All About Borage And Why You Should Get To Know This Herb
Borage is a wonderful plant to have around the garden. Borage (Borago officinalis), also known as starflower, bee bush, bee bread, and bugloss, is a medicinal herb with edible leaves and flowers. In my garden, borage and sunflowers share the honor of being bee hot-spots.
It’s not only a favorite plant of the honey bees, but also bumble bees and small, native bees. It has served many purposes from the time of ancient Rome to the present. Pliny the Elder believed it to be an anti-depressant, and it has long been thought to give courage and comfort to the heart. One old wives’ tale states that if a woman slipped a bit of borage into a promising man’s drink, it would give him the courage to propose. At one time it was grown by beekeepers to boost honey production. It can be, and has been grown as an ornamental plant, but is also edible and medicinal. You could say that borage is a sort of super plant.
There is enough scientific information to promote borage as part of the normal diet. The only epidemiological research about the role of borage intake in human health was carried out in Spain in 1993. Borage is highly consumed in one of the study areas (Zaragoza), where the leaves and stem are eaten cooked, usually boiled in water. People who eats borage showed a 3-fold reduction in gastric cancer risk (1). Last year two interesting papers were published about experimental research that suggest that borage consumption could improve Alzheimer´s cognitive dysfunction (2,3). Other experimental research found that vinegar flies whose larvae were fed with borage extract did not live longer but remained active in the last stage of his life (4).
1.- González CA, Sanz JM, Marcos G, Pita S, Brullet E, Saigi E, Badia A, Agudo A, Riboli E. Borage consumption as a possible gastric cancer protective factor. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 1993 Mar-Apr;2(2):157-8.
2.- Ghahremanitamadon F, Shahidi S, Zargooshnia S, et al. Protective effects of Borago officinalis extract on amyloid β-peptide(25-35)-induced memory impairment in male rats: a behavioral study. Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:798535. doi: 10.1155/2014/798535. Epub 2014 Jun 11.
3.- Zargooshnia S, Shahidi S, Ghahremanitamadon F, Nikkhah A, Mehdizadeh M, Soleimani Asl S. The protective effect of Borago Officinalis extract on amyloid β (25-35)-induced long term potentiation disruption in the dentate gyrus of male rats. Metab Brain Dis. 2015 Feb;30(1):151-6. doi: 10.1007/s11011-014-9594-4. Epub 2014 Jul 25.
4.- Tasset-Cuevas I, Fernández-Bedmar Z, Lozano-Baena MD, Campos-Sánchez J, de Haro-Bailón A, Muñoz-Serrano A, Alonso-Moraga A. Protective effect of borage seed oil and gamma linolenic acid on DNA: in vivo and in vitro studies. PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e56986. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0056986. Epub 2013 Feb 27.
If you cook them like spinach, the hairs disappear. I like to throw them in lasagne, pizza (under the cheese so they don't burn, or just saute a load of mixed garden greens with garlic and a little anchovy for a delicious side dish!
It's important to note that there are two ways to collect flowers. The first way is to cut behind the flower, keeping the green hudmon the back and making it a more substantial addition. This is fine but means that you won't get seeds from that particular flowerhead. The second method is to *very* gently pinch the back of the flower with your fingertips, almost as if you were pulling the tail off a miniscule shrimp. It takes a little while to get the knack but if you do it right and the flower's ready (if you're too vigorous they'll come whether they're ready or not), the petals should pop off in this fantastically delicate little cluster, leaving the pollinated seeds behind in their green cup to ripen naturally.
This herb is also the highest known plant source of gamma-linolenic acid (an Omega 6 fatty acid, also known as GLA) and the seed oil is often marketed as a GLA supplement. It is also a source of B vitamins, beta-carotene, fiber, choline, and, again, trace minerals. In alternative medicine it is used for stimulating breast milk production and as an adrenal gland tonic; thus it can be used to relieve stress.