Borage, sometimes known as starflower, is a low growing annual Mediterranean native in the Boraginaceae family that has naturalized worldwide. It’s recognizable by it’s coating of bristly white hairs growing on all of its leaves and stems. The leaves are simple and alternate, and the flowers are perfect radial flowers with 5 pointed petals, typically in blue or white with dark stamens. In temperate climates, it blooms spring to fall, but can have year round blooms in milder areas. The leaves and flowers are best collected when the plant is in bloom.
Borage is a diaphoretic, expectorant, tonic, anti-inflammatory, and a galactogogue. Borage is an adrenal tonic, and has shown to act restoratively on the adrenal cortex of the brain, meaning it revives the adrenal glands after steroid or cortizone medical treatment and can help manage stress on the system. It has has anti-inflammatory actions on the lungs for conditions such as pleurisy and can be used to help sweat out and cool fevers. Additionally, borage flowers are said to be a mood booster, and their sweet flavor lends well to blending with teas and fresh foods. It also increases milk flow for mothers.
The leaves are often used raw in salads for their cucumber like taste, or cooked similarly to spinach. It’s used culinarily around Europe, from ravioli stuffing and sauces to cocktail flavorings and pickles. The flowers are sweet and often candied and used fresh in salads or desserts and cake decorating. t’s traditionally used medicinally as a tea in Iran to treat colds, respiratory issues, and arthritis. Its used worldwide to treat PMS, hot flashes, gastrointestinal problems, and respiratory issues. Borage oil, known for it’s high levels of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), is used as a dietary supplement and additive for skin care products for dry skin. The oil has similar actions and qualities to that of Evening Primrose oil and is made by cold pressing the seeds of the plant. According to the ancient naturalist Pliny, Borage was the famous Nepenthe , or “medicine for sorrow”, of Homer, which when drunk steeped in wine, brought absolute forgetfulness.
Borage is very useful in the garden as a companion plant. It acts as a nurse plant to legumes, spinach, brassicas, and strawberries. It attracts beneficial pollinators and can be planted with tomatoes to thwart moths and hornworms, who will lay their eggs in the borage rather than in the tomatoes. Borage does best in regular well drained soils with plenty of sun, and will self sow itself in the same spot yearly. It’s easily started by seed or through root divisions.
As a tincture, 1-4 ml three times daily, and as a tea, 2 teaspoons of dried herb to a cup of water, three times daily, is recommended. As a relatively gentle herb, meal sized portions of the leaf and flower are fine but should be consumed in moderation.
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