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What is Borage?

Mary Elizabeth
By
Updated: Jan 30, 2024

An herb is a plant whose leaves, seeds, or flowers are used for flavoring food or in medicine. Other uses of herbs include cosmetics, dyes, and perfumes. The name derives from the Latin word herba, meaning “green crops.” Borage, also called bugloss, is an herb, Borago officinalis, in the same family, Boraginaceae, as the Virginia cowslip and Virginia bluebell. It is an annual that grows wild in the Mediterranean, notably in Crete and Sicily, and is cultivated elsewhere.

History. Though less well-known than other herbs, borage has nevertheless been used for centuries as an herb and a pot herb. There are records of Roman use, dating back to the early years CE.

Description. Borage, which grows up to two to three feet (60 to 90 cm) tall, is notable for it’s blue or purplish star-shaped flowers. The “furry” foliage is a grey-green color. The flowers and young leaves have a mild, cucumber-like flavor, and the plant is a great favorite with bees.

Gardening. An avid reseeder, borage prefers a sunny site and well-drained soil. It spreads assiduously, so plant it in spots where this is a desired trait. It can be used as a border plant.

Food and Other Uses. Borage is often not available in United States grocery markets, so if you wish to use it, you may have to grow your own. Note, however, that some sources recommend that pregnant and nursing women refrain from eating borage, so check with a medical professional for any health-related concerns. The flowers can be used sugared for decorating or sprinkled on salads, and young leaves are used in salad, soup, and pasta. The leaves may be cooked in quantity, like other greens, and served as a vegetable side dish or used as a pasta stuffing or crepe filling. As noted, the leaves are “furry,” but the covering is said to disappear after cooking.

Borage seed oil is used in topical treatments for dry skin, for people with diabetes and eczema, for example. Borage honey is also available.

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Mary Elizabeth
By Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to writing articles on art, literature, and music for WiseGeek, Mary works as a teacher, composer, and author who has written books, study guides, and teaching materials. Mary has also created music composition content for Sibelius Software. She earned her B.A. from University of Chicago's writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont.
Discussion Comments
By catapult43 — On Mar 10, 2008

Borage is good for making tea which helps reduce fever. In summer borage can be enjoyed as a nice cool lemonade drink.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the...
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