Borage starflower Rohtopurasruoho 01.jpg
Borage flower
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Boraginales
Family: Boraginaceae
Genus: Borago
B. officinalis
Binomial name
Borago officinalis
Borago officinalis
High resolution scan of a Borage stem

Borage (/ˈbʌrɪ/ (About this soundlisten);[1] Borago officinalis), also known as a starflower, is an annual herb in the flowering plant family Boraginaceae. It is native to the Mediterranean region and has naturalized in many other locales.[2] It grows satisfactorily in gardens in most of Europe such as Denmark, France, Germany, the UK climate, remaining in the garden from year to year by self-seeding. The leaves are edible and the plant is grown in gardens for that purpose in some parts of Europe. The plant is also commercially cultivated for borage seed oil extracted from its seeds. The plant contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, some of which are hepatotoxic, mutagenic and carcinogenic (see below under Phytochemistry).


Borago officinalis grows to a height of 60–100 cm (2.0–3.3 ft), and is bristly or hairy all over the stems and leaves; the leaves are alternate, simple, and 5–15 cm (2.0–5.9 in) long. The flowers are complete, perfect with five narrow, triangular-pointed petals. Flowers are most often blue, although pink flowers are sometimes observed. White flowered types are also cultivated. The blue flower is genetically dominant over the white flower.[3] The flowers arise along scorpioid cymes to form large floral displays with multiple flowers blooming simultaneously, suggesting that borage has a high degree of geitonogamy (intra-plant pollination).[3] It has an indeterminate growth habit which may lead to prolific spreading. In temperate climate such as in the UK, its flowering season is relatively long, from June to September. In milder climates, borage will bloom continuously for most of the year.

Characteristics and uses[edit]

A white flower cultivar
Two blossoms, the younger one is pink, the older blue

Traditionally borage was cultivated for culinary and medicinal uses, although today commercial cultivation is mainly as an oilseed. Borage is used as either a fresh vegetable or a dried herb. As a fresh vegetable, borage, with a cucumber-like taste, is often used in salads or as a garnish.[4] The flower has a sweet honey-like taste and is often used to decorate desserts and cocktails.[4]


Vegetable use of borage is common in Germany, in the Spanish regions of Aragon and Navarre, in the Greek island of Crete and in the northern Italian region of Liguria. Although often used in soups, one of the better known German borage recipes is the Green Sauce (Grüne Soße) made in Frankfurt. In Italian Liguria, borage is commonly used as a filling of the traditional pasta ravioli and pansoti. It is used to flavour pickled gherkins in Poland.[citation needed]


Borage is traditionally used as a garnish in the Pimms Cup cocktail,[4] but is nowadays often replaced by a long sliver of cucumber peel or by mint. It is also one of the key botanicals in Gilpin's Westmorland Extra Dry Gin.


The seeds contain 26-38% of borage seed oil, of which 17-28% is gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), the richest known source.[5] The oil also contains the fatty acids palmitic acid (10-11%), stearic acid (3.5-4.5%), oleic acid (16-20%), linoleic acid (35-38%), eicosenoic acid (3.5-5.5%), erucic acid (1.5-3.5%), and nervonic acid (1.5%). The oil is often marketed as "starflower oil" or "borage oil" for use as a GLA supplement, although healthy adults will typically produce ample GLA from dietary linoleic acid.

The leaves contain small amounts (2-10 ppm of dried herb) of the liver-toxic Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA) intermedine, lycopsamine, amabiline and supinine and the non-toxic saturated PA thesinine.[6] PAs are also present in borage seed oil, but may be removed by processing.[7][8][9][10][11][12] The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment has advised that honey from borage contains PAs, transferred to the honey through pollen collected at borage plants, and advise that commercial honey production could select for raw honey with limited PA content to prevent contamination.[13]

Herbal medicine[edit]

Aragonese cuisine. Borage boiled and sautéed with garlic, served with potatoes.

Traditionally, Borago officinalis has been used in hyperactive gastrointestinal, respiratory and cardiovascular disorders,[14] such as gastrointestinal (colic, cramps, diarrhea), airways (asthma, bronchitis), cardiovascular, (cardiotonic, antihypertensive and blood purifier), urinary (diuretic and kidney/bladder disorders).[15]

One case of status epilepticus has been reported that was associated with borage oil ingestion.[16]

A methanol extract of borage has shown strong amoebicidal activity in vitro. The 50% inhibitory concentration (LD50) of the extract against Entamoeba histolytica was 33 µg/mL.[17]

In history[edit]

Pliny the Elder and Dioscorides say that borage was the "Nepenthe" mentioned in Homer, which caused forgetfulness when mixed with wine.[18]

Francis Bacon thought that borage had "an excellent spirit to repress the fuliginous vapour of dusky melancholie."[18] John Gerard's Herball mentions an old verse concerning the plant: "Ego Borago, Gaudia semper ago (I, Borage, bring always joys)". He states that "Those of our time do use the flowers in salads to exhilerate and make the mind glad. There be also many things made of these used everywhere for the comfort of the heart, for the driving away of sorrow and increasing the joy of the mind. The leaves and flowers of Borage put into wine make men and women glad and merry and drive away all sadness, dullness and melancholy, as Dioscorides and Pliny affirm. Syrup made of the flowers of Borage comfort the heart, purge melancholy and quiet the frantic and lunatic person. The leaves eaten raw engender good blood, especially in those that have been lately sick."[18]

