Borage (borago officinalis), commonly called “starflower”, is a well known herb which is indigenous to North Europe, North Africa and Asia Minor but can now be found in almost all temperate regions of the world.
The plant grows 18″ to 36″ high and spreads 12″ to 20″ wide. The leaves can become straggly and messy, but its abundant bright blue, star-shaped flowers, which bloom most of the summer, make the plant one of the prettiest and most colorful herbs. It can frequently be found bordering herb and vegetable gardens, and it is reported that fields of cultivated borage plants in North America create a vivid green and purple landscape.
Borage has a long and colorful history which dates back to Roman times when it was purported to “dispel melancholy and induce euphoria”. The historian, Pliny, wrote about its virtues in his Historia Naturalis. He described it as an anti-depressant “because it maketh a man merrie & joyfull”. In Elizabethan times, the flowers were considered to “make the mind glad”.
Today, borage is commercially grown for the very valuable oil found in its seeds. The great value of this oil is that it produces the highest yield (up to 24%) of gamma-linolenic acid*. Interest in GLA and borage has intensified within the last 10 to 20 years as research has revealed the great benefits and far-reaching effects of this essential fatty acid.
*GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid which is essential to the body but is not commonly available in the average diet.