Borage has long played an important role in the history of mankind due to its remarkable array of healing qualities.
Back in Roman times, Pliny the Elder noted its ability to relieve melancholy. Similarly, in Europe in the Middle Ages, the attractive blue star-shaped flowers of borage (Borago officinalis) were infused to produce a wine used to elevate mood and dispel sadness. Today, borage is regarded by alternative therapists as a mild natural antidepressant.
Rigorous 20th Century research has also identified borage oil as a powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-clotting agent. Extensive testing has underlined its potential use in relieving the pain and swelling of rheumatoid arthritis, as well as other inflammatory disorders such as Sjogren’s syndrome, and ulcerative colitis.
The benefits of borage oil have been attributed to its high GLA (Gamma Linolenic Acid) content. This is a “good” fatty acid that is converted in the body to prostaglandin, which has known anti-inflammatory, blood-thinning, and blood vessel dilatory properties—the latter assisting in the reduction of blood pressure. The GLA content of borage oil is almost twice that of other traditional sources such as Evening Primrose Oil and Black Currant, and thus is a useful adjunct in the treatment of cardiovascular conditions.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that supplementation with borage oil resulted in a significant reduction in the swelling of affected arthritic joints. Most importantly, the use of borage oil allowed patients to reduce their intake of mainstream non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), thus minimizing the side effects associated with these medications. In addition, animal studies using borage oil indicated that the GLA content actually protects the lining of the stomach against the effects of NSAIDS and aspirin, another common treatment for arthritis.
More recent research points to the efficacy of borage oil in relieving the discomfort of PMS, endometriosis, and breast tenderness. Again, the anti-inflammatory properties of borage oil assists in reducing the swelling and inflammation associated with these conditions. The GLA – prostaglandin connection is important in the reduction of endometriosis and PMS symptoms, where the vasodilatory effect of borage oil increases the blood flow in fine peripheral blood vessels, thus eliminating the congestion which leads to pain and discomfort during menstruation.
PGE1, the prostaglandin formed from the synthesis of borage oil in the body, is also involved with normal calcium mobilization from the bones. Hence borage oil plays an important role in maintaining bone density and preventing associated muscular-skeletal disorders.
An adequate supply of GLA in the diet is also necessary to maintain skin fitness, and borage oil assists in keeping skin supple, clear, and youthful in appearance. Additional supplementation is particularly useful for eczema, psoriasis, acne, and rosacea, a condition marked by red, irritated skin on the face.
Pregnant women and nursing mothers should not use borage oil supplements. Interactions may occur if used with garlic, Ginkgo Biloba, and aspirin. Side effects take the form of nose bleeds and easy bruising. Borage should not be used by schizophrenia sufferers who use antipsychotic medication containing phenothiazine—Largactil, for example.
Borage oil supplements should also contain an antioxidant, such as vitamin E, to protect against product oxidation and prolong shelf life.