Borage oil is obtained from the seeds of the borage plant. This leafy, mellow-smelling plant has blue, star-shaped flowers, which have earned the plant its nickname of starflower. The borage plant has been used in folk medicine to cure many ailments, including rheumatoid arthritis, skin disorders, and respiratory infections. Although they are usually rare, common borage oil side effects include mild gastrointestinal complications and thinning of the blood. More serious side effects of borage oil include liver damage and premature labor in pregnant women.
Mild stomach and bowel problems are very common side effects of borage oil. Diarrhea and constipation have been reported, along with gas, bloating, indigestion, and nausea. These side effects are typically mild, and most of the time they will subside after the body has adjusted to the borage oil supplement.
Borage oil is reported to have mild blood-thinning properties. This can be amplified when taken in conjunction with other medications that thin the blood. Patients with bleeding disorders, such as hemophilia, should use extreme caution when using borage oil supplements, or avoid it altogether. Because it can prolong bleeding and effect the clotting properties of the blood, experts say that a borage oil regimen should be stopped at least two weeks before surgery.
One of the more serious borage oil side effects is possible liver damage. This plant contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA). These alkaloids are hepatoxic, or damaging to the liver. Taking borage oil in high doses for a prolonged period of time can make liver damage worse. When purchased in a store, borage oil supplements are almost always free of these harmful alkaloids. To be on the safe side though, consumers should look for labels on borage oil tablets that verify they are PA-free.
Pregnant women and their unborn fetuses can also fall victim to one of the more dangerous of the borage oil side effects. Most experts agree that pregnant women should avoid this supplement altogether. The omega-6 fatty acid that aids in certain ailments, Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), may also cause an increase in the production of prostaglandin E. This compound can stimulate premature labor in some pregnant women.
As with any other dietary supplements, consulting a medical professional is important before starting a regimen of borage oil. A licensed physician will typically be aware of borage oil side effects. The active ingredients could make existing medical conditions worse, and it could possibly cause dangerous interactions with other medications. Borage oil should also be taken at the recommended dosage. More than 2.5 teaspoons (12 grams) of this supplement per day can have certain health risks.