Borage or Borago Officinalis
Borage is a small herb with bright blue flowers native to the Middle East. It is also known as “starflower”. It is cultivated in the entire Mediterranean region, Europe, North Africa and Iran. It has both culinary and therapeutic uses.
 Uses in Cuisine
The taste of borage leaves is very similiar to that of cucumber. This mild and innocuous flavour lends itself well to salads, pastas and pies. The young leaves are uses as a herb and the larges leaves are used as filling.
Borage leaves are classically used in wine cups and in premixed cocktails like Pimms wine cups. Both the leaves and the charming flowers are used as garnish. (Diced cucumber is another garnish used for Pimms and the borage does enhance this flavour).
Widely used in Germany as a flavouring herb for stews,stock and some sauces, large borage leaves are sometimes blanched, solled into parcels with a stuffing and steamed like vine leaves. Borage makes a delicious light flavouring for yoghurt and cream cheese.
Also in Germany, sauces made in springtime often contain borage. A very famous sauce is the Frankfurt Green Sauce (Frankfurter Grüne Sauce). The traditional recipe of Frankfurt Green Sauce contains seven herbs, parsley, chervil, chives, cress, sorrel (Rumex acetosa), burnet (Sanguisorba minor) and borage. Lemon balm does add some flavour to this classic recipe. This Green Sauce usually accompanies meat, boiled young potatoes, fish and vegetables.
Borage flowers may be used to make stuffed fritters (like zucchini flowers) and as a food colouring, or they may be crystallised to use as patisserie decorations (like crystallised violets). Borage honey is also excellent, so bee hives are often located near borage beds.
The herb tea made from borage induces sweating and indeed, the name is derived from the Arabic word “Abu-araq” meaning “Father of Sweat”.
 Medicinal usage
- Treatment of stress: Borage is said to be a restorative for the treatment of the adrenal cortex gland and is useful in the restoration of the metabolic balance of the body, after steroids have been medically adminstered. The plant apparently encourages the production of adrenaline which helps the body cope with stressful situations. An infused drink made with the leaves and flowers helps the body counter stress, depression including menopausal depression, and mental fatigue.
- Essential oil of the borage seed adminsitered in clinical trials apparently reduced systolic blood pressure and improved the heart's performance.
- In new mothers, borage is given to increase the production of breast milk. It is therefore likely that is has substantial impact on hormonal balance.
- Borage is also an anti inflammatory. It prevents stomach inflammations, in cases of allergies and infection. It can be used externally as a compress or external poultice for inflammation, or as eyewash to relieve irritation.
- Borage is used to treat colds, nasal conjestions and flu. The intake of hot infusions of borage causes sweating and forces the body to "sweat out" the fever. The infusion also acts as a an expectorant. It is therefore used in the treatment of chest and nasal conjestions since it forces the body to push out respiratory conjestions like accumulated mucus and phlegm. It is also used to treat bronchitis, catarrh and congested membranes. Traditional cough syrups very often included borage flowers.
- The oil of Borage seeds has a high concentration of linoleic acid and gammalinolenic acid. These acids are Omega-6 fatty acids that are an essential dietary requirement. The absence of these impairs proper wound healing, healthy moisturised skin and hair. Borage seed oil is used in the same way as Evening Primrose oil, also an Omega-6 fatty acid. They are often combines and are said to be efficacious in the treatment of menstrual problems, eczema and other chronic skin conditions.
- Borage is also rich in oleic (Omega-9 fatty acid) and palmitic acid, causing a hypocholesterolemic effect(the effect of reducing cholesterol). Recently available commercially, these oils are held by some naturopaths to reduce the side-effects of PMS and menopausal symptoms. There is, however some controversy about its effect on lipid profiles.
Open sunny position.
Light and dry, well drained.
Seed on site or singly in pots in spring for summer for flowers; autumn for spring flowers. Self sows freely on light soils.
Set 12 inches apart. Plant among roses or summer prune to keep tidy. Possible to grow small plants indoors.
Pick flowers and leaves
Dry flowers, freeze in ice cibes; crystalize
- Larousse Gastronomique
- The Book of Ingredients: Philip Dowell and Adrian Bailey; Penguin/ Mermaid Books 1993
- The Encyclopaedia of Healing Foods: Dr. Michael Murray and Dr. Joseph Pizzorno with Lara Pizzorno, MA, LMT. Time Warner Books, 2005.