borage oil benefits

Borage oil is extracted from the seeds of a plant known as Borage or starflower. This plant with blue star-shaped flowers has been used for hundreds of years for its medicinal properties. 

Borage oil is high in GLA, an essential fatty acid that is needed for healthy growth and development of the body.

Borage oil also offers numerous health benefits including fighting cancer, alleviating symptoms of autoimmune disorders, fighting skin disorders and treating respiratory symptoms.

This article offers you a closer look at borage oil and its benefits for health and skin.

What is borage oil?

Borage (Borago officinalis) is an annual plant that grows to about 2 feet in height. The leaves of this plant are large, oval and pubescent and smell and taste similar to cucumber. Its flowers are star-shaped and are usually blue, white or pink.

Borage oil is made by cold pressing the seeds of the borage plant. This oil is golden yellow with a faint green hue and a strong, heady scent. It has a light texture and an absorbable consistency.

Borage oil is rich in essential fatty acids. It is the richest natural source of gamma linoleic acid. It also contains eicosanoic acid, docosanoic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid, and stearic acid.

This oil is rich in micronutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, and choline. It also contains proteins, fiber, and other plant compounds.

History of borage oil

The history of borage dates back over 1,500 years. This herb was used to flavor the wine of the soldier going out for battle.

The word ‘Borage’ may be derived from the word ‘borrach,’ a Celtic word that means ‘a person of courage.’ This herb was traditionally used to dispel the feelings of melancholy and to dispel grief.

Borage was used in medieval Syria and Turkish Asia for its medicinal benefits. The Moorish Arabs brought borage oil to Spain, where they became popular.

In a poem written by Robert Browning, he described borage as ‘very nitrous.’

Health benefits of borage oil

1. Eases symptoms of arthritis

Borage oil has anti-inflammatory properties which help in reducing the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. The anti-inflammatory properties in borage oil come from its high concentrations of GLA.

According to studies, borage oil improves mobility and reduces symptoms related to arthritis (1).

During a 1993 study, researchers gave 37 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, 1.4 grams of GLA from borage seed oil or cottonseed oil for 24 weeks.

The results showed an improvement in the number of tender joints by 36 percent, and the swollen joint count came down by 36 percent (2).

2. Fights eczema

Eczema is a skin condition that causes redness, itchiness, and inflammation of the skin. When there are deficiencies in skin lipids, it results in increased inflammation and skin flare-ups and eczema.

Since GLA can correct deficiencies in skin lipids, supplementing with GLA-rich borage oil can reduce the symptoms of eczema.

Studies on the effectiveness of borage oil for eczema have had mixed results.

During one study, 140 patients with atopic dermatitis took 920 mg of borage oil supplements for 12 weeks. The researchers didn’t find any difference in the signs of dermatitis between the groups that took the borage supplements and those that received the placebo (3).

During a review of different studies assessing the treatment of eczema, researchers concluded that borage oil might be useful for some patients (4).

According to another recent study, when children wore undershirts coated with borage oil for two weeks, it showed an improvement in symptoms of eczema (5).

3. Heals respiratory infections

Borage oil helps improve lung function in people with inflamed respiratory infections and disorders like acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

According to a study on 146 patients, when patients of ARDS were fed an EPA and GLA diet, they showed more significant improvements and shorter ICU stays as compared to patients that were fed a standard diet (6).

When we take borage seed supplements in capsule form, it speeds up the healing time of coughs, colds, and flu. It also reduces the time the patients spend in the hospital.

4. Aids growth in premature infants

Infants and babies that receive borage oil supplements have better rates of growth and development.

According to a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, when researchers gave a formula that included borage oil and fish oil to preterm babies, they showed a greater improvement in growth, especially boys (7).

Infant formula supplemented with borage oil helps to support the development of the central nervous system and reduces the risk associated with premature births.

According to another animal-based study, when borage oil was fed to rats for 90 days, it helped in their growth and development (8).

5. Treats gum disease

Borage oil contains anti-inflammatory properties that help in treating periodontitis, also known as gum disease.

During one study, 30 patients with periodontitis were given 12 weeks of treatment with GLA supplements. The results showed a significant decrease in probing depth, which indicated a reversal in gum disease (9).

Since borage oil is rich in GLA, taking borage oil capsule can treat gingivitis.

6. Weight loss

The high levels of GLA in borage oil help in preventing body fat accumulation. Studies have shown that GLA leads to more brown fat and less white fat. Scientists believe that brown fat acts more like muscle than white fat.

According to a 2000 diet, rats were fed a low-fat diet containing 2% safflower oil or 20 % diets containing safflower oil, borage oil containing 25 % GLA or enzymatically prepared GLA enriched borage oil containing 47% GLA for 14 days.

The high safflower oil diet compared with a low-fat diet caused significant increases in epididymal and perirenal white adipose tissue weights. High-fat diets rich in GLA did not do so (10).

7. Has cancer-fighting properties

Borage oil has antioxidant and anti-mutagenic properties, which help in fighting the growth of cancerous cells. Several laboratory studies have shown that borage oil can kill cancerous cells.

Borage oil lowers the underlying oxidative genetic damage that causes inflammation and cancerous growth.

According to a 2012 study, GLA along with gemcitabine (standard chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer) inhibits cancerous cell growth completely (11).

8. Helps treat diabetes symptoms

Borage oil is effective in the treatment of complications that may arise as a result of diabetes.

Almost 70 percent of people with diabetes suffer from diabetic neuropathy causing complications in the heart, digestive system, and the sex organs.

Diabetic neuropathy can also affect sensory, autonomous and motor nerves, which are responsible for brain and spinal functions. Taking borage oil can prevent diabetic neuropathy.

According to a 1993 study, when 111 patients with diabetic neuropathy were given 480 mg GLA per day for one year, it had a beneficial effect on the course of diabetic neuropathy (12).

Another animal-based study showed that GLA attenuates inflammation and thus helps treat diabetic nephropathy (13).

Ways to use borage oil

Borage oil is sold as capsules and in the liquid form as well. The liquid form can be used for the treatment of eczema. Borage oil capsules are more convenient for other therapies.

The FDA does not regulate borage oil supplements, so you must be careful about where you purchase these supplements. Always choose a good quality brand that sells cold pressed organic borage seed oil. Liquid borage oil can be directly applied to the skin without dilution.

Always buy capsules packed in light-resistant containers and bottles. Store the supplements in a cool and dark place.

A typical dose of borage oil can vary from 500 mg to 3 grams up to twice a day for adults. When used along with primrose oil supplements, borage oil can provide better anti-inflammatory and pain reducing effects.

Interactions and side effects

Borage oil is generally considered safe for use both internally and topically. However, some people may develop digestive issues when they take higher doses of borage oil. The symptoms may include diarrhea, belching and bloating.

Borage plant parts contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA), which are known to cause damage to the liver or cause cancer.  Always use borage oil that is PA-free.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid using borage oil. People with bleeding disorders should not use borage oil as it may increase the risk of bruising and bleeding.

It can also increase the risk of bleeding during surgery so stop taking borage oil at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Final thoughts

Borage oil is made by cold pressing the seeds of a plant known as the borage or starflower. This oil is golden yellow with a faint green hue and a strong, heady scent.

Borage oil is a rich natural source of gamma linoleic acid (GLA). The health benefits of borage oil include reducing symptoms of arthritis, treating eczema, healing respiratory infections, aiding the growth of premature infants, treating gum disease, fat loss, treating diabetes symptoms and treating cancer.

You can consume borage oil in the form of capsules and oil. However, always make sure that you buy this oil from a reputable source, that sells organic cold-pressed borage oil.