- Borago officinalis
- Borage, borage oil, Borago officinalis, borage seed, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), Glandol®, n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), n-6 PUFA, starflower, starflower oil.
- Borage (Borago officinalis) is an herb native to Syria that has spread throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean. Borage flowers and leaves may be eaten and borage seeds are often pressed to produce oil very high in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).
- Borage is popularly used for premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menopausal symptoms. Borage is also popular among elderly women. Borage is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and has been studied for the treatment of gum disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma.
- There is currently controversy about the safety of borage. Consumers should use caution when taking borage as there have been cases of poisoning after confusion with foxglove.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Acute respiratory distress syndrome occurs when the lung malfunctions due to injury to the small air sacs and the capillaries of the lungs. Borage may improve heart and lung function and reduce lung inflammation in acute respiratory distress syndrome.
Preliminary evidence suggests that borage has anti-inflammatory effects that may make it beneficial in treating periodontitis (gum disease). Additional research is needed to determine the best dosing and administration of borage oil.
Preliminary evidence suggests that gamma linolenic acid (GLA) has known anti-inflammatory effects that may make it beneficial in treating rheumatoid arthritis. Additional research is needed to determine the optimal dose and administration.
Borage oil may help treat or prevent alcohol-induced hangovers, although additional study is needed in this area.
Preliminary evidence suggests that gamma linolenic acid (GLA) may have some immunosuppressant activity that may be helpful in reducing asthma symptoms.
Atopic dermatitis is a skin disorder that is characterized by itching, scaling, thickening of the skin and is usually located on the face, elbows, knees, and arms. The evidence for borage oil in the treatment of atopic dermatitis is mixed. Additional study is needed in this area.
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder affecting the mucus lining of the lungs leading to breathing problems and other difficulties. Preliminary evidence indicated that borage oil may have some benefits in cystic fibrosis patients.
Hyperlipidemia means that there are excess levels of fats in the blood. These fats can be triglycerides or cholesterol. Hyperlipidemia is often associated with increased risk of heart disease and strokes. Gamma linolenic acid may decrease plasma triglyceride levels and increase HDL-cholesterol concentration. However, more research is needed to define borage’s effects on lipid levels in the blood.
Preterm infants may need essential fatty acid supplementation. Gamma linolenic acid supplementation may increase cognitive development, weight gain, and length gain, particularly in boys. Another study is needed to confirm these results.
Currently, there is insufficient available evidence evaluating the effectiveness of borage in the treatment of malnutrition.
Seborrheic dermatitis is a type of inflammatory skin rash. Currently, there is insufficient evidence to support borage in the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis.
Borage oil may decrease heart changes to acute stress. More high quality studies are needed in this area.
A borage oil-containing formula does not appear to affect preterm and very low birth weight infants, although more study is needed in this area.
*Key to grades:
The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
Adults (over 18 years old)
- Borage is likely safe when used in food or spice amounts or when 1-3 grams is used daily in healthy adults for up to 24 weeks.
- There is no proven effective dose for borage. However, 2-3 grams daily GLA (borage oil) for 24 weeks to 12 months has been used for asthma. For atopic eczema, 500-3,000 milligrams of borage oil-containing capsules daily for 12-24 weeks has been used.
Children (under 18 years old)
- There is no proven safe or effective dose for borage in children. Nonetheless, two capsules of borage oil twice daily for 12 weeks have been used. For prevention of atopic dermatitis, a borage oil supplement containing 100 milligrams gamma linolenic acid daily for the first six months of life has been used.
The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.
- Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to borage or its constituents.
Side Effects and Warnings
- Borage has been confused with foxglove and ingestion of foxglove leaves has caused accidental poisoning.
- Borage may lower the seizure threshold. Use cautiously in patients with epilepsy or taking anticonvulsants.
- When used in combination with other herbs and supplements, borage may lower blood sugar levels.
- Use cautiously in patients with bleeding disorders or taking warfarin or other anticoagulants or antiplatelet agents, as borage seed oil may increase the risk of bleeding or potentiate the effects of warfarin therapy.
- Avoid in patients with compromised immune systems or similar immunological conditions.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
- Borage is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women due to a lack of available scientific evidence. One pregnant woman using borage seed oil complained of mild intestinal gas. Gamma linolenic acid, which is found in borage, may alter breast milk production.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.
Interactions with Drugs
- Borage may have antibacterial effects against Helicobacter pylori. Use cautiously with antibiotics and antiulcer medications due to possible additive effects.
