I, Borage, bring always courage.
For this year’s Herbstalk we decided to choose one herb to feature throughout the event. We wanted an herb that is uplifting and joyful, spirited and beautiful, one that would serve as a symbol for the whole gathering. And so what could be more appropriate than the happy-spirited, star-flowered, and prolificly-growing borage plant?…
Borage (Borago officinalis) is native to the Mediterranean and Middle East, and is also commonly grown and used throughout Europe. Here in the U.S. it is widely known for its lovely flowers, but is not so well known for its medicinal properties. By choosing borage for Herbstalk we hoped to shed some light on its many healing virtues since this bright beauty has many gifts to offer, and favorably acts on both the human body and emotions.
Borage is traditionally known to be a plant of gladness, with a unique ability to bestow not only joy, but courage. Floated in the wine cups of Crusaders before they went off to the battlefield, borage was believed to help overcome fear and embolden the heart.
Borago officinalis. Watercolor by Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues (about 1568).
Though most of us are no longer galloping off into battle, borage can be very useful for our modern-day battles, and particularly for urban stresses and worries.
The leaves of borage are very nutritive and contain silicon, potassium, and calcium. Just tasting the tea gives a clue of its mineral content – the salty, mineral-rich taste is quite perceptive. Because of this mineral content, borage, like many other deeply nutritive nervine tonics (i.e., nettles and oatstraw) have a rebuilding and tonifying effect on the whole nervous system. As Mrs. Grieve writes in A Modern Herbal, “It is to these saline qualities that the wholesome invigorating properties of Borage are supposed to be due.”
Borage also assists people who have become burnt-out or exhausted by over-work and stress. It is calming, cooling and restorative. And although it is not a traditional use, I feel that borage is a good herb for city people to turn to when there are too many auditory stresses. Borage seems to be good for soothing sensitive folks who are surrounded by sirens, horns, traffic noises, and electronic rings. The way that borage nourishes the nervous system is effective in soothing frazzled nerves in an over-stimulated and noisy environment.
The English herbalist John Gerard referred to borage’s uplifting and antidepressant properties, writing that: “The leaves and floures of Borrage put into wine make men and women glad and merry, driving away all sadnesse, dulnesse, and melancholy.”
Borage: Part II, will be posted on Wednesday….
Submitted by Steph Zabel of Flowerfolk Herbal Apothecary.