Borage, also known as the bee plant, is one of the chosen culinary herbs employed by grandmothers to prepare famous green sauce, to garnish salads or to pamper children with candied flowers! This ancient garden herb exudes characteristic “cucumber-like” aroma to the recipes. For the same reasons, it is one of the most sought-after herbs in the Mediterranean households even today.
Botanically, it belongs to the family of Boraginaceae, of the genus, Borago and has the scientific name: Borago officinalis. The herb is also known as starflower since it bears five-petaled, deep-blue, beautiful star-shaped flowers in clusters. Some of the other common names include bee bread, Burrage, common-bugloss, etc.
Borage is an annual hollow stemmed plant with bristly hairs on its surface. It reaches about 75-90 cm in height and grows in plentiful all over the wild highlands of Eastern Europe and Asia Minor regions.
The plant features broad oval-shaped, dark green fuzzy leaves. In general, its leaves are gathered early soon after the appearance of flower buds but before opening of the flowers. Young, tender leaves can also be used in salads while older leaves may be employed as greens. However, as the plant gets older, their leaves become tough, larger, more fuzzy, and bitter in taste.
As a common herbal treatment in traditional medicine practices for hundreds of years, borage oil has numerous uses — ranging from treating skin flare-ups to lowering pain. The most beneficial aspect of using borage oil either topically on the skin or internally in capsule form is it has strong anti-inflammatory effects.
Borage oil is becoming increasingly popular as a natural anti-inflammatory supplement because it has one of the highest amounts of GLA of all seed oils. GLA is one type of omega-6 “essential” fatty acid that the body cannot make on its own, so we must get it from outside sources. While to some degree we’re all able to convert other forms of omega-6s (like the type found in nuts or seeds called conjugated linoleic acid) into GLA, it’s preferable and more effective to consume GLA directly.
While other plants, including black currant or evening primrose oil, also offer GLA and have similar benefits, the roughly 23 percent GLA content in borage oil makes it likely the most effective option (as a comparison, evening primrose oil has about 9 percent). This means that regular use of borage oil supplies higher dose of linolenic acid and also requires less capsules to take daily, with less of an investment and lower risk for side effects.
13 Amazing Benefits
1. Borage is one of very favorite low-calorie culinary herb, found its usage especially in the Mediterranean countries. 100 g of fresh leaves carry just 21 calories. The herb contains many important phytonutrients, minerals, and vitamins that are essential for optimum health and wellness.
2. The herb contains essential fatty acid γ -linolenic acid (GLA), typically in concentrations of 17-20%. Linolenic acid is omega-6 fatty acid that plays a vital role in the restoration of joint health, immunity, and healthy skin and mucosa.
3. Fresh borage herb has high levels of vitamin C (ascorbic acid); provide 35 mg or 60% of RDA per 100 g. Vitamin C is one of the powerful natural anti-oxidant help remove harmful free radicals from the body. Together with other anti-oxidants, it has an immune booster, wound healing and anti-viral effects.
4. Starflower herb is one of the rich sources of vitamin A (140% of RDA) and carotenes. Both these compounds are powerful flavonoid anti-oxidants. Together, they act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a vital role in aging and various disease processes.Vitamin-A is also known to have antioxidant properties and is essential for vision. It also required for maintaining healthy mucosa and skin. Consumption of natural foods rich in vitamin-A and carotenes are known to help the human body protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
5. The herb holds a good amount of minerals like iron (41% of RDA), calcium, potassium, manganese, copper, zinc, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids, which helps control heart rate and blood pressure. The body uses manganese as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is an essential co-factor for cytochrome oxidase which is a crucial enzyme in the cellular metabolism. Further, being a component of hemoglobin inside the red blood cells, iron determines the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.
6. Further, the herb is one of the moderate sources of B-complex vitamins, particularly rich in niacin (vitamin B-3). Niacin helps lower LDL cholesterol levels in the body. Also, it has riboflavin, thiamin, pyridoxine, and folates in average levels. These vitamins function as co-factors in the enzymatic metabolism inside the body.
Borage Oil Benefits
1. Supplies Anti-Inflammatory Properties
As a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), GLA found in borage oil is known to have a positive effect on inflammation, overall health and anti-aging mechanisms. Omega-3 and omega-6 PUFAs play an important role in fighting disease because they help control the release of molecules that are responsible for the body’s inflammatory responses (some being prostaglandins, leukotrienes and cytokines called interleukins).
