Borage Oil Health Benefits and Side Effects - supplements, inflammation
and cancer.   - ZHION.COM      
2013, zhion@zhion.com
INTRODUCTION

Borage (Borago officinalis)
Borage is a plant with blue, star-shaped flowers originated from Europe and North Africa and now you can find
this plant in America. [1]

Borage Seed Oil
Borage seed oil is an oil derived from the borage seed. Borage seed oil contains high percentages of gamma
linolenic acid (GLA),  GLA is converted to dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid, a precursor to different prostaglandins
and leukotrienes. GLA inhibits leukotriene synthesis to provide therapy in rheumatologic illness. Thus, borage
seed oil may therefore have anti-inflammatory and anti-thrombotic effects and benefit people at risk of different
inflammatory disorders such as arthritis, atopic eczema, and respiratory inflammation. Borage seed oil may
further benefit people at risk of premenstrual syndrome, diabetes, scleroderma, SjogrenA's syndrome, tardive
dyskinesia, eczema, aging etc. [2, 9-14] In the next section, we are going to discuss the scientific evidence for
supporting the health benefit claims of this plant oil and related products.
____________________________________________________________________________________
SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE

Rheumatoid Arthritis
Evidence from published journal research suggests that gamma linolenic acid, the key component of borage
seed oil, increases prostaglandin E levels that increase cAMP levels that in turn suppress tumor necrosis factor-
alpha synthesis. [37] Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF alpha), a cytokine, can cause cytolysis of certain tumor cell
lines. Tumor necrosis factor-alpha has been shown to be a central mediator of inflammatory and joint
destructive processes in rheumatoid arthritis. Several clinical studies have shown the benefit of borage seed oil
on people suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, with negligible side effects. The dose is about 1.1-2.8 g / day for
at least 3 months. [3-5, 16, 17, 35 and 37]

Stress and Hypertension
In a study, researchers fed 30 subjects with supplements of borage oil, fish oil, or olive oil for 28 days.  The
researchers found that borage oil alone (1) attenuated the blood pressure and heart rate responses to stress,
(2) increased skin temperature, and (3) improved task performance.  [22] Researchers from the same group
supplied normotensive humans with different dietary oils at a dose of 4.5 ml/day for 4 wk. They found that
borage oil augmented the plasma norepinephrine and vasoconstrictor responses to -40 mmHg lower body
negative pressure, as well as the reflex vasodilation on its cessation significantly. The researchers suggest that
borage oil augments the arterial baroreflex control of vascular resistance. [24] Some other studies also show
similar effect of borage oil or borage seed oil. [40-43] Thus, borage seed oil may benefit people at risk of high
blood pressure or under stress.

Inflammatory Conditions
Borage seed oil containing a high level of GLA may benefit people at risk of different kinds of inflammatory
conditions. [21, 23,25-31] For instance, borage oil was demonstrated to modulate pulmonary inflammation,
improving lung compliance and oxygenation, and reducing time on mechanical ventilation. [33]

Researchers supplemented guinea pigs with either safflower oil (less than 0.5% GLA) or borage oil, (25% GLA)
for 8 weeks. They then analyzed the skin tissues from both groups. They found significant increases in the
amounts of the 15-hydroxy fatty acid (15-OH-20:3n-6) and prostaglandin PGE1, both metabolites of DGLA in
the borage oil fed group. Since these metabolites have anti-inflammatory benefits, intake of borage oil is likely
to benefit people at risk of certain cutaneous inflammatory skin disorders. [21] However, the result is not
reproducible in anther study. [7]

A 12-month study of 24 asthma patients shows that 2.0 g daily GLA (borage oil) modulated endogenous
inflammatory mediators without side effects. [35] GLA (borage oil) was proved to be superior to
eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) (sardine oil) in modulating the neovascular response. GLA significantly reduced
the polymorphonuclear leukocyte and macrophage inflammatory infiltrate and EPA reduced the macrophage
component. [23]

Cancer
In a vitro study, GLA has been shown to suppress tumor growth. Researchers induced prostate
adenocarcinomas in two groups of L-W rats. They then supplemented one group with GLA. At the end of
experiment, they concluded GLA reduced prostate cancer development in the rats. [32] Thus, intake of borage
seed oil may benefit people at risk of certain types of cancers. [Read:
Cancer Risk Factors]

