Borage oil is extracted from the seeds of the borage plant, Borago officinalis, an herb with a long history of medicinal uses. The plant’s beautiful blue flowers and leaves, when brewed as an herbal tea, were once believed to provide courage and fortitude to warriors and travelers. Today, however, it is the oil itself that has attracted much attention in the field of natural medicine, where borage oil benefits range from arthritic healing to relief from symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.
It is borage oil’s high concentration of gamma linolenic acid (GLA) that is believed to account for its healing properties and benefits. GLA, a type of omega-6 essential fatty acid, is converted by the body into prostaglandins, important hormone-like substances that regulate bodily functions such as inflammation, nerve transmission and muscle contraction. This association to prostaglandins are the reason that the most common borage oil benefits are in the treatment of inflammatory types of diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, respiratory infections and cardiovascular disease. In addition, borage oil has been recommended in the treatment of skin disorders such as acne, eczema and rosacea; conditions such as brittle nails, gout, infertility, diabetes and high cholesterol; and as a combatant for stress and high blood pressure.
Taken daily in capsule form, borage oil, which has even more GLA than primrose oil or blackcurrant oil — two similar natural remedies that also have anti-inflammatory properties — has become a popular supplement because it is virtually free of side effects commonly seen with anti-inflammatory drugs. Results, however, are not immediate, and it might take several weeks of supplementation until the borage oil benefits become evident. Rare side effects include indigestion and nausea, particularly at high dosage levels. An amount of 2.5 teaspoons (12 g) per day normally is considered safe, but a discussion with a medical professional is always a good idea before deciding on the dosage for a treatment.
Although generally considered to be a safe and natural addition to anyone’s diet, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not consume borage oil because it can pose a potential risk to the unborn child or infant. Similarly, people who suffer from liver disease, epilepsy or hemophilia or who are planning to undergo surgery should consult with their doctor before seeking to reap borage oil benefits as a supplement to their diet.