Borago officinalis


Borage leaves and flowers nourish, tone and strengthen the heart. They

lift your spirits too! The genus name is a corruption of Latin cor, the

heart, and ago, I bring. Just a glance at the beautiful, blue, star-shaped

flowers of this plant makes my heart happy.

Both Celtic and Roman warriors consumed borage flowers to boost their

strength and courage before going into battle, and during the Medieval

times knights wrapped scarves embroidered with borage flowers around

their necks for similar reasons.


Dioscorides and Pliny both agreed that, steeped in wine, borage makes

men and women merry, driving away all sadness and melancholy. They

also claimed borage was the Nepenthe of Homer that, when drunk,

brings forgetfulness of sorrows. For centuries grandmothers have used it

to uplift spirits, dispel depression, and make the mind glad. I’ve also

noticed that when people see a salad with freshly picked borage flowers

decorating it, they say “ahhh,” the sound of the heart. Borage is loaded

with nutrients good for the heart: calcium, potassium and B vitamins.

Mineral rich borage builds blood, relieves stress, soothes nerves and

builds stamina, strength and energy levels.


In France, borage is used against pulmonary complaints, and to help

bring down a fever. I’ve used syrup of borage flowers to soothe coughs.

Sometimes I drink a small glass of the freshly pressed juice. In fact,

borage can be integrated into the diet as a nourishing tonic when

recovering from any illness. Modern scientists have found borage

nourishes the adrenal glands.


In Southern Italia we call this plant Borragine and look for it in

uncultivated fields where it grows quite freely and abundantly. The

leaves are eaten raw in salads and cooked in soups, and are known to

stimulate peristalsis. The seeds are rich in mucilage and usually made

into an infusion, consumed for its laxative effect. Both leaves and

flowers are widely used because of their emollient properties and are

considered good blood nourishers and wonderful spring tonics. The

flowers, gathered shortly before fully opened, are used to prepare a

traditional omelette along with pumpkin flowers.


Borage has fungicidal properties. Ringworm, athlete’s foot, vaginal yeast

overgrowth and thrush loosen their hold with regular applications of

borage vinegar made from fresh borage leaves. The dried plant infusion

is used as a wash or gargle.


Famed for its abilities as a galactagogue, borage infusion insures nursing

mothers a plentiful and rich supply of breast milk. Daily use also helps

rebuild vitality. Rich in natural mineral salts, borage has a strengthening

effect on the kidneys, and acts as a mild diuretic.


The oil pressed from borage seeds is very high in gamma linoleic acid

(GLA), omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs). Women who

suffer with severe PMS report their symptoms greatly relieved after

integrating borage seeds into their diet. Save borage seeds and grind just

enough for one meal at a time with a mortar and pestle or a coffee

grinder. I sprinkle about a tablespoonful over my food every now and

then. Evening primrose seeds, hemp seeds and black currant seeds also

contain oils high in GLA and EFAs. Seed oils become rancid in minutes.

Always use only freshly ground seeds.


Borage flowers are beautiful purple-blue stars with a black center. They

bloom profusely atop the plant’s thick succulent stem and stout hairy

leaves. They make beautiful candies to decorate cakes and pastries. We

love to throw them fresh into summer salads.


Flower Essence - Borage flower essence helps one develop courage and

confidence during challenging times or dangerous situations.


Magical Lore - Drinking borage tea is believed to increase psychic

abilities. Borage flowers placed around the house are said to enhance

domestic tranquility. Sprinkle the flowers as an offering to the four

directions outside your home to ensure a peaceful and happy family life.


Culture - Borage grows quite easily to about 3 feet high in ordinary garden soil. It is stunningly beautiful as a hedge. I plant borage as soon as the garden is workable in spring, about the same time as calendula, spinach, oats and lettuce. But you only have to do it once, as it self-seeds readily. Borage is especially attractive to honey bees and butterfliea.


