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Borage is a weedy, medicinal herb that is thousands of years old. Ranging in color from white to blue and pink, borage flowers typically feature five petals, a fuzzy stem and ovoid leaves. Herbal practitioners serve borage flowers and leaves as tea to soothe frayed nerves, promote healing after surgery, and tone the digestive system. In organic gardening, it generally makes a good companion plant for strawberries, legumes, and tomatoes. The leaves and flowers may also be added to any recipe calling for spinach.
In ancient and medieval times, borage tea was served to convalescents, women recovering from childbirth, and warriors coming down from the adrenaline of battle. The tea reportedly helps both internal and external wounds mend more quickly and helps balance internal chemicals. It may also help women cope with the hormonal changes and cramps associated with menstruation. Pregnant women should avoid borage flowers because consuming too much of them could harm the fetus.
Making borage tea is a simple matter of adding about two spoonfuls of torn borage flowers and leaves to a mug of boiling hot water. The tea should be allowed to steep for about 10 minutes, then sweetened with honey, if necessary. Borage's flavor is usually very mild and slightly sweet.
Some prefer to take borage with wine, especially those consuming the herb to promote calm. In this case, torn fresh borage flowers and leaves are simply simmered with red or blush wine for about five minutes. To make this soothing beverage into a cocktail, strawberries, pears, and even peaches can be added to the mix. The light sweetness of the borage flowers may help cover the acidity of the wine and bring out the sweetness of the fruit.
In addition to being used as a medicinal tea, the macerated leaves may also be applied to stings, rashes, eczema, and inflammation. A poultice is simply a mixture of torn and mashed borage leaves wrapped in a thin cotton cloth. The plant matter is sometimes gently steamed to help the juices flow. The poultice is then applied to the affected area and changed every few hours. It may be held in place with medical tape, if necessary.
Cooks often enjoy using borage flowers and leaves as ingredients in beverages, salads, and even desserts. When crushed and added to