Cholesterol
Studies of rats demonstrated that both n-6 fatty acid and n-3 fatty acids such as gamma-linolenic acid and
alpha-linolenic acid lowered serum total cholesterol and VLDL+IDL+LDL-cholesterol concentrations of rats in
the presence of excess cholesterol in the diet compared with dietary saturated fatty acid. [38,39] Thus, intake of
borage oil may benefit people at risk of high cholesterol. [Popular health supplement for high cholesterol:
red
yeast rice]

Liver Steatosis
Fatty liver is a reversible condition where large vacuoles of triglyceride fat accumulate in liver cells via the
process of steatosis (i.e. abnormal retention of lipids within a cell). Researchers induced liver steatosis in an
animal model, and then they treated the animals with borage oil. They found there was an improvement in the
liver morphology, triglyceride content and serum marker enzyme activities. [B2] Thus, intake of borage oil
theoretically may benefit people at risk of high triglyceride and fatty liver.
[My question is: why not just simply
avoid
high-glycemic index foods and/or high triglyceride foods?]

Eczema
Borage oil may benefit people suffered from eczema or other skin inflammatory conditions. Some studies have
shown the benefits of borage oil on atopic dermatitis or eczema with reduction in itching, dryness and skin
inflammation, while not all studies conclude the same. [6,8,18,19,34, B1] Users' conditions, doses, dosage
preparations are important.
______________________________________________________________________________________
Side Effects of Borage Oil Supplements
Researchers claim dietary gammalinolenic acid (GLA) can attenuate the clinical course of rheumatoid arthritis,
with negligible side effects. Takwale A at George Eliot Hospital reported borage oil supplement was well-
tolerated in adults and children suffered from atopic eczema. [36] Similarly, researchers from University of
California at Davis noticed no side effects when they applied borage oil to patients suffered from asthma (16-75
year old) for 12 months. [35]

However, minor side effects from borage oil use can include bloating, nausea, indigestion, and headache. [20]
In addition, dietary gamma-linolenic acid or borage oil is found to alter platelet membrane functioning. [43]
Consequently, if you have blood-clotting, bleeding or low blood pressure issues or if you are pregnant, you
should avoid borage oil supplements.

Evening primrose oil and borage should not be used with anticonvulsants because they may lower the seizure
threshold. [A1], Al-Khamees WA and co workers at Georgia Poison Center reported a case of status epilepticus
in a patient who consumed borage oil for one week. [A2] According to Wikipedia, status epilepticus (SE) is a life-
threatening condition in which the brain is in a state of persistent seizure. Anyway, more studies are needed to
confirm how seizure is correlated with intake of borage oil.
______________________________________________________________________________________
GRAS?
No. Borage is not found in GRAS list.

THIS ARTICLE IS FOR YOUR REFERENCE ONLY. YOU SHOULD CONSULT WITH YOUR DOCTOR IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTION
AND BEFORE TAKING ANY SUPPLEMENTS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED ZHION 2013. DO NOT COPY THIS ARTICLE TO OTHER
WEBSITE(S) NOR OTHER BLOG(S) NOR OTHER TYPES OF PUBLICATIONS.

