The Benefits of Borage Oil

Health Benefits, Uses, Side Effects & More

borage seed oil
Borage oil is derived from the seeds of the borage plant. Steve Gorton/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

Borage oil is pressed from the seeds of the Borago officinalis plant, which is found throughout the United States and Europe. Also referred to as "borage seed oil," borage oil is rich in gamma-linoleic acid (a type of essential fatty acid).

When consumed, much of the gamma-linoleic acid in borage oil is converted to dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid. Like the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil and flaxseed, gamma-linoleic acid and dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid may help reduce inflammation.

However, both substances are classified as omega-6 fatty acids.

Uses for Borage Oil

In herbal medicine, borage oil is typically used to treat the following health problems: rheumatoid arthritis, chest congestion, coughdepression, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and menopausal symptoms. It is often used for hair and skin conditions such as hair loss, eczema, and acne.

Health Benefits of Borage Oil

To date, few studies have explored the health benefits of borage oil. Here's a look at the research related to borage oil's effectiveness for health conditions:

1) Rheumatoid Arthritis

Borage oil shows promise in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder marked by inflammation in the lining of the joints, according to a research review published in 2000. Although most of the data on borage oil's effectiveness come from test-tube and animal research, several small studies indicate that borage oil may ease tenderness and swelling in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Besides borage oil, learn about other Natural Remedies For Rheumatoid Arthritis.

2) Eczema

In a 2003 study of 140 adults and children with eczema, researchers found no significant difference between those who took borage oil supplements for 12 weeks and those who took a placebo capsule for the same amount of time.

An earlier study of 160 patients found that 24 weeks of treatment with borage oil supplements failed to have a significant effect on eczema.

For other remedies for eczema, see 3 Natural Remedies For Eczema.

Caveats

The borage plant (including the leaves, flowers, and seeds) can contain potentially harmful chemicals called pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which in humans can damage the liver or be carcinogenic, particularly when used regularly or in high doses. Although some products claim to be free of pyrrolizidine alkaloids, keep in mind that supplements are not regulated in most countries.

Borage oil may cause constipation in some individuals. It may prolong bleeding time and increase the risk of bleeding, particularly in people with bleeding disorders and those taking medications that slow blood clotting (such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and warfarin). 

Pregnant and nursing women should avoid borage seed oil. One review suggests that it should be contraindicated during pregnancy given the labor-inducing and teratogenic effects of prostaglandin E agonists.

Due to the lack of science behind borage oil's effectiveness or safety, it's important to take caution when using borage oil supplements. If you're considering the use of borage oil in treatment of any health condition, make sure to consult your physician before starting your supplement regimen.

Sources:

Belch JJ, Hill A. "Evening primrose oil and borage oil in rheumatologic conditions." Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 71(1 Suppl):352S-6S.

Kast RE. Borage oil reduction of rheumatoid arthritis activity may be mediated by increased cAMP that suppresses tumor necrosis factor-alpha. Int Immunopharmacol. 2001 Nov;1(12):2197-9.

Pullman-Mooar S, Laposata M, Lem D, Holman RT, Leventhal LJ, DeMarco D, Zurier RB. "Alteration of the cellular fatty acid profile and the production of eicosanoids in human monocytes by gamma-linolenic acid." Arthritis Rheum. 1990 33(10):1526-33.

Leventhal LJ, Boyce EG, Zurier RB. "Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis with gammalinolenic acid." Ann Intern Med. 1993 1;119(9):867-73.

Takwale A, Tan E, Agarwal S, Barclay G, Ahmed I, Hotchkiss K, Thompson JR, Chapman T, Berth-Jones J. "Efficacy and tolerability of borage oil in adults and children with atopic eczema: randomised, double blind, placebo controlled, parallel group trial." BMJ. 2003 13;327(7428):1385.

Henz BM, Jablonska S, van de Kerkhof PC, Stingl G, Blaszczyk M, Vandervalk PG, Veenhuizen R, Muggli R, Raederstorff D. "Double-blind, multicentre analysis of the efficacy of borage oil in patients with atopic eczema." Br J Dermatol. 1999 140(4):685-8.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. "Sloan-Kettering: Borage". August 2009.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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