and is great at nourishing plants in containers and new seedlings that need a bit of a boost. It is an overall great addition as a tonic for your plants because of the number of essential nutrients contained in it.
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. 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 use equally useful for food and decorative gardens.
Save Other Plants From Overheating
The star flower has one other quality that makes it useful as a companion plant. It draws heat from the soil around it and so provides a cooling effect. This quality makes it useful near heat sensitive flowers that like their roots to be cool.
An Interesting, Quick Video About Borage From City Farmer
- Pharmacological basis for the use of Borago officinalis in gastrointestinal, respiratory and cardiov
J Ethnopharmacol. 2007 Dec 3;114(3):393-9. Epub 2007 Aug 24. Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
- The chemical composition, botanical characteristic and biological activities of Borago officinalis:
Asian Pac J Trop Med. 2014 Sep;7S1:S22-8. doi: 10.1016/S1995-7645(14)60199-1.
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!