- Borage may increase the risk of bleeding, especially when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding, such as warfarin therapy.
- Preliminary evidence suggests that borage may lower the seizure threshold. Use cautiously in patients with seizures or taking anticonvulsant medications.
- Preliminary evidence suggests that borage oil may have anti-inflammatory properties. Use cautiously with anti-inflammatory medications due to possible additive effects.
- Although not well studied in humans, gamma linolenic acid may decrease plasma triglyceride levels and may increase HDL-cholesterol concentration. Use cautiously in patients taking cholesterol-lowering medications due to possible additive effects.
- Borage oil may alter heart function. Use cautiously in patients with heart conditions or taking cardiovascular medications.
- Preliminary evidence suggests that gamma linolenic acid may alter immune responses. Use cautiously with other immunomodulators.
- Concomitant nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drug use may undermine borage oil effects; use cautiously.
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
- Although not well studied in humans, borage may have antibacterial effects against Helicobacter pylori. Use cautiously with herbs and supplement that may have antibacterial or antiulcer activity.
- Preliminary evidence suggests that borage seed oil may potentially increase the risk of bleeding or potentiate the effects of warfarin therapy. Use cautiously with bleeding disorders or with herbs and supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba, and fewer cases with garlic and saw palmetto.
- Preliminary evidence suggests that borage may lower the seizure threshold. Use cautiously in patients with seizures or taking anticonvulsant herbs or supplements.
- Preliminary evidence suggests that borage oil may have anti-inflammatory properties. Use cautiously with anti-inflammatory herbs or supplements due to possible additive effects.
- Although not well studied in humans, gamma linolenic acid may decrease plasma triglyceride levels and may increase HDL-cholesterol concentration. Use cautiously in patients taking cholesterol-lowering herbs, such as red yeast rice, due to possible additive effects.
- Borage oil may alter heart function. Use cautiously in patients with heart conditions or taking cardiovascular herbs or supplements.
- Preliminary evidence suggests that gamma linolenic acid may alter immune responses. Use cautiously with other immunomodulators.
Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.
- This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration ().
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- Dooper MM, van Riel B, Graus YM, et al. Dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid inhibits tumour necrosis factor-alpha production by human leucocytes independently of cyclooxygenase activity. Immunology 2003;110(3):348-357.
- Fewtrell MS, Abbott RA, Kennedy K, et al. Randomized, double-blind trial of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation with fish oil and borage oil in preterm infants. J Pediatr 2004;144(4):471-479.
- Kalantar-Zadeh K, Braglia A, Chow J, et al. An anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutritional supplement for hypoalbuminemic hemodialysis patients: a pilot/feasibility study. J Ren Nutr 2005;15(3):318-331.
- Karia C, Harwood JL, Morris AP, et al. Simultaneous permeation of tamoxifen and gamma linolenic acid across excised human skin. Further evidence of the permeation of solvated complexes. Int J Pharm 3-1-2004;271(1-2):305-309.
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- Pittler MH, Verster JC, Ernst E. Interventions for preventing or treating alcohol hangover: systematic review of randomised controlled trials. BMJ 12-24-2005;331(7531):1515-1518.
- Rosenstein ED, Kushner LJ, Kramer N, et al. Pilot study of dietary fatty acid supplementation in the treatment of adult periodontitis. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 2003;68(3):213-218.
- Takwale A, Tan E, Agarwal S, et al. Efficacy and tolerability of borage oil in adults and children with atopic eczema: randomised, double blind, placebo controlled, parallel group trial. BMJ 12-13-2003;327(7428):1385.
- van Gool CJ, Thijs C, Henquet CJ, et al. Gamma-linolenic acid supplementation for prophylaxis of atopic dermatitis–a randomized controlled trial in infants at high familial risk. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;77(4):943-951.
- Westman EC, Yancy WS Jr., Olsen MK, et al. Effect of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet program compared to a low-fat diet on fasting lipoprotein subclasses. Int J Cardiol 6-16-2006;110(2):212-216.
- Wold RS, Lopez ST, Yau CL, et al. Increasing trends in elderly persons’ use of nonvitamin, nonmineral dietary supplements and concurrent use of medications. J Am Diet Assoc 2005;105(1):54-63.
- Ziboh VA, Naguwa S, Vang K, et al. Suppression of leukotriene B4 generation by ex-vivo neutrophils isolated from asthma patients on dietary supplementation with gammalinolenic acid-containing borage oil: possible implication in asthma. Clin Dev Immunol 2004;11(1):13-21.
Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to . Selected references are listed below.