I pick the leaves off the growing borage plant while they are green and vibrant and pick the flowers as they are blooming. We make a delicious and refreshing lemonade-like sun tea from fresh borage leaves and flowers. Tincture the entire fresh flowering plant in alcohol or vinegar, or infuse it in oil or honey. Drying the whole borage plant is tricky, as the stems are filled with a mucilaginous substance that resists drying. One must handle the harvested plants lightly or they will bruise and turn brown. I dry just the leaves on screens for delicious teas and infusions.


Borage Blossom Candies

1 cup fresh borage flowers, 1 cup granulated cane sugar,

1/2 teaspoon very cold water, 1 egg white


Beat the egg white until almost stiff. Add the water drop by drop, carefully folding it in. Dip each flower into the mixture and then into the sugar. Space them evenly on waxed paper and allow to dry. Store in a tightly covered jar. Borage flower candies look beautiful decorating a holiday cake!




Cautions: Interactions

Because borage contains low concentrations of substances that have been associated with liver damage, namely pyrrolizidine alkaloid (PA), it should not be used with drugs that could affect the liver, such as anabolic steroids. Borage may also lower the seizure threshold and should not be used with drugs that can also have this effect, such as tricyclic antidepressants. Borage oil should also be used cautiously with any medication that may increase the risk of bleeding.


Companion planting

Borage is used in companion planting. It protects and helps nourish legumes, spinach, brassicas, and strawberries. It is an especially good companion plant for tomatoes because it confuses the tomato hornworms looking for a place to lay their eggs.  


Borage flowers. we spoke of how lore around borage flowers is that they ground and enhance domestic tranquility and they are traditionally scattered to the four directions around the home. This is a beautiful spell. What other ways could we use the borage flowers to enhance tranquility? If you happen to be working with a client for whom their home life is less than supportive, draw a borage star flower on a piece of paper and have them tuck it under their pillow or keep it in a pocket or on a shelf in the kitchen. Draw borage flowers on the walls, doors, woodwork to enhance tranquil home life.  


The other beautiful use is to enhance courage and fortitude.  Do the same, draw the borage star flower on a piece of paper, embroider it on cloth, keep a photo on your altar, around the house, to lend courage and emotional strength in life’s battles.  


Write these words along with the drawing or photograph or piece of the actual plant: Ego borago gaudia semper agoI, Borage, always bring courage.


Ending blessing - It is good to know what is nourishment and what is poison. Sometimes both are found within the very same substance. Discernment is necessary. May we possess the wisdom of knowing the difference between the two and the correct dosage for each. Amen



Understanding herbs is as simple as authentically interacting with them,

and learning about them is as easy as using your senses. Taste is an

amazing portal into understanding the properties of herbs. When you

meet a new herb, whether it’s fresh or dried, put a bit into your palm, rub

it with your thumb to release its aroma, then take a good, deep smell.

Aroma is integral to taste, as well as memory. Once you`ve experienced

an herb’s aroma, and you know it is edible, taste a pinch, slowly rolling

the herb on all areas of the tongue and palate. Taste buds on different

parts of the tongue pick up different taste sensations and you’ll find that

information listed under each of the taste descriptions that follow. The

taste of a plant indicates its chemistry and a basic knowledge of plant

constituents gives you clues to the possible actions of a plant. You’ll find

a chapter on plant constituents in Herbal Pharmacy.


THE SWEET TASTE nourishes the body/mind/spirit, and builds tissue,

muscle and bone. Sweet is tasted at the tip of the tongue. Sweet/bland

tasting foods and herbs are usually long term tonics. Sweet tasting herbs

contain polysaccharides and starches and include immunomodulators,

adaptogens and demulcents. Sweet is neutral in temperature and

promotes the emotions of calm, contentment, love, compassion and joy.

It harmonizes the mind. Plant parts that have a notable sweet taste

include fruits and roots, rhizomes and tubers. Sweet foods/herbs include

grains, meat, fish, red clover, burdock, slippery elm, astragalus,

codonopsis and licorice.


