The delightful appearance of Borage, also known as a starflower, will embellish any yard. Its sky-blue, five-petal, star-shaped flowers with white prickly hairs were often painted and embroidered in medieval times. Borage likes a nice sunny location and moderate water with a fairly rich, well-aerated soil, and it grows to about 1-2’ high, with many hollow, almost succulent branching stems. Borage is easy to grow, but it has the tendency to spread around the garden as it is self-seeding. It makes a great companion plant for strawberries and various types of squash and cucumbers; bees love borage flowers so plant it near fruit trees and vegetables.
Borage is high in calcium, potassium, and mineral salts. In addition, it is rich in essential fatty acids such as gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) or omega-6 fatty acid which promotes joint restoration & healthy skin, boosts the immune system, and relieves arthritic pain. Omega-6 fatty acid has been found to reduce breast tumor growth so it may have a beneficial effect in diminishing breast cancer. Herbalist Rosemary Gladstar recommends a daily dosage of borage oil (or evening primrose oil) to regulate the hormones. The GLA in borage oil is especially helpful for women with menstrual discomfort, mood swings, and cramps.
Borage also has high levels of Vitamin C, making it a valuable anti-oxidant, as well as Vitamin A, which improves good eye sight. Borage has diuretic properties which assist in removing excess liquid and toxins from the body. An infusion of borage leaves & flowers have a cooling effect that help to treat fever, bronchitis, colds and flu. A poultice of the leaves soothes insect bites and stings and reduces swelling and bruising. Borage tea is also used to promote milk production for women who are nursing. Borage has been prescribed to alleviate depression and can also ease anxiety, stress and nervousness. The beauty of the flowers is enough to lift the spirit.
The Celtic name Borrach meant courage and the Welsh name Llawenlys translates as herb of gladness. Celtic soldiers drank borage flavored wine to give them boldness in battle. Another theory as to the origin of the common name of the herb borage is from the Latin borago; a corruption of the word corrago, having the root cor, ‘heart’, and ago, ‘I lead.’ Through the ages, borage brought people cheer & valor, comforted the heart and relieved depression. According to several ancient herbalists, borage was the famed nepenthe of Homer, the herbal wine used to trick the Cyclops and his men into a forgetful stupor. Sir Francis Bacon wrote, “The leaf of Burrage hath an excellent spirit to repress the fuliginous vapour of dusky melancholie.” Folklore tells of spiking a man’s drink with borage to give him the courage to propose marriage to his lady. Whatever the tales of borage, early herbalists highly valued borage for its medicinal qualities. Borage is a natural tonic for the adrenal glands which is where courage resides, thus the historical connection.
Borage is also a delightful culinary herb that enhances good health. It has a crisp cucumber flavor, and its flowers are a delicious and colorful addition to salads or to garnish any kind of dish. Candied borage flowers make gorgeous decorations for pastries & desserts. The leaves are used raw, steamed or sautéed like spinach. The leaves and stems enrich cheese, fish, poultry, most vegetables, green salads, salad dressings, and soup stocks. They combine well with dill, mint, and garlic, and the best way to store borage flowers is to put them in flavored vinegar.
In honor of the 4th of July here is a recipe using Borage flowers:
Red, White and Blue Salad
¾ cup Sour Cream
1/4 tsp. Course black pepper
1 tsp. White sugar
1 Tbsp. Rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. Fresh chopped Dill
1/8 tsp. Fresh grated lemon peel
1/4 tsp. Finely-grated red onion
Salt to taste
1 English Cucumber
3 garden fresh red tomatoes
10 Borage flowers
Combine all the ingredients except for the tomatoes and flowers. Slice tomatoes and arrange them, overlapping, around the edge of a serving platter. Mound the cucumber mixture in the center of the platter, just covering the inner edge of the tomatoes. Chill well, and place the borage flowers decoratively on the salad just before serving.
Serves 4 to 6
Source: Di-Di Hoffman’s: Timeless Herbal Secrets