References 1. Wren RC. PotterÂ’s New Cyclopedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations. Essex, England: C.W.
Daniel and Co., 1988, 41. 2. Horrobin DF. The importance of gamma-linolenic acid and prostaglandin E1 in
human nutrition and medicine. J Holistic Med 1981;3:118-39. 3. Pullman-Mooar S, , et al. Alteration of the
cellular fatty acid profile and the production of eicosanoids in human monocytes by gamma-linolenic acid.
Arthritis Rheum 1990;33:1526-33. 4. Leventhal LJ, Boyce EG, Zurier RB. Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis with
gammalinolenic acid. Ann Intern Med 1993;119:867-73. 5. Zurier RB, et al. Gamma-linolenic acid treatment of
rheumatoid arthritis. A randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Arthritis Rheum 1996;39:1808-17. 6. Landi G. Oral
administration of borage oil in atopic dermatitis. J Appl Cosmetology 1993;11:115-20. 7. Borreck S, et al Borage
seed oil and atopic dermatitis. Klinische Pediatrie 1997;203:100-4. 8. Tolleson A, Frithz A. Borage oil, an
effective new treatment for infantile seborrhoeic dermatitis. Br J Dermatol 1993;25:95. 9. Horrobin DF, Manku
M, Brush M, et al. Abnormalities in plasma essential fatty acid levels in women with pre-menstrual syndrome
and with non-malignant breast disease. J Nutr Med 1991;2:259–64. 10. Keen H, Payan J, Allawi J, et al.
Treatment of diabetic neuropathy with gamma-linolenic acid. Diabetes Care 1993;16:8–15. 11. Horrobin DF.
Essential fatty acid metabolism in diseases of connective tissue with special reference to scleroderma and to
Sjogren’s syndrome. Med Hypotheses 1984;14:233–47. 12. Horrobin DF, Campbell A. Sjogren’s syndrome
and the sicca syndrome: the role of prostaglandin E1 deficiency. Treatment with essential fatty acids and
vitamin C. Med Hypotheses 1980;6:225–32. 13. Vaddadi KS, Gilleard CJ. Essential fatty acids, tardive
dyskinesia, and schizophrenia. In Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids: Pathophysiology and Roles in Clinical
Medicine. Horrobin DF (ed). New York: Alan R Liss, 1990, 333–43. 14. Manku MS, Horrobin, DF, Morse NL, et al.
Essential fatty acids in the plasma phospholipids of patients with atopic eczema. Br J Dermatol 1984;110:643.
15. Horrobin DF. Essential fatty acids in clinical dermatology. J Am Acad Dermatol 1989;20:1045–53. 16.
Leventhal LJ, Boyce EG, Zurier RB. Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis with gammalinolenic acid. Ann Intern Med
1993;119:867–73. 17. Zurier RB, Rossetti RG, Jacobson EW, et al. Gamma-linolenic acid treatment of
rheumatoid arthritis. A randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Arthritis Rheum 1996;39:1808–17. 18. Landi G.
Oral administration of borage oil in atopic dermatitis. J Appl Cosmetology 1993;11:115–20. 19. Tolleson A,
Frithz A. Borage oil, an effective new treatment for infantile seborrhoeic dermatitis. Br J Dermatol 1993;25:95.
20. Awang DVC. Borage. Can Pharm J 1990;123:121–3. [21] Miller CC, Ziboh VA. Gammalinolenic acid-enriched
diet alters cutaneous eicosanoids. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 1988 Aug 15;154(3):967-74. [22] Mills DE, et
al, Dietary fatty acid supplementation alters stress reactivity and performance in man. J Hum Hypertens. 1989
Apr;3(2):111-6. [23] Ormerod LD et al, Effects of altering the eicosanoid precursor pool on neovascularization
and inflammation in the alkali-burned rabbit cornea. Am J Pathol. 1990 Nov;137(5):1243-52. [24] Mills DE, et al,
Alteration of baroreflex control of forearm vascular resistance by dietary fatty acids. Am J Physiol. 1990 Dec;259
(6 Pt 2):R1164-71. [25] Miller CC, et al, Dietary supplementation with ethyl ester concentrates of fish oil (n-3)
and borage oil (n-6) polyunsaturated fatty acids induces epidermal generation of local putative anti-
inflammatory metabolites. J Invest Dermatol. 1991 Jan;96(1):98-103. [26] Ziboh VA, Fletcher MP. Dose-
response effects of dietary gamma-linolenic acid-enriched oils on human polymorphonuclear-neutrophil
biosynthesis of leukotriene B4. Am J Clin Nutr. 1992 Jan;55(1):39-45. [27] Bahmer FA, Schafer J. Treatment of
atopic dermatitis with borage seed oil (Glandol)--a time series analytic studyKinderarztl Prax. 1992 Oct;60(7):