THE BITTER TASTE is cold and cleansing to the body. Bitter is tasted

at the middle edges on the left and right sides of the tongue, and a small

band across the middle, connecting these edges. It usually indicates the

presence of alkaloids, which often affect the nervous system and are

consistently bitter, and glycosides, which often affect the circulatory

system and are frequently bitter. Most flavonoids, which have broad

beneficial health effects if taken in sufficient quantities, are also

bitter. Bitter herbs stop the accumulation of pathogens, stimulate

enzymatic action and the production of hydrochloric acid. By stimulating

digestion, bitter tastes promote health. They do not build tissue and

vitality directly. Positive emotions associated with the bitter taste include

clarity, introspection and self-awareness. Bitter herbs/foods include

dandelion, turmeric, angelica, coffee, artichoke leaves, willow,

motherwort and skullcap.


THE ASTRINGENT TASTE is consolidating and helps to tighten or

bind energy in the cells. Astringency is sensed at the center of the back of

the tongue. It is mildly cooling and has a drying action that is usually

produced by tannins in the bark, leaves and outer rinds of fruits and trees.

It causes the mucus membranes in the mouth to contract and results in an

immediate dry, chalky sensation. The astringent taste tones tissues,

reduces sweating, cools excess heat, is anti-inflammatory, stops bleeding

and acts as a vasoconstrictor. Astringent tastes support the feelings of

stability, and help us to feel collected and grounded. Sometimes

astringent herbs are added as a last ingredient in a building formula to

bring the energy of the tonic herbs into the tissues. Astringent herb

include agrimony, meadowsweet, oakbark, pomegranate, rose and red



THE SOUR TASTE helps to warm the system, increase digestive

capacities and thus mildly builds the tissues. Sour is tasted on the front

edges of the tongue and along the tapered curve. It is primarily the result

of acids such as citric acid, lactic acid, malic acid, oxalic acid and

ascorbic acid. The sour taste is thirst relieving, immediately moistens the

mouth and increases the flow of saliva. It can promote bulk, holds fluid

in the tissues, act as a demulcent, laxative and cholagogue. The sour taste

awakens the mind and helps to coalesce scattered energy. It can be

energizing, refreshing, satisfying and nourishing to the heart. Positive

emotions associated with this taste include appreciation, understanding

and comprehension. Fermented foods are considered to be sour and have

enzymes and probiotic activities that aid in the digestion and the

assimilation of food. Thus, they are building to the tissue. Foods include

miso, buttermilk, sauerkraut and citrus. Herbs include sorrel, rose hips,

hawthorn berries and schisandra berries.


THE PUNGENT TASTING herbs are heating, increase digestive fires,

clear out stagnation and thus are eliminating in nature. The pungent taste

is sensed on the center of the tongue. It usually indicates the presence of

glycosides and affects the blood and generative tissues. Its actions

include blood-thinning, antispasmodic, antiparasitic, carminative,

diaphoretic and vasodilating. The warming spices, being light in nature

and usually high in essential oils, help to lighten food and make it more

digestible. They also act as stimulating expectorants and diaphoretics.

The pungent taste supports vigor, enthusiasm, vitality and expansiveness.

Foods/herbs include ginger, cinnamon, cayenne, rosemary, horseradish,

resins and essential oils.


THE SALTY TASTE is mildly warming, increases digestive fires,

moistens the system and stimulates enzymatic action. It is picked up at

the rear edges of the tongue. The salty taste is associated with dissolving

hard or soft masses, and removing moisture and phlegm. The salty taste

supports digestion, absorption, assimilation and elimination. It promotes

growth, supports muscle strength, moistens the body and helps to

maintain the water electrolyte balance. It can be energizing, nutritive,

demulcent, grounding, soothing to the nervous system and can help to

guard against tumors. The salty taste enhances the spirit and helps to

combat dullness, depression and a lack of creativity in our lives. It

supports courage, confidence and enthusiasm. Salt makes the tastes of

food stronger. Foods include sea salt, rock salt, kelp and other seaweeds,

celery. Herbs include nettles and chickweed.



Bitter and Astringent - fevers, infections, traumatic injury

Pungent - stimulates defensive reactions, moves stagnation

Sour, Salty, Sweet - tissue building, long term tonification


© 2022, Gail Faith Edwards