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Borage as an Herb

Borage as an herb plant

Borago officinalis

Other Names: Burrage, Bugloss, Burage

The medicinal parts are the dried borage flowers and the dried or fresh foliage, stems and leaves. Borage has a taste similar to cucumber.

The Celtic name borrach meant "courage" and the Welsh name translates into an "herb of gladness". In 1597, the herbalist, John Gerard, extolled the virtues of the herb and said that a syrup made from the flowers helped with depression.

Borage was sometimes called bugloss by the old herbalists. An ancient Roman verse, spoken to this day, goes: "I, Borage, always bring courage." Borage flavored wine was a favorite of Celtic warriors preparing to go into battle; it was believed to bolster their courage.

Another old saying, this one English, goes:

Borage Quote

Borage Fun Fact

Borage was once placed in the drink of a potential husband to give him the courage to propose.

Borage has been used ceremonially in ritual baths or burnt with incense for daily meditation as well as an infusion for a face wash for dry skin or soggy leaves as face pack for dry skin.

Borage oil is used for neurodermatitis and as a food supplement.

Borage as an Herb for Medicinal Uses

Borage is used for treating bronchitis, coughs, rashes, depression, and to increase mother's milk. It is a rich source of potassium and also contains calcium, combined with mineral acids. The infusion is used as an eyewash.

Borage as an herb is believed to help people who have arthritis, thanks to its reported anti-inflammatory properties.

The distilled flower water and conserve of the flowers was once used to "comfort the heart, relieve the faint, cheer the melancholy, and purify the blood". (Herbal of John Pechey, 1695)

Distilled water was also warmed and used as a gargle for sore throats. The Hopi used Borage to treat throat cancer.

Borage is used in France for fevers and pulmonary complaints. For internal use, an infusion is made of 1 ounce of leaves to 1 pint of boiling water, taken in wine glassful doses. Externally, it is employed as a poultice for inflammatory swellings.

The juice of borage in syrup was thought not only to be good in fevers, but to be a remedy for jaundice, itch and ringworm.

Borage has long been grown freely in kitchen gardens, both for use as a herb and for its flowers, which yield excellent honey and have a cucumber-like fragrance.

Dried flowers can be used for potpourri, in silica and glued to wreaths.

Culinary Uses of Borage

Borage leaves According to Dioscorides and Pliny, when Borage was drunk steeped in wine, it brought absolute forgetfulness.

In the early part of the nineteenth century, the young tops of Borage were sometimes boiled as a pot herb, and the young leaves were considered good in salads. But the prickly backs (calyx) from the flowers must be removed as they are inedible. In times past, the flowers were used in salads to "make the mind glad". Borage is also good when combined with basil for a mid-morning pick-me-up tea, with some sugar and lemon topping it off.

The leaves of Borage can be used raw, steamed or sauteed for delicate cucumber taste that can enhance cheese, poultry, vegetables; also is good chopped into salads, salad dressings, pickles and egg dishes. When used in salads, the flowers will turn pink when they come into contact with vinegar.

The flowers are also used candied for decorations on cakes, ice cream and in wine cups. Another popular use is to freeze the flowers in ice cubes and float them in drinks. The flowers are sometimes made into a syrup, as well.

Mixed with lemon and sugar in wine, and/or water, Borage makes a refreshing summer drink.

Cool Tankard:
Simmer 2 sliced lemons with 1 ounce of sugar and few young borage leaves. When cooled, add 1 bottle white wine, then strain and refrigerate. Serve cold in summer.

In February, in the New of the Moon, sow Borage, Coriander, Marjoram, Radish, Rosemary and Sorrel." - Gervase Markham, The English Housewife, 1683

Folklore

Carry borage blossoms to strengthen courage. Borage tea is said to help induce psychic powers.

If you're concerned about dishonesty, plots, or secrets, place borage leaves or blossoms nearby and listen in. Borage is said to encourage people to tell the truth.

Cautions

The plant contains lasiocarpine (a liver carcinogen) and two poisonous alkaloids (lycopsamine and supinidine viridiflorate). It is now being advised that borage not be taken internally. However, these cautions DO NOT apply to the borage seed oil.

Borage can cause contact dermatitis and is contraindicated in those with kidney stones.

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