Borago officinalis (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Borago officinalis L.

Family: Boraginaceae

Vernacular names

  • Borage, beebread, talewort (En)
  • Bourrache, borrage (Fr)


Native to the north-eastern Mediterranean. Escaped from cultivation in the rest of the Mediterranean and large parts of Europe, Asia and America. Cultivated in almost all of Europe and North America, India, China and New Zealand. In Java cultivated in mountain regions and in the Philippines grown on several farms in Cavite province.


The leaves and flowers are used fresh as a herb or garnish in salads, or cooked as a vegetable and in soups. Dried leaves may be used for flavouring and to make a tea. The seeds are used as a source of oil containing unsaturated fatty acids. Borage is credited with sudorific, emollient and diuretic properties and is an excellent bee-feeding plant. Borage, especially the flowers, is in demand by international hotels and food establishments in the Philippines.


  • Erect, annual, hispid herb, 0.2-1.2 m tall. Stem thick, angular, hollow.
  • Leaves alternate, simple; lower petioles up to 8 cm long; blade ovate-elliptical to oblong, 3-24 cm × 2-12 cm, sparsely bristly, veins prominent beneath.
  • Inflorescence a corymb with many-flowered cincinnate partial inflorescences; pedicel up to 2 cm long, initially erect and nodding at the apex, later elongate and patent-deflexed
  • Flowers bisexual, 5-merous; calyx deeply divided, with narrow lobes as long as corolla or shorter, much enlarged after anthesis; corolla stellate, blue, rarely white or pink, 1.5-3.5 cm across, corolla tube short, lobes acute, throat with protruding scales; filaments with an appendage; anthers connivent, much exserted, longer than filaments; ovary deeply 4-partite; style long.
  • Fruit consisting of 4 nutlets; nutlet oblong, 0.5-1 cm long, ribbed-tuberculate, the hollow base having an appendage.

In Java B. officinalis flowers throughout the year. The seeds contain 28-35% fatty acids, including gamma-linolenic acid (18-25% of total fatty acids), which has been reported to be beneficial in the treatment of hypertension, high cholesterol levels, eczema and other disorders. It also contains erucic acid, which may be harmful in large doses.

Selected sources

  • Backer, C.A. & Bakhuizen van den Brink Jr, R.C., 1963-1968. Flora of Java. 3 volumes. Wolters‑Noordhoff, Groningen, the Netherlands. Vol. 1 (1963), 647 pp., Vol. 2 (1965), 641 pp., Vol. 3 (1968), 761 pp.
  • Bruneton, J., 1995. Pharmacognosy, phytochemistry, medicinal plants. Lavoisier Publishing, Paris, France. 915 pp.
  • Galwey, N.W. & Shirlin, A., 1990. Selection of borage (Borago officinalis) as a seed crop for pharmaceutical uses. Heredity 65(2): 249-257.
  • Hegi, G., 1906-1931. Illustrierte Flora von Mitteleuropa [Illustrated flora of Central Europe]. 7 volumes. Lehmanns Verlag, München, Germany. (2nd and 3rd editions, 1935- .)
  • Huxley, A., Griffiths, M. & Levy, M. (Editors), 1992. The new Royal Horticultural Society dictionary of gardening. 4 volumes. The Macmillan Press, London, United Kingdom.
  • Mansfeld, R., 1986. Verzeichnis landwirtschaftlicher und gärtnerischer Kulturpflanzen (ohne Zierpflanzen) [Register of agricultural and horticultural plants in cultivation (without ornamentals)]. Schultze‑Motel, J. et al., editors 2nd edition, 4 volumes. Springer Verlag, Berlin, Germany. 1998 pp.
  • Prakash, V., 1990. Leafy spices. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, United States. 114 pp.
  • Rehm, S., 1994. Multilingual dictionary of agronomic plants. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, the Netherlands. 286 pp.
  • Rehm, S. & Espig, G., 1991. The cultivated plants of the tropics and subtropics. Cultivation, economic value, utilization. Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Co-operation (CTA), Ede, the Netherlands & Verlag Josef Margraf, Weikersheim, Germany. 552 pp.
  • Small, E., 1997. Culinary herbs. National Research Council of Canada. NRC Research Press, Ottawa, Canada. 710 pp.
  • Whipkey, A., Simon, J.E. & Janick, J., 1988. In vivo and in vitro lipid accumulation in Borago officinalis L. Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society 65(6): 979-984.


P.C.M. Jansen, M. Brink