Borage as a Plant Teacher

Updated: Oct 8, 2021

BORAGO OFFICINALIS _ BORAGE _ STARFLOWER ::: HERB OF GRACE

 Nomenclature

Borago officinalis

Borage denotes the latin term Borrago (Arabian origin meaning 'father of sweat' or 'father of toughness'.


Common Names


Starflower : referring to its appearance

Cool Tankard : meaning a cool, tall, beer mug

Herb of Gladness

Burra: Latin for wool

Barrach: Celtic for man of courage

Bugloss

Burrage



History

Borage is a herbal medicine used since ancient times. You may be familiar with the folk-lore saying “I, Borage bring always courage,” which speaks to its application for a run down character, in need of great courage to face the stress & responsibilities they carry. 
“It comforts the heart, cheers melancholy and revives the fainting spirit” (Salmon’s Household Companion, 1710). In ancient times, Borage was drunk as an ale to ‘revive the hypochondriac and cheer the hard student’ (Evelyn’s Acetaria). It is mentioned as one of the four cordial flowers in Salmon’s Household Companion of 1710, giving the cup a refreshing & peculiar flavour which cannot be imitated. Nowadays, it is frequently used in British herbalism, and not so much in the Southern Hemisphere herbalism. Did we forget about our starflower? The properties of borage are still somewhat unknown, so a lot of the following information is gathered from modern day traditional herbalists and their use of the plant medicine as a natural healer.



Distribution & Physiology


Borage is an annual herb (meaning it drops seed and respawns each year), with delicious honey bearing flowers. It likes ordinary soil, that is not too wet or clay ridden. And will grow to 1.5 feet tall, sprawling a square metre. It is closely related to comfrey, with roots as a Mediterranean European herb now cultivated in North America.



Boraginaceae : Borage family : forget me not family

Borage can be identified by its rough & hairy skin, with flat teardrop shaped burrs that stick to your clothes. The black anthers stick out from the middle of the flower. The flowers curl like a scorpion tail, a Bi-sexual. With 2000 species in this family, the Boraginaceae are generally used with some good success externally as a wound poultice, as an astringent to heal open tissue lesions, or internally as mild mucilaginous emollients (which means to soften the skin, or soothe a temper). Many of the borages have mildly toxic alkaloids in them, so they are not advised for sustained use.


Doctrine of Signatures


The energetic architecture of the universe is a language communicating the individuated being within the cosmic Self. When it comes to herbal medicine, over the lifetimes, an association between the valid knowledge of the natural world has been interpreted by our ancestors into a translation of its use. It is a way to "acquaint all sorts of people with the very Pith and Marrow of Herbarism” (William Coles). The way that a plant looks can tell us about the disease or organ or even type of person it is a medicine for. “The idea is that the shape, colour, appearance, environmental niche, taste, smell, etc., of a plant or medicinal agent will display the tell-tale signs, marks, or configurations indicating how that agent may be used in medicine.” (Matthew Wood). Borage’s doctrine is that of the 5 sided blue/purple star flower opening side ways, and turning downwards, courage for the downcast heart. Five petals opens the head and limbs. A star from the heavens (the flower) endowing grace into the roughness of life (the leaf). Borage is suggested to be for the heart, for qualms, and for faintness. Blue is the colour of an antispasmodic (to relieve tension). The large leaves suggests it works with the lungs or skin, a large surface. The fine hairs on the leaves resemble the hair like tissues of the mucosa of the lung or intestines.




Planetary Influences


Under the influence of Venus - cooling, emotional healer


Energetics

Cooling & moist.

Sweet & salty.

For the Atrophy or Stagnation tissue states (bringing moisture.

Meridian / organ systems: Nervous system & the Kidneys, Gallbladder

Taste is mildly like a fresh cucumber.


Magick

Borage is “A masculine herb, working with the air element, mental powers/wisdom/psychic powers/vision. Carry fresh blossoms to strengthen your courage, or place one in your buttonhole for protection when walking outdoors. A tea of borage induces psychic powers” (Scott Cunningham).




Constituents

Leaves, flowers & seeds are high (30%) in gamma-linolenic acid (anti-inflammatory)
 which sit he richest known source. Also essential oil (same as cucumber), potassium, calcium, saline mucilage, vitamin A, B, C, silica, iron, magnesium, resin and tannins.


Actions

Anti-inflammatory, nutritive tonic, mucilaginous, expectorant, diaphoretic, calmative, antidepressant, diuretic, galactagogue



Uses


Nervous System

Nervine, nutritive tonic, diffusive & calmative herb.

Borage is a deep acting nervine. It is an extremely important remedy for severe nervous exhaustion and low spirits. It is restorative for the adrenal glands after long periods of stress, a nutrient to rebalance them. Nutritive tonics are rich in micronutrients, great for states of debility, depression, or depletion. Borages helps to create connection & space for both depletion & excess. Examples of use would be or chronic fatigue syndrome, especially for recovery from long term substance dependencies, during menopause, or for extremely depleting lifestyles (shift worker, high adrenal roles etc.). It shines as a natural medicine for nervous system repair.


Hormones


Nervine & galactagogue herb.

