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Toxic parts

The plant, but not the oil obtained from the seeds, contains small amounts of pyrrolizidine alkaloids that can cause liver damage and liver cancer[1]. These alkaloids are present in too small a quantity to be harmful unless you make borage a major part of your diet, though people with liver problems would be wise to avoid using the leaves or flowers of this plant[K].

Edible uses


Leaves - raw or cooked[2][3][4][5][6][7]. They can be used as a pot-herb or be added to salads[8]. They are also added whole as a flavouring to various drinks such as Pimms and wine-based drinks[1]. The leaves are rich in potassium and calcium, they have a salty cucumber flavour[9]. Very hairy, the whole leaves have an unpleasant feeling in the mouth and so they are best chopped up finely and added to other leaves when eaten in a salad[K]. The leaves should always be used fresh, because they lose their flavour and colour if dried[10].

Flowers - raw. They are used as a decorative garnish on salads and summer fruit drinks[2][3][4][5][7]. The flowers are very nice, both to look at and to taste with a sweet slightly cucumber-like flavour[K]. A refreshing tea is made from the leaves and/or the flowers[11][7]. The dried stems are used for flavouring beverages[7]. The seed yields 30% oil, 20% of which is gamma-linolenic acid[12]. Total yields are 0.35 - 0.65 tonnes per hectare[12]. Unfortunately, the seed ripens intermittently over a period of time and falls from the plant when it is ripe, this makes harvesting the seeds in quantity very difficult[K].

An edible blue dye can be obtained from the flowers. It is used to colour vinegar[7].

Unknown part



Material uses

The growing plant is said to repel insects[5]. A blue dye is obtained from the flowers[4]. This turns pink on contact with acids[1].

Unknown part

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

Borage is a fairly common domestic herbal remedy that has been used since ancient times[10]. It has a particularly good reputation for its beneficial affect on the mind, being used to dispel melancholy and induce euphoria[10]. It is a soothing saline, diuretic herb that soothes damaged or irritated tissues[1].

The leaves, and to a lesser extent the flowers, are demulcent, diaphoretic, depurative, mildly diuretic, emollient, expectorant, febrifuge, lenitive and mildly sedative[8][4][13][5][14][1]. An infusion is taken internally in the treatment of a range of ailments including fevers, chest problems and kidney problems[8], though it should not be prescribed to people with liver problems. Externally it is used as a poultice for inflammatory swellings[8][4]. The leaves are harvested in late spring and the summer as the plant comes into flower. They can be used fresh or dried but should not be stored for more than one year because they soon lose their medicinal properties[1].

The seeds are a rich source of gamma-linolenic acid, this oil helps to regulate the hormonal systems and lowers blood pressure[1]. It is used both internally and externally, helping to relieve skin complaints and pre-menstrual tension[1].


Ecosystem niche/layer

Ecological Functions

Nothing listed.


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Seed - sow April/May in situ. The plants quickly develop a stout tap-root and do not transplant successfully[1]. The seed can also be sown in situ in the autumn, this will produce larger plants and earlier flowering[8]. The plant usually self-sows prolifically.

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Borago officinalis. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.


A very easily grown plant, succeeding in ordinary garden soil[15], preferring a dry soil[16] and a sunny position[17]. It grows particularly well in loose, stony soils with some chalk and sand[10]. Plants are tolerant of poor dry soils, though much bigger specimens are produced when the plants are growing in better conditions[1]. Tolerates a pH in the range 4.8 to 8.3.

Borage is often grown as a culinary plant in the herb garden[15][4]. Although an annual, it usually maintains itself by self-sowing, sometimes in quite a prolific manner, as long as the soil is disturbed by hoeing etc[5][18]. Plants often develop mildew when growing in dry conditions or towards the end of the growing season[1]. Flowers are a deeper blue when grown in poorer soils[17]. The flowers are rich in a sweet nectar and are very attractive to bees[4][5][19][20][10].

The growing plant is a good companion for strawberries, tomatoes, courgettes and most other plants[5][14][1]. It is said to deter Japanese beetle and tomato hornworms[1].


Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Borago officinalis. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Borago officinalis.




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Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Binomial name
Borago officinalis
Imported References
Material uses & Functions
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
full sun
light shade
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
  • Drought
Native Climate Zones
None listed.
Adapted Climate Zones
None listed.
Native Geographical Range
None listed.
Native Environment
None listed.
Ecosystem Niche
None listed.
Root Zone Tendancy
None listed.
Deciduous or Evergreen
Herbaceous or Woody
Life Cycle
Growth Rate
Mature Size
Flower Colour
Flower Type

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  1. ? Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London. ISBN 0-7513-020-31 (1995-00-00)
  2. ? Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World. Dover Publications ISBN 0-486-20459-6 (1972-00-00)
  3. ? Mabey. R. Food for Free. Collins ISBN 0-00-219060-5 (1974-00-00)
  4. ? Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants. MacDonald ISBN 0-356-10541-5 (1984-00-00)
  5. ? Holtom. J. and Hylton. W. Complete Guide to Herbs. Rodale Press ISBN 0-87857-262-7 (1979-00-00)
  6. ? 6.06.1 Johnson. C. P. The Useful Plants of Great Britain. ()
  7. ? Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications ISBN 0-9628087-0-9 (1990-00-00)
  8. ? Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Penguin ISBN 0-14-046-440-9 (1984-00-00)
  9. ? Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (1992-00-00)
  10. ? Phillips. R. & Foy. N. Herbs Pan Books Ltd. London. ISBN 0-330-30725-8 (1990-00-00)
  11. ? 11.011.1 Lust. J. The Herb Book. Bantam books ISBN 0-553-23827-2 (1983-00-00)
  12. ? Carruthers. S. P. (Editor) Alternative Enterprises for Agriculture in the UK. Centre for Agricultural Strategy, Univ. of Reading ISBN 0704909820 (1986-00-00)
  13. ? 13.013.1 Launert. E. Edible and Medicinal Plants. Hamlyn ISBN 0-600-37216-2 (1981-00-00)
  14. ? Allardice.P. A - Z of Companion Planting. Cassell Publishers Ltd. ISBN 0-304-34324-2 (1993-00-00)
  15. ? 15.015.1 F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press (1951-00-00)
  16. ? Thompson. B. The Gardener's Assistant. Blackie and Son. (1878-00-00)
  17. ? 17.017.1 Bird. R. (Editor) Growing from Seed. Volume 3. Thompson and Morgan. (1989-00-00)
  18. ? Brickell. C. The RHS Gardener's Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers Dorling Kindersley Publishers Ltd. ISBN 0-86318-386-7 (1990-00-00)
  19. ? Riotte. L. Companion Planting for Successful Gardening. Garden Way, Vermont, USA. ISBN 0-88266-064-0 (1978-00-00)
  20. ? International Bee Research Association. Garden Plants Valuable to Bees. International Bee Research Association. (1981-00-00)

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