Companion planting[edit]

Borage is used in companion planting.[19] It is said to protect or nurse legumes, spinach, brassicas, and even strawberries.[20] It is also said to be a good companion plant to tomatoes because it confuses the mother moths of tomato hornworms or manduca looking for a place to lay their eggs.[21] Claims that it improves tomato growth[22] and makes them taste better[23] remain unsubstantiated.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "borage". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ Altervista Flora Italiana, Borragine comune, gurkört, Borago officinalis L. includes photos, drawings, and European distribution map
  3. ^ a b "Geitonogamy: a mechanism responsible for high selfing rates in borage (Borago officinalis L.)". Theoretical and Applied Genetics. 102: 375–378. doi:10.1007/s001220051656. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  4. ^ a b c "Borage". Encyclopedia of spices. The Epicentre. 2009. Archived from the original on 2013-02-03. Retrieved 2010-12-01.
  5. ^ National Non-Food Crops Centre. NNFCC Crop Factsheet: Borage, Retrieved on 16 Feb 2011
  6. ^ "Borage Wildflower Finder". Retrieved 2013-09-13.
  7. ^ Borage at Sloan-Kettering website
  8. ^ Dodson, Craig D.; Stermitz, Frank R. (1986). "Pyrrolizidine alkaloids from borage (Borago officinalis) seeds and flowers". Journal of Natural Products. 49 (4): 727–728. doi:10.1021/np50046a045.
  9. ^ Parvais, O.; Vander Stricht, B.; Vanhaelen-Fastre, R.; Vanhaelen, M. (1994). "TLC detection of pyrrolizidine alkaloids in oil extracted from the seeds of Borago officinalis". Journal of Planar Chromatography--Modern TLC. 7 (1): 80–82.
  10. ^ Wretensjoe, Inger; Karlberg, Bo. (2003). "Pyrrolizidine alkaloid content in crude and processed borage oil from different processing stages". Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society. 80 (10): 963–970. doi:10.1007/s11746-003-0804-z.
  11. ^ Awang V. C. (1999). Eskinazi D. (ed.). The Information Base for safety assessment of Botanicals. Botanical Medicine.
  12. ^ Langer T.; Franz Ch. (1997). "Pyrrolizidine alkaloids in commercial samples of borage seed oil products by GC-MS". Scientia Pharmaceutica. 65 (4): 321–328.
  13. ^ "Fragen und Antworten zu Pyrrolizidinalkaloiden in Lebensmitteln" (PDF) (in German). Federal Institute for Risk Assessment. 4 August 2014. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  14. ^ Gilani A.H., Bashir S., Khan A.-u. "Pharmacological basis for the use of Borago officinalis in gastrointestinal, respiratory and cardiovascular disorders", Journal of Ethnopharmacology 114 (3), pp 393–399, 2007.
  15. ^ Gilani A.H. "Focused Conference Group: P16 - Natural products: Past and future? Pharmacological use of borago officinalis", Basic and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology. Conference: 16th World Congress of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology. WorldPharma 2010 Copenhagen Denmark. Publication: (var. pagings). 107 (pp 301), 2010. Date of Publication: July 2010.
  16. ^ Al-Khamees W.A., Schwartz M.D., Alrashdi S., Algren A.D., Morgan B.W. (2011). "Status Epilepticus Associated with Borage Oil Ingestion". Journal of Medical Toxicology. 7 (2): 154–157. doi:10.1007/s13181-011-0135-9. PMC 3724443. PMID 21387119.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link) After taking 1.5 to 3g of borage oil daily for a week; level of GLA in blood was high.
  17. ^ Leos-Rivas C., Verde-Star M.J., Torres L.O., Oranday-Cardenas A., Rivas-Morales C., Barron-Gonzalez M.P., Morales-Vallarta M.R., Cruz-Vega D.E. (2011). "In vitro amoebicidal activity of borage (Borago officinalis) extract on entamoeba histolytica". Journal of Medicinal Food. 14 (7–8): 866–869. doi:10.1089/jmf.2010.0164. PMID 21476887.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  18. ^ a b c Grieve, Maud (1971). A Modern Herbal: The Medicinal, Culinary, Cosmetic and Economic Properties, Cultivation and Folk-lore of Herbs, Grasses, Fungi, Shrubs, & Trees with All Their Modern Scientific Uses, Volume 1. p. 120.
  19. ^ "Gardening Borage a Companion Plant". 2009-05-23. Archived from the original on 2013-03-02. Retrieved 2013-09-13.
  20. ^ Long Island Adventures LLC. "Borage: Herbal Companion". N8ture. Retrieved 2013-09-13.
  21. ^ "Use Borage". Retrieved 2013-09-13.
  22. ^ "GH Organics". GH Organics. Archived from the original on 2013-09-24. Retrieved 2013-09-13.
  23. ^ "Borage Garden Guide". Retrieved 2013-09-13.

External links[edit]