It is believed to work higher up the endocrine cascade rather than immediately on the adrenals themselves, such as the hypothalamus and pituitary which are temperature, emotional & metabolism regulatory endocrine glands. Bernard Jensen recommends it for thyroid issues. Traditionally it was used to increase lactation, galactagogues tend to also be nervines (the nervous system must be nourished to produce milk). So we see it’s role emerging on hormones here through glands. Hormones act as messengers between cells & tissues in the body. The liver is the general of the organs, and can greatly control hormone levels by expelling them in bile, activating or inactivating them. Borage also works on the liver & biliary system itself. The fats in borage exercise liver metabolism, and enable the fat soluble hormones to travel around the body. Borage can be used in an endometriosis protocol showing significant hormonal activity. Applying oils to the skin is a great way to absorb them into your blood. It can be used for menopausal symptoms of temperament and temperature as well as recovery from long term steroidal use.


Mental & Emotional

Nervine, antidepressant, calmative & diuretic herb.

It has calming & antidepressant effects which modern research is showing can be used for ADD (attention deficit disorder). This validates the use for the melancholic or lunatic persons in the 1500’s. It’s saline consistency promotes the kidneys, purifies the blood, removes toxicity and is said to defend the heart against such toxins and poisons of the emotional nature. It will revive the spirit of a person from woes. Borage is known for treating melancholic persons especially with matters of the heart. It’s mentioned for heart palpitations, but rather than from cardiac issues themselves, it is more suited for hyperthyroid stimulation resulting in cardiac disturbance. Again we see it indicated for a state where the emotions are ruling the physical, working with the nervous system as a gateway into other organ systems. The 4 temperaments of Greco-Roman medicine were known as the humours. Melancholic, Sanguine, Phlegmatic, Sanguine and Choleric. Borage works with the melancholic person.

“Melancholic individuals tend to be analytical and detail-oriented, and they are deep thinkers and feelers. They are introverted and try to avoid being singled out in a crowd. A melancholic personality leads to self-reliant individuals who are thoughtful, reserved, and often anxious. They often strive for perfection within themselves and their surroundings, which leads to tidy and detail oriented behaviour.”


Digestion

Mucilaginous herb.

This means its content soothes the inflamed lining of the tissues including that of the mouth & stomach. It contains fixed oils that increase the digestion & metabolism of fats by provoking the gallbladder to release bile & lubricate the colon. Borage is used to treat jaundice and indigestion.


Lungs

Mucilaginous & expectorant herb.

Used as a syrup for coughing, wheezing, asthma, shortness of breath, or colds. Borage is used in conditions with chronic catarrh (mucous in the nose & throat). The mucilaginous nature of the borage family is moistening to the tissues of the respiratory system.


Fever

Diaphoretic herb.

The father of sweat. 
It is a cooling plant, that removes heat from infections such as microbes, virus, or fever and has been used for contagious fevers, chicken pox, scarlet fever. It is said to have a strengthening nature by improving resistance to chills and fevers, essentially stimulating the sweat pores to tone immunity.


Wounds

Anti-inflammatory & mucilaginous herb.

Used externally on sores, cute and ulcers especially as a hot poultice for arthritis and gout. It can be made into an eye wash for inflamed eyes as well. An oil or compress can be applied topically to varicose veins. Borage can soothe and cool the skin.

The Borage Person
The borage person may be a menopausal woman who is overworked and totally exhausted. A teacher. Someone run to death with responsibilities and commitments. Perhaps they run themselves down with impossible standards and self criticism. For the nervous system it’s the same feeling. Someone downcast, overworked, heavy hearted, or weighed down. Borage is this person’s medicine.



Companion Herb

Generally combines well with Avena sativa (oats).

For nervous exhaustion, to tone the entire nervous from the hypothalamus down, use vervain, followed by borage followed by lycopus (bugleweed)

Combine with passiflora postpartum for nervous exhaustion.


In the Garden

Plant borage with herbs or veggies to improve their taste by using the older leaves as mulch to add trace minerals (Pt, Calcium & Vit. C) to the soil. Borage adds a lot of nutrients to a compost bin. It can improve the growing time of strawberries and tomatoes (repels some veggie eating worms). The beautiful borage flowers attract bees and wasps, which help pollination and keeps pests away.


Warnings

Borage is not TGA approved for consumption as a herbal medicine in Australia due to the pyrrolizidine alkaloids in the leaves that have hepatotoxicity at large doses. However it has been and continues to be used throughout N. America & Europe as a traditional herb. Long term use it not advised, nor is use during pregnancy (it softens the uterine tissue so can be used intentionally) or for nursing mothers (will enhance milk production). Long term use is not advised. The hair from the borage family may irritate the skin of some people so use a soft cloth between when used as a poultice. It is not restricted as a food, which all natural medicines are anyway.



Dosing

As a herbal medicine, It is best to use the fresh pressed herb to prevent the drying of nutrients. Culpepper liked fresh flowering herb at the end of season, used as a syrup to increase the moistening & cooling effects, and did not recommend using dry herb. It can be infused or tinctured best cold, rather than warm. One can use young fresh leaves in salads, add 2 handfuls to soups, garnish the flowers on salads & drinks, or make borage iced tea with lemon & honey in the summer.

Tincture or Flower essence: 1-3 drops/1-3/day

Decoction: 1-3 cups/day with 2 tsp. fresh plant