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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 herbalist and aromatherapist. She has twenty years of experience in the field and wants to share that knowledge.

 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 in 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 in it.

Modern versions of this popular cocktail now incorporate cucumber slices or mint instead. Still, I think that the Borage flowers still make 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 useful protection for more heat-sensitive plants around it. 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. This garden herb is also used in the treatment of anxiety and symptoms of depression.

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

Borago officinalis Originates From the Mediterranean

Quick Borage Poll

Tips for Growing a Blue Borage Plant

Borago officinalis is native to the Mediterranean and is a hardy plant. They withstand heat and some cold weather and thrive best in plant zones 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.

Looking at these herb plants, it is hard to imagine that 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 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 mulch or dig them into poor soil. The leaves are rich in nutrients and will perk up poor quality soil as they decompose.

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Grow Your Own

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

  • First, 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 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.

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 contain 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 have been set, and the ground will be ready for the next planting within two weeks.

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

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

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.

Borage produces masses and masses of flowers.

Borage produces masses and masses of flowers.

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.

Not only has Borage proven to be a valuable moisturizer and skin soother, but it is also an excellent 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 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 as well.

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

Borage also combines very 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 of the 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 and then 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 the bucket 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 resultant herb tea is an especially excellent foliage feeder and is excellent 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 essential nutrients.

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 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 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 still young, you can eat them raw. As the leaves get older, 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 a wonderful 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 serious 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 have 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 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?

Yes, 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 that 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 if they're hungry, they might munch on it.



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Foster, Steven: 101 Medicinal Herbs. Loveland, Colorado. Interweave Press 1998.
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Hoffmann, David: Medicinal Herbalism. The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, Vermont. Healing Art Press 2003.
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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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