Borago officinalis



Origin:  Europe, particularly the Mediterranean region. 

Appearance: It is a hardy annual herb to 1m tall. The stems are hollow and hairy. The leaves are ovate and hairy. The largish flowers are 2-3cm wide and usually blue though sometimes pink. There are also white flowered cultivars.


The young leaves are used for culinary purposes, including making cordials. The flowers are also edible; and are sometimes used as a garnish; in sweets or added to salads.

For medicinal purposes all parts of the plant may be used, and the seeds are a rich source of gamma linolenic acid (GLA).

Chemistry: Contains mucilage, tannin, saponins, essential oils, alkaloid (pyrrolizidine), vitamin C, calcium and potassium. In a study by Mhamdi, Aidi Wannes & Marzouk (2007), essential oil content was found to vary from 0.01% to 0.13% respectively in young and adult leaves. Twenty three volatile compounds were identified. Younger leaves had mainly hydrocarbons at 45.8% (nonadecane 29.8%, tetracosane 11.3%, and heptacosane 4.7%) followed by aldehydes at 22.4%. In older leaves the presence of these two groups was diminished and there were more alcohols at 57.9% (the main ones being cis-3-hexenol 29.6% and hexanol 14.5%). Older leaves had more fatty acids and these were mainly were mostly alpha-linolenic stearidonic, gamma-linolenic, palmitic and linoleic acids.

Borage may act as an expectorant for coughs and an aperient to treat constipation. Naturopathic practitioners also use borage for regulation of metabolism and the hormonal system since it is thought to alleviate menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes. Its anti-inflammatory properties may also assist with colds, bronchitis, and respiratory infections and its demulcent properties may help to provide a soothing barrier over the mucous membrane. There is some suggestion of cardiovascular system protection. Externally it may be applied as an emollient poultice over skin sores. Caution: The oleic and palmitic acids in borage may present a risk of hypocholesterolemic effects i.e. dangerously low levels of cholesterol.

Properties: Expectorant, aperient, anti-inflammatory, cardio-protective, demulcent.  



They grow in most soils but prefer well-drained soil and a sunny spot. Individual plants are best spaced at 30cm apart. Leaves can be harvested for use a couple of months after sowing seed.


Seed sown 30cm apart directly into ground; self-sows readily.


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Plant Health

Snails, slugs and grasshoppers can cause damage to leaves.

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