Borage comes from the Mediterranean region but grows all over the world today. It belongs to the same family as forget-me-nots. The Ancient Greeks are known to have used borage. Some historians believe that borage is the herb that Homer refers to as nepenthe. Polidamma, the Egyptian queen is recorded as having given a borage potion to Helen of Troy to ease her sadness.
Roman soldiers are said to have consumed borage mixed with wine before going into battle. It is said to have calmed their nerves and made them more courageous.
Both Pliny and Dioscorides believed borage to be effective for improving mood and acting as a sedative.
Herbalists John Parkinson and Nicholas Culpeper both recommended borage as a remedy for melancholy. Culpeper also believed the herb to be useful for treating ailments as diverse as jaundice and snakebite.
Charles Dickens enjoyed borage, which was one of the ingredients in a punch he made that also contained brandy, sherry, and cider.
The borage name comes from the Latin word borrago, which originated with the Arabic abu araq or abu buraq. This means father of sweat and has to do with diaphoretic effects that borage was perceived to have. Borage was in some cases called bugloss by herbalists. This was incorrect since bugloss is the name for Anchusa officinalis, which is another plant entirely. Other names for borage include ox-tongue — due to the rough texture of the leaves — and bee bread.
Borage flavor profile
The flavor of young borage leaves is similar to the flavor of cucumber; in particular, the peel of the cucumber. Old borage leaves should be avoided as they tend to be bitter and have a rough texture. Borage flowers are edible as well and have a flavor profile similar to that of honey.
Health benefits of borage
Borage is a highly nutritious plant with health benefits that come from nutrients like:
- Gamma linoleic acid (GLA): Borage is a great source of GLA, which is an omega 6 fatty acid.
- Vitamins: Borage is a good source of vitamins including vitamins A and C. It also contains high concentrations of B vitamins such as vitamin B3, also known as niacin.
- Minerals: You can get a significant amount of iron, potassium and calcium from borage.
- Fiber: Borage contains a considerable amount of dietary fiber.
Use borage to treat or prevent ailments and health issues like:
- Heart disease: The GLA, fiber and niacin in borage can provide protection from cardiovascular illness.
- Inflammatory diseases: Eczema and arthritis are two inflammatory conditions that might be improved with the use of borage due to the GLA that it contains.
- Health concerns: Borage is like comfrey in that it contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which are toxic and can cause liver damage.
The cucumber flavor of young borage leaves makes the herb a great addition to salads, which is also one of the traditional uses. The flavor also makes it a great addition to Greek tzatziki, which typically relies heavily on cucumber for its taste. In Germany, borage is used for making green sauce. In Italy, it is used as a filling for ravioli. In addition to its raw applications, borage can also be cooked down like spinach and other greens. Cooked borage becomes very tender and similar to spinach in its consistency. The flowers can be battered and fried or candied and used to decorate cakes.
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