BORAGE: A Very Resourceful Plant

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Family: Boraginaceae

Species: Borago Officinalis

Common Names: Starflower, Bee Bush, Bugloss, Borragine, Tailwort

Borago Officinalis is an annual herb in the flowering plant family Boraginaceae. It is native to the Mediterranean region and has naturalized in many other localities. It grows satisfactorily in gardens in the UK climate, Northern Europe and America. Can survive light frost and it is considered to be an invasive plant in some country, 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. It’s also commercially cultivated for borage seed oil extraction. It is a medicinal herb indeed, with edible leaves and flowers. In my garden, Borage and Sunflowers share the honor of being bee hot-spots.

CULTIVATION

Borage is a very prolific easily grown plant. Despite succeed in ordinary garden soil, prefers dry soil and a sunny position. It grows particularly well in loose, stony soils with some chalk and sand. Plants are tolerant of poor dry soils and difficult pH values, though much bigger specimens are produced when the plants are growing in better conditions.

We could say Borage is sort of super plant; grown by beekeepers to boost honey production but able to repel other insects, ornamental but also edible and medicinal.

CULINARY USE OF BORAGE

With a taste comparable to that of cucumber, borage has various culinary applications. Its leaves can of course be used as a salad green and the flowers as edible decorations. This herb fit well in soups, salads, making omelettes, cocktails, smoothies and  sauces, cooked as a stand-alone vegetable or stir-fried the breaded leaf, just to begin with. If you have some of this plant in your garden, an other option is to grow and consume its Sprouts, once you have enough seeds.

The leaves are rich in potassium and calcium, they have a salty cucumber flavor. Borage contains mucous substances, tannins, saponins, essential oil, potassium, calcium, vitamin C and other substances. Very hairy, the whole leaves have an unpleasant feeling in the mouth and so they are best chopped up finely and added to other leaves when eaten in a salad.

MEDICINAL PROPERTIES

Borage is a fairly common domestic herbal remedy much common since ancient times. Useful to restore the adrenal glands to their natural balance, which leads a calmer body and mind. Leaves, and to a lesser extent flowers, are demulcent, depurative, emollient, expectorant, febrifuge, lenitive and mildly sedative. An infusion is taken internally in the treatment of a range of ailments including fevers, chest and kidney problems. A beneficial herbal tea is simply made by pouring a teacup of boiling water over one or two teaspoons of the dried herb, allowing it to soak for 5 to 10 min.

Externally can be applied as poultice for inflammatory swellings. Depending on availability, one can chose to use this plant either fresh or dried, but keep in mind that when stored over a year will have slowly lost its medicinal properties. The seeds are a rich source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) , this oil helps to regulate the hormonal systems and lowers blood pressure. Oil find use both internally and externally, helping to relieve skin complaints and premenstrual tension. Distilled water from flowers reliefs eyes inflammation.

Borage must be used with caution, both as food and medicine, and not taken over a long period of time because contains small amounts of pyrrolizidine alkaloids that may be damaging to the liver at very high doses for long periods of time.