Borage is a plant native to Europe, North Africa and Asia Minor. Its small, purple flower is sometimes called the starflower. In 1985, the United Stated began mass-producing borage for its seed oils, which contain high amounts of the essential fatty acid gamma linolenic acid. Essential fatty acids are necessary to maintain good health, and while many are found in a balanced diet, supplemental intake may be beneficial.
Essential fatty acids are fats the body needs to maintain good health. They are also fats the body cannot make and, so, must come from the diet. Among these essential fatty acids is gamma linolenic acid (GLA). The body uses GLA to create prostaglandin, a hormone-like substance that is important for the smooth muscle system, blood vessel function, moderation of blood pressure and control of inflammation. Borage seeds have been found to have high levels, from 20 to 23 percent of GLA, making it a rich, natural source of this important nutrient.
Borage oil has been found to assist in many ailments, particularly in reducing inflammation and regulating blood pressure and may help to prevent blood clotting. It is also thought to be beneficial in cases of rheumatoid arthritis, diabetic neuropathy and cardiovascular disease and may benefit blood circulation. Borage oil is also thought to benefit minor depression, cough, congestion, premenstrual symptoms and menopausal symptoms.
Our skin is the largest organ of our bodies, so deficiencies inside affect the outside. Essential fatty acids are as important for skin health as for physical health. Borage oil, taken as a dietary supplement, can help promote and maintain good skin health and youthfulness by reducing dryness and helping to maintain supple, youthful skin. Studies have also indicated that GLA can help treat cases of eczema and may benefit psoriasis.
Borage oil and Diet
GLA is probably already a part of your diet as it is found in small amounts in most vegetable oils. However, taking GLA in supplemental form can have positive health benefits and may assist in treating minor ailments. Deficiency in GLA may develop with aging, glucose intolerance and will depend on your diet and the amounts of dietary fats you consume on a regular basis. Other supplemental sources for GLA are evening primrose oil (8 to 10 percent) and black current oil (15 to 17 percent). As the body cannot make essential fatty acids, they must come from the diet, and while many are simply built in, sometimes deficiencies can arise.
Borage seeds do contain small amounts of liver toxins called pyrrolizidine alkaloids, although testing has indicated that this substance does not exist in the oil derived from the seeds. Still, proceeding with caution is always advised as well as being sure of your source for dietary supplements. Taking large amounts of borage oil may cause minor stomach upset; generally up to 12 g a day is suggested. When treating any disease, it is always advised to consult a physician.