Romans were the first to use borage adding it to wine which was believed to be a remedy against sadness. The Celtic word “borraci” means precisely bravery; as a matter of fact, borage wine was used by Celts to give incite warriors against enemies. The Greeks, instead, used it to treat hangover! Borage helps raising the spirits (due especially to the huge amount of wine with which it was taken!). Traditionally, borage was as a decoration for houses and weddings. The Welsh noun “llawenlys” means happiness herb.
THE PLANT - Borage (Borgao officinalis) is an annual plant of the Borraginaceae family, which can also reach a height of 60 cm. Its stems and leaves are completely covered with extremely fine hairs; its dark blue flowers, hanging from a bent peduncle, have five petals and are based on a five tip starry cup. Borage grows in Mediterranean countries and on soils to 800-1000m high.
PROPERTIES – Borage has different therapeutic properties: it contains abundant quantities of potassium nitrate and vitamin c. Flower infusion is an excellent tonic for the nervous system with its relaxing, emollient, expectorant and cough calming properties, beside its slight diuretic and depurative effect. Leaves have a sudorific effect, thus they are considered, together with borage seeds oil, as a valid remedy for respiratory system affections, for rheumatisms and for rash diseases (eczema, acne). It contains phytoestrogen associated with its traditional use to increase milk production during puerperium and to regulate hormonal functions. Other characteristics and properties: this herb is rich in essential minerals as calcium and potassium, palmitic acid and tannins and essential fatty acids Omega6 – gammalinoleic acid (24%) and linoleic acid (38%) - necessaries to a correct cardiovascular function and to maintain healthy skin and nails. Borage oil has been used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, eczema, psoriasis, coronary malfunctions, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Galactogenic – it increases breast milk production during puerperium
its oil helps regulating hormones and decreasing blood pressure
seeds rich in gammalinoleic acid - good for skin and to prevent pre-menstrual syndrome
stimulator of adrenal glands (two small glands on kidneys which release different important hormones in the blood) – borage acts as a tonic on adrenal cortex, which means that it revitalizes and renovates adrenal glands after medical treatments with cortisone and steroids. There is an increasing need to find remedies that helps releasing the high internal and external stress to which these glands are put through. For a certain period of time, borage can also be used as a tonic for adrenal glands to regularize adrenal and glandular functions.
nervine – it renovates the energy of the nervous system
tonic – good to reduce fever and give vitality after a long recovery, thanks to its high content in minerals
leaves and flowers rich in potassium and calcium so with an excellent blood purifying and tonic action
diuretic – it acts on the liver and on detoxification systems thanks to its diuretic property which helps eliminating toxins through urine
expectorant – it acts on the reaction of the immune defence system thanks to its ability to easy the elimination of catarrh secretion from bronco pulmonary mucosa and to cause the expulsion of mucus from the respiratory system
saline and refreshing herb – that cure irritated or damaged tissues – it is used to cure throat or mouth infections (in mouthwash) and dry skin (in mush or compress)
mild sedative for the nervous system – it is used against anxiety and stress
antidepressant – it acts on the nervous system thanks to its property to prevent, treat or relieve depression. Ancient herbalist used to prescribe it for this purpose.
anti-inflammatory – useful against pulmonary diseases like pleurisy, peritonitis. It contains a mixture that helps relieving inflammatory conditions as eczema if applied on the part.
diaphoretic – it affects positively liver and detoxification systems thanks to its ability to increase sweating and promoting toxins elimination through the skin. It is also used to help immune defence system thanks to its febrifuge properties, that is to say its property to treat fever. It is a good remedy against cold and flu and especially during recovery. Hot borage tea is considered excellent to reduce high fever temperature. Its diaphoretic action would be also useful as an antidote especially against snakes and insects poison.
mild laxative – it acts on digestive system thanks to its ability to cause intestinal evacuation without irritation and cramps.
emollient – it affects the immune defence system by curing, protecting and softening tissues.
CULINARY USE – fresh leaves and shoots are eaten raw in salads or thinly chopped and added to fresh and soft cheeses, like goat's cheese and robiola (typical of northern Italy), or they can be cooked like spinach or together with other greens in soups, while stems can be fried. Borage is commonly used in omelettes and stuffing: it is a vital ingredient in Genovese “pansotti” (round shaped ravioli filled with ricotta cheese and aromatic herbs) and in the Easter pie (“Torta Pasqualina”). Its flowers, with a delicate cucumber taste, can be eaten in salads and are often marinated in white vinegar (which turns light blue), or in grappa (brandy distilled from wine or must); flowers can also be candied or frozen in ice cubes to decorate drinks. Also cakes, fruit salads and relaxing herb infusion can be prepared with borage.