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!
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.
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 ago. I, 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.
MEDICINAL APPLICATION OF THE TASTES
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