Borage seed oil

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Borage seed oil is derived from the seeds of the Borago officinalis (borage).[1]

Borage seed oil has one of the highest amounts of γ-linolenic acid (GLA) of seed oils — higher than blackcurrant seed oil or evening primrose oil, to which it is considered similar. GLA typically comprises about 24% of the oil.



GLA is converted to dihomo-γ-linolenic acid (DGLA), a precursor to a variety of the 1-series prostaglandins and the 3-series leukotrienes. It inhibits leukotriene synthesis to provide therapy in rheumatologic illness.[1] Borage seed oil may therefore have anti-inflammatory and anti-thrombotic effects and it has been studied for its potential to treat inflammatory disorders, arthritis, atopic eczema, and respiratory inflammation.[1]


In herbal medicine, borage seed oil has been used for skin disorders such as eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, and neurodermatitis; it has also been used for rheumatoid arthritis, stress, premenstrual syndrome, diabetes, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), alcoholism, pain and swelling (inflammation), and for preventing heart disease and stroke.[2] There is insufficient scientific evidence to determine the effectiveness of borage for a majority of these uses.[2]

Several clinical studies have shown it to be ineffective at treating atopic eczema.[3][4] Its efficacy to treat eczema was not better than placebo when taken orally.[5]


Adverse effects[edit]

Borage oil may contain the pyrrolizidine alkaloid amabiline,[6][7][8] which is hepatotoxic leading to a risk of liver damage.[1] Patients should use borage oil certified free of toxic unsaturated pyrrolizidine alkaloids (UPAs).[1] Consumption of 1-2 g of borage seed oil daily can result in an intake of toxic UPAs approaching 10 ug.[1] The German Federal Health Agency specifies consumption to be limited to 1 ug of UPA daily.[1]

Borage oil may be unsafe during pregnancy because preliminary studies suggest borage oil has a teratogenic effect and that its prostaglandin E agonist action may cause premature labor.[1][9]

Seizures have been reported as a complication of ingestion of borage oil in doses of 1,500 to 3,000 mg daily,[10] although a mixed review of borage oil's effect on seizure thresholds indicates that borage oil quality varies.[11] A specific extraction process may offer purified products with 50%+ GLA content.

Borage seed oil might prolong bleeding time, increase the risk of bruising and bleeding, and increase the risk of bleeding during and after surgery.[2]


Because borage oil can theoretically lower the seizure threshold due to its GLA content, it could therefore trigger a seizure in users of phenothiazines or tricyclic antidepressants.[1]

Use of NSAIDs with borage oil may theoretically decrease the effects of borage oil, as NSAIDs interfere with the synthesis of prostaglandin E.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Borage at Sloan-Kettering website
  2. ^ a b c "Borage". WebMD. Retrieved 19 February 2014.
  3. ^ Henz, BM; Jablonska, S; Van De Kerkhof, PC; Stingl, G; Blaszczyk, M; Vandervalk, PG; Veenhuizen, R; Muggli, R; Raederstorff, D (1999). "Double-blind, multicentre analysis of the efficacy of borage oil in patients with atopic eczema". The British Journal of Dermatology. 140 (4): 685–8. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2133.1999.02771.x. PMID 10233322.
  4. ^ Takwale, A; Tan, E; Agarwal, S; Barclay, G; Ahmed, I; Hotchkiss, K; Thompson, JR; Chapman, T; Berth-Jones, J (2003). "Efficacy and tolerability of borage oil in adults and children with atopic eczema: Randomised, double blind, placebo controlled, parallel group trial". BMJ (Clinical research ed.). 327 (7428): 1385. doi:10.1136/bmj.327.7428.1385. PMC 292992. PMID 14670885.
  5. ^ Bamford, JT; Ray, S; Musekiwa, A; van Gool, C; Humphreys, R; Ernst, E (Apr 30, 2013). "Oral evening primrose oil and borage oil for eczema". The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 4: CD004416. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004416.pub2. PMID 23633319.
  6. ^ Dodson, Craig D.; Stermitz, Frank R. (1986). "Pyrrolizidine alkaloids from borage (Borago officinalis) seeds and flowers". Journal of Natural Products. 49 (4): 727–728. doi:10.1021/np50046a045.
  7. ^ Parvais, O.; Vander Stricht, B.; Vanhaelen-Fastre, R.; Vanhaelen, M. (1994). "TLC detection of pyrrolizidine alkaloids in oil extracted from the seeds of Borago officinalis". Journal of Planar Chromatography--Modern TLC. 7 (1): 80–82.
  8. ^ Wretensjoe, Inger; Karlberg, Bo. (2003). "Pyrrolizidine alkaloid content in crude and processed borage oil from different processing stages". Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society. 80 (10): 963–970. doi:10.1007/s11746-003-0804-z.
  9. ^ Kast, RE (2001). "Borage oil reduction of rheumatoid arthritis activity may be mediated by increased cAMP that suppresses tumor necrosis factor-alpha". International immunopharmacology. 1 (12): 2197–9. doi:10.1016/s1567-5769(01)00146-1. PMID 11710548.
  10. ^ Al-Khamees, W. A. A.; Schwartz, M. D.; Alrashdi, S.; Algren, A. D.; Morgan, B. W. (2011). "Status Epilepticus Associated with Borage Oil Ingestion". Journal of Medical Toxicology. 7 (2): 154–157. doi:10.1007/s13181-011-0135-9. PMC 3724443. PMID 21387119.
  11. ^ Spinella, M. (2001). "Herbal Medicines and Epilepsy: The Potential for Benefit and Adverse Effects". Epilepsy & Behavior. 2 (6): 524–532. doi:10.1006/ebeh.2001.0281. PMID 12609386.