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Borage Oil

Health Benefits, Uses, Side Effects & More

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Updated March 20, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Borage is a natural substance extracted from the seed of Borago officinalis, a plant found throughout the United States and Europe. Also referred to as "borage" or "borage seed oil," borage oil is rich in gamma-linoleic acid (a type of essential fatty acid that may help reduce inflammation).

Health Benefits of Borage Oil:

To date, few studies have explored the health benefits of borage oil. Here's a look at what science is out there related to borage oil's effectiveness in treatment of two health conditions:

1) Rheumatoid Arthritis

Borage oil shows promise in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder marked by inflammation in the lining of the joints, according to a research review published in 2000. Although most of the data on borage oil's effectiveness come from test-tube and animal research, several small studies indicate that borage oil may ease tenderness and swelling in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Besides borage oil, learn about other Natural Remedies For Rheumatoid Arthritis.

2) Eczema

In a 2003 study of 140 adults and children with eczema, researchers found no significant difference between those who took borage oil supplements for 12 weeks and those who took a placebo capsule for the same amount of time. An earlier study of 160 patients found that 24 weeks of treatment with borage oil supplements failed to have a significant effect on eczema.

For other remedies for eczema, see 3 Natural Remedies For Eczema.

Common Uses for Borage Oil:

In herbal medicine, borage oil is typically used to treat the following health problems:

Healthy Fats in Borage Oil:

When consumed, much of the gamma-linoleic acid in borage oil is converted to dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid. Like the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil and flaxseed, gamma-linoleic acid and dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid are known to fight inflammation. However, both substances are classified as omega-6 fatty acids.

Safety:

Although borage oil is generally considered safe, it may cause constipation in some individuals. Due to the lack of science behind borage oil's effectiveness, it's important to take caution when using borage oil supplements. If you're considering the use of borage oil in treatment of any health condition, make sure to consult your physician before starting your supplement regimen.

Sources:

Belch JJ, Hill A. "Evening primrose oil and borage oil in rheumatologic conditions." Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 71(1 Suppl):352S-6S.

Pullman-Mooar S, Laposata M, Lem D, Holman RT, Leventhal LJ, DeMarco D, Zurier RB. "Alteration of the cellular fatty acid profile and the production of eicosanoids in human monocytes by gamma-linolenic acid." Arthritis Rheum. 1990 33(10):1526-33.

Leventhal LJ, Boyce EG, Zurier RB. "Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis with gammalinolenic acid." Ann Intern Med. 1993 1;119(9):867-73.

Takwale A, Tan E, Agarwal S, Barclay G, Ahmed I, Hotchkiss K, Thompson JR, Chapman T, Berth-Jones J. "Efficacy and tolerability of borage oil in adults and children with atopic eczema: randomised, double blind, placebo controlled, parallel group trial." BMJ. 2003 13;327(7428):1385.

Henz BM, Jablonska S, van de Kerkhof PC, Stingl G, Blaszczyk M, Vandervalk PG, Veenhuizen R, Muggli R, Raederstorff D. "Double-blind, multicentre analysis of the efficacy of borage oil in patients with atopic eczema." Br J Dermatol. 1999 140(4):685-8.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. "Sloan-Kettering: Borage". August 2009.

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