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Borage

Common Name: BorageBorage Flower
Genus: Borago
Species: officinalis&
Family: Boraginaceae
AKA:  Burrage, Bee Bread, Common Bugloss, Starflower

Historical Uses:

Medical:

The leaves boyled among other pot herbs do much prevaile in making the belly soluble, they being boyled in honied water be also good against the roughnesse of the throat, and hoarsenesse, as Galen teacheth.  Syrrup made with the floures of Borage comforteth the heart, purgeth melancholy, and quieteth the phrenticke or lunaticke person. (1)

Let whoever’s eyes are cloudy break borage into pieces, smear this on a piece of red silk cloth, and put this on his or her eyes at night.  Do this often; the cloudiness of the eye will flee.  It is not harmful if some of the ointment touches the inside of the eyes.  If the piece of silk be green or white, let the person put borage juice on it and then smear it ion felt.  Place this around the entire neck, over the back of the head and right up to the ears, but not over the ears.  Do this often and the ringing of the ears will stop. (2)

Borage was used as a mild medicine. It was said to calm the heart, purge melancholy and calm lunatics.  The leaves eaten raw were said to ‘engender good blood’, or to encourage health (3).

It was known as a diuretic, demulcent, emollient.

Herbalists believed that borage imparted a sense of well-being, and the Roman scholar Pliny considered it to be an antidepressant (4).

Culinary:

Those of out time do use the floures in sallads, to exhilarate and make the mind glad.  There be also many things made of them, used every where for the comfort of the heart, for the driuing away of sorrow, and increasing the joy of the mind. (5)

The leaves and floures of borage put into wine  make men and women glad and merry, and drive away all sadnesse, dullness, and melancholy, as Dioscorides and Pliny affirme. (6)

A pot herb. The leaves and flowers of borage, although hairy, are a nice addition to a salad or sandwich. The flavor, resembling that of a cucumber, brings a cool refreshment of flavor. The flowers are also used as a candied cake décor and added to syrups. Borage is said to encourage excitement to the mind (7).

Folklore/Astrology:

A flower of Jupiter, it is warm and moist in the first degree. (8)

Additional Historical Facts:

Pliny called it Homer’s Nepenthe, capable of inducing absolute forgetfulness and named it Euphrosynum after the one of the three graces (Euphrosyne) who brought joy, since it promoted cheer and merriment. (9)

Ego Borago gaudia semper ago = I, Borage bring always courage (10)

Contemporary Uses:

Summer Drink, wine & cider:

Borage was said to encourage exhilaration and make the mind glad (11).

Candied flowers:

The flowers are made into a sweet by adding sugar. (12)

Syrup:

Can be made from the flower. (13)

Young Leaves & Flowers:

Although hairy, the flavor is cool and refreshing, tasting similar to that of a cucumber. Add to a salad or sandwich.

Cautions:

Borage may be harmful in large doses. It can be a skin irritant and possible allergen, and there is a presence of pyrrdizidine alkaloids. (14)

Plant Characteristics

Area of Origin:
Europe

Physical description:
Rough, pubescent, and rounded stems. Leaves are alternate, large, wrinkled, deep green, ovoid, with a pointed apex. Leaves are greater than 3 inches, 1 ½ inches broad with many stiff hairs one upper surface and veins. Margin is entire and wavy. Occasionally has foliage that is variegated. Flowers are purple, blue or white forming on a raceme. They are star shaped with 5 petals, dark black anthers form a cone at the center. Borage flowers appear similar to solanaceous crops such as the tomato or eggplant.

Plant type:
Annual (occasionally biennial), self-seeding.

Form:
Basal rosette growth although often forming an erect stem.

Height:
24 in. in vegetative growth; up to 36 in. during flower.

Flower color:
Purple, blue or white.

Flowering period:
June through fall frost.

Soil type:
Prefers sandy, poor soils

Soil requirements:
Prefers well-drained, sandy soils.

Ph:
Alkaline soils

Fruit:
Brownish purple nutlets containing four seeds

Hardiness zone:
Hardy annual

Sun requirements:
Prefers full sun, performing well in partial shade.

Propagation:
Sow seeds directly into soil at 2 in. depth, as the tap root prefers not to be disturbed. A hard frost is able to kill off full size plants and seedlings. When seeding for transplants, seed 2-3 weeks before last frost date.

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Bibliography

1.      Gerard, p. 796

2.      Von Bingen, p. 168

3.      Grieve, p. 119-120

4.      Orzolek,

5.      Gerard, p. 796

6.      Ibid.

7.      Grieve, p. 119-120

8.      Anderson, p. 53-54

9.      Ibid.

10.  Gerard, p. 796

11.  Grieve, p. 119-120

12.  Ibid.

13.  Ibid

14.  Bown, p. 145

 

Illustrations:

  1. Schoffer Herbal          1485
  2. PSUMG                      2011
  3. PSUMG                      2011
  4. PSUMG                      2011