Borage Oil: Benefits and Uses

Borage oil can treat eczema, improve the growth of premature babies and cure respiratory infections. Find out other ways it can benefit your health, as well as its side effects.
Borage Oil: Benefits and Uses

Last update: 25 July, 2021

Borage oil comes from the borago officinalis plant. It’s between 60 and 100 centimeters tall and belongs to the Boraginaceae family. Although it’s native to Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt, borage is cultivated, used and consumed throughout the Mediterranean region, both its stems and leaves, as well as its oil and infusion.

The oil, which is made from the seeds of the plant of the same name, provides various benefits and its uses date back to ancient times. Nowadays, popular medicine often uses it to treat inflammation, acne, eczema and even breast pain and menopause. Find out everything you need to know about this extract.

What is borage oil for?

Borage oil drops
Borage oil is commonly used to combat skin disorders.

Borage oil has several uses in traditional medicine. Many people use it to combat skin disorders such as acne, eczema, and rosacea; this is because it’s rich in niacin and vitamin B3, known to help maintain healthy skin, as well as for its emollient and toning action.

Similarly, it’s a source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), linked to positive effects on blood pressure, high cholesterol and the regulation of hormones such as estrogens.

In addition, there’s anecdotal evidence that doctors could use it in treatment of other conditions such as arthritis, adrenal fatigue, diabetes, epilepsy and scleroderma, among others.

Composition and potential benefits

Borage oil is a source of active compounds that give it important health benefits. Below you’ll see some of the compounds and possible benefits that this oil can offer.

1. Contains linolenic acid

Linoleic acid, also called gamma-linolenic acid or GLA, is an essential fatty acid of the omega-6 series. The body transforms it into prostaglandin E1 (PGE1). This molecule functions as a hormone and reduces inflammation associated with skin conditions as well as cardiovascular problems.

Borage oil has caught the attention of many for its GLA content. Some believe it has higher levels than any other oil made from seeds. However, researchers need to keep working to confirm this belief.

2. It may have anti-inflammatory properties

According to research published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, taking 1.8 grams of borage oil or 2.1 grams of fish oil a day may reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

The study also showed that these oils could replace non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in some people, as well as preventing the side effects associated with taking them.

3. May treat eczema

A review of studies which have looked into using borage oil topically concluded that it has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may be beneficial in treating eczema or atopic dermatitis.

However, another review of studies in which researchers used it orally noted that Borago officinalis oil showed no effect in people with eczema, so it’s believed that the topical version may be more effective for treating skin disorders than the oral version.

4. May improve growth in premature infants

According to a study published in The Journal of Pediatrics, premature infants who took a formula supplemented with borage oil and fish oil showed greater growth and development than those who received a standard formula.

5. May help alleviate respiratory infections

Research on 146 patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) showed that those who received a tube feeding that included eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and linoleic acid (GLA) showed improvement and spent less time in intensive care than those who had a standard diet.

6. It has antioxidant properties

There’s scientific evidence that Borago officinalis oil has antioxidant and antimutagenic activity that may inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

The laboratory study suggests that both borage oil and GLA act as cytotoxic substances, thus shortening the life of the harmful cells and prolonging the life of the host. However, we need further studies on these effects.

7. May reduce fat accumulation and weight gain

According to a study published in Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, the GLA present in borage oil causes less body fat to accumulate than with other vegetable oils.

Likewise, the accumulation caused by GLA is mostly brown fat and not white fat. This is important, since thin people tend to have more brown fat than those who are obese or overweight.

Consuming borage oil
You should consume and apply borage oil under medical supervision.

Contraindications and side effects

The side effects of borage oil depend on the format the person uses or consumes it in. Supplements, for example, may cause headache, bloating, indigestion, nausea and vomiting.

On the other hand, when used topically, there’s a risk of suffering an allergic reaction, such as hives, rash, inflammation, difficulty breathing, sudden fatigue, among others. In this case, you should call your doctor immediately.

There are some adverse effects that may be less common and, therefore, more serious. Since some borage oil formulas can affect the liver, it isn’t recommended for patients with liver disease or taking medications related to liver health. You should always consult with your physician before ingesting it.

Also, it’s been documented that excessive intake may have detrimental health effects. There’s scientific evidence that one woman experienced sudden epileptic seizures after ingesting 1,500 to 3,000 milligrams of borage oil daily for a week.

Although this case alone doesn’t mean that oral borage oil causes epilepsy, there’s a possibility that it does. This is why you should be careful when consuming or applying it. 

Dosage and recommendations for use of borage oil

There’s no specific dosage for taking or applying borage oil. However, a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested that lactating women can take between 230 and 460 milligrams.

Meanwhile, research published in the Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics found that between 360 and 720 milligrams can be effective in treating skin conditions in adults over the age of 65.

However, when purchasing oral supplements, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and, of course, consume them under medical supervision. In case of using it for the skin, keep in mind that you must dilute it in a carrier oil; mix up to 12 drops per ounce of base oil, which could be jojoba or olive oil.

As for applying the oil, consider administering a thin layer to the affected area twice a day. Another option is to coat the inside of a t-shirt with oil and tape it to the skin; this is especially useful for areas such as the back.

Borage oil, an extract of varied benefits and uses

Borage or Borago officinalis is a plant of the Boraginaceae family native to the Mediterranean region. Its oil provides benefits such as treating eczema, relieving symptoms of respiratory infections and even reducing fat accumulation.

However, you should be careful not to ingest excessive amounts. Also, avoid its consumption if you suffer from liver disease, or are taking medications that affect this organ. Before consuming or using it, we recommend medical consultation.

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