Plant of the Week: Rough and hairy plant used to boost courage


plant-1 Plant of the Week: Rough and hairy plant used to boost courage

Name: Borage (Borago officinalis)

Otherwise known as: Star flower

Habitat: An annual member of the Boraginaceae family which grows to about 70cm in quite well drained soil and favours a sunny position. It is covered in fine hairs and has a fleshy stem with large oval leaves that are topped by clusters of pale blue, star-shaped flowers in early summer. The whole plant smells of freshly cut cucumbers. Originally a native of Spain, it can now be found all over Europe and the Americas.

What does it do: The name may derive from the Arab physicians of Spain that dubbed it ‘abu arak’ (literally, father of sweat), which describes its diaphoretic properties. There is also an old French reference to the plant ‘bourrache’ arising from its appearance, ie rough and hairy.

It is thought to have been responsible for the Trojan war in so far as Helen is said to have consumed borage flowers before absconding with Paris. This may have given rise to the ancient Greek saying, ‘I, borage, brings always courage’. Indeed, crusading knights would have borage flowers embroidered on their surcoat by their wives to ensure they behaved bravely. Pliny, writing in the first century, believed that the mere act of planting or living close to the plant brought ‘ joy and happiness’. The great English herbalist John Gerard went so far as to claim ‘… it comforteth the heart, purgeth melancholy, and quieteth the phreneticke and lunaticke person’.

The plant contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, choline, and up to 24 per cent gamma-linolenic acid in the seed oil, minerals and vitamin C. This makes it antidepressant, diaphoretic, diuretic, emollient, demulcent and an adrenal gland restorative.

Traditionally used to treat depression, fatigue, respiratory and stomach disorders, it is now used to strengthen the adrenal glands which have been weakened by steroids, cortisone and similar treatments. It prevents inflammation of the intestines in cases of toxicity, allergy and infection. Borage oil is particularly rich in polyunsaturated fats and is considered to be superior to evening primrose oil in this respect. The oil is used to treat PMT and leaky-gut syndrome, externally it prevents wrinkles and drying skin in the elderly and other chronic skin conditions. A cup of borage tea will give relief from a hangover, so stock up for Christmas. Borage is a companion plant and is often grown among strawberries to increase their yield.

Young borage leaves make an excellent addition to salads and the flowers are used to give colour. They are added to summer drinks and as a flavouring to vinegars.


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Article source: Cyprus-Mail – Read more..