GLA is present in very small amounts in some edible plants like green leafy vegetables and certain nuts, but after humans are done being breast-fed (the most significant source of GLA is breast milk), many take in very low doses of beneficial GLA throughout their childhood and into adulthood. Because borage oil is one of the best sources for obtaining more GLA, it helps fill in this deficiency.
On top of controlling immune responses, GLA has positive effects on cell death (apoptosis) for toxic cells. Once it enters the body, GLA is converted to a substance called dihomo-γ-linolenic acid (DGLA). This acts as a precursor to prostaglandins and leukotriene compounds that the immune system produces. DGLA is believed to lower inflammation because it inhibits leukotriene synthesis, which is partly responsible for raising autoimmune reactions and thrombotic effects.
For this reason, borage oil is now used for its role in lowering symptoms of various inflammatory and age-related disorders, including arthritis, atopic eczema and respiratory disorders. People taking anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids along with borage oil treatments seem to have even better results.
2. Has Antioxidant Properties that Fight Cancer
Borage seed oil and GLA have anti-mutagenic properties and antioxidant capabilities that fight the growth of cancerous cells. In laboratory studies, both GLA and borage oil have exhibited cytotoxic activities that significantly shorten the life span of toxic cells while prolonging the life span of the healthy host. Borage oil supplementation is recommended for protecting DNA and treating cancer naturally because of its ability to lower underlying oxidative genetic damage that causes inflammation and disease development.
3. Can Lower Arthritis Symptoms
GLA from borage oil seems to work like a natural remedy for rheumatoid arthritis pain, especially when used in combination with other conventional painkilling or anti-inflammatory medications. There’s evidence that some people notice a decrease in joint pain, swelling and severity of tenderness following as little as six weeks of regular borage oil treatment.
4. Fights Eczema and Skin Disorders
One of the most well-researched uses for borage oil is treating inflammatory skin disorders like eczema. GLA has been shown to correct deficiencies in skin lipids (oils) that are caused by low levels of delta-6-desaturase activity. When the skin can’t produce enough protective oils, the result is dysregulation of the immune system, increased inflammation and specific immune responses that result in skin flare-ups, including those typical of eczema.
Because human skin can’t synthesize GLA from the precursors linoleic acid or arachidonic acid on its own, supplementing with GLA-rich borage helps act like a natural eczema remedy for people who are already too low in essential fatty acids critical to skin health.
While study results have been mixed and not every study has shown that borage oil can improve eczema in the majority of patients, certain people seem to respond more positively to treatment than others and experience significant improvements when using borage oil instead of steroid creams. Some studies have found that people taking up to 720 milligrams daily of GLA for two months experienced significant improvements in health of the cutaneous skin barrier.
5. Helps Heal Respiratory Infections
Borage oil has been found to help improve the function of the lungs, including in people with inflamed respiratory infections and disorders such as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Borage seed oil supplements taken in capsule form can help speed up healing time associated with coughs, the common cold or flu, reduce the length of time spent in the hospital or taking medications, and stop inflammation that can worsen respiratory symptoms.
6. Aids Growth and Development
There’s evidence that infants and premature babies receiving borage oil supplementation have better rates of growth and development. Supplementing with fatty acids from borage oil and beneficial omega-3 supplements helps support development of the central nervous system and reduces risks associated with premature births.
Studies performed published in Food and Chemical Toxicology showed that the GLA in borage oil fed to rats for 90 days helped with growth.
7. Might Help Lower Fat Accumulation and Weight Gain
If you struggle to lose weight, here’s some good news: There’s evidence that GLA in the form of borage oil causes less body fat accumulation compared to more refined vegetable oils. Specifically, GLA results in more brown fat accumulation but less white fat. This is beneficial because scientists now believe that lean people tend to have more brown fat than overweight or obese people, and that brown fat might act more like muscle than like white fat does.
A 2000 study done by the Laboratory of Nutrition Biochemistry in Ibaraki, Japan found that over the course of two weeks, when rats were fed either a low-fat diet containing 20 percent fat from safflower oil, 20 percent fat from borage oil containing 25 percent GLA or 20 percent borage oil containing more potent 47 percent GLA, the high safflower oil diet compared with the other two diets caused significant increases in both epididymal and perirenal white adipose tissue (fat cells).
Energy intake and the growth of animals were the same among all three groups, however the GLA seemed to have protective effects over white fat accumulation. The study suggests that dietary GLA lowers body fat accumulation through an increase in gene expressions that control brown adipose tissue growth compared to white adipose tissue growth.