199-202. [28] Raederstorff D, Moser U. Borage or primrose oil added to standardized diets are equivalent
sources for gamma-linolenic acid in rats. Lipids. 1992 Dec;27(12):1018-23. [29] Tollesson A, Frithz A.
Transepidermal water loss and water content in the stratum corneum in infantile seborrhoeic dermatitis. Acta
Derm Venereol. 1993 Feb;73(1):18-20. [30] Bell JG, et al, Diets rich in eicosapentaenoic acid and gamma-
linolenic acid affect phospholipid fatty acid composition and production of prostaglandins E1, E2 and E3 in
turbot (Scophthalmus maximus), a species deficient in delta 5 fatty acid desaturase. Prostaglandins Leukot
Essent Fatty Acids. 1995 Oct;53(4):279-86. [31] Chilton-Lopez et al, Metabolism of gammalinolenic acid in
human neutrophils. J Immunol. 1996 Apr 15;156(8):2941-7. [32] Pham H, Dietary gamma-linolenate attenuates
tumor growth in a rodent model of prostatic adenocarcinoma via suppression of elevated generation of PGE(2)
and 5S-HETE. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2006 Apr;74(4):271-82. Epub 2006 Mar 29. [33]
Mizock BA, DeMichele SJ. The acute respiratory distress syndrome: role of nutritional modulation of inflammation
through dietary lipids. Nutr Clin Pract. 2004 Dec;19(6):563-74. [34] Saevik BK, Bergvall K, Holm BR, Saijonmaa-
Koulumies LE, Hedhammar A, Larsen S, Kristensen F. A randomized, controlled study to evaluate the steroid
sparing effect of essential fatty acid supplementation in the treatment of canine atopic dermatitis. Vet
Dermatol. 2004 Jun;15(3):137-45. [35] Ziboh VA, et al, Suppression of leukotriene B4 generation by ex-vivo
neutrophils isolated from asthma patients on dietary supplementation with gammalinolenic acid-containing
borage oil: possible implication in asthma. Clin Dev Immunol. 2004 Mar;11(1):13-21. [36] Takwale A, et al,
Efficacy and tolerability of borage oil in adults and children with atopic eczema: randomised, double blind,
placebo controlled, parallel group trial. BMJ. 2003 Dec 13;327(7428):1385. [37] Kast RE. Borage oil reduction of
rheumatoid arthritis activity may be mediated by increased cAMP that suppresses tumor necrosis factor-alpha.
Int Immunopharmacol. 2001 Nov;1(12):2197-9. [38] Fukushima M, et al, Investigation of gene expressions
related to cholesterol metabolism in rats fed diets enriched in n-6 or n-3 fatty acid with a cholesterol after long-
term feeding using quantitative-competitive RT-PCR analysis. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2001 Jun;47(3):228-
35. [39] Fukushima M, et al, Effects of diets enriched in n-6 or n-3 fatty acids on cholesterol metabolism in older
rats chronically fed a cholesterol-enriched diet. Lipids. 2001 Mar;36(3):261-6. [40] Engler MM, Dietary gamma-
linolenic acid lowers blood pressure and alters aortic reactivity and cholesterol metabolism in hypertension. J
Hypertens. 1992 Oct;10(10):1197-204. [41] Engler MM, Engler MB. Dietary borage oil alters plasma, hepatic
and vascular tissue fatty acid composition in spontaneously hypertensive rats. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent
Fatty Acids. 1998 Jul;59(1):11-5. [42] Engler MM, et al, Effects of dietary gamma-linolenic acid on blood
pressure and adrenal angiotensin receptors in hypertensive rats. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1998 Jul;218(3):234-
7. [43] Engler MM. Comparative study of diets enriched with evening primrose, black currant, borage or fungal
oils on blood pressure and pressor responses in spontaneously hypertensive rats. Prostaglandins Leukot
Essent Fatty Acids. 1993 Oct;49(4):809-14. [43] Barre DE, Holub BJ. The effect of borage oil consumption on
the composition of individual phospholipids in human platelets. Lipids. 1992 May;27(5):315-20. [A1] FDA
Poisonous Plant Database Herbal medicines: selected clinical considerations focusing on known or potential
drug-herb interactions Arch Intern Med, 158(20), 2200-2211 [A2] Al-Khamees WA, et al Status epilepticus
associated with borage oil ingestion. J Med Toxicol. 2011 Jun;7(2):154-7.
[B1] Kmietowicz Z. Evening primrose oil and borage oil do not help eczema symptoms, finds Cochrane review.
BMJ. 2013 Apr 29;346:f2712 [B2] Lukivskaya OY et al, Reversal of experimental ethanol-induced liver steatosis
by borage oil. Phytother Res. 2012 Nov;26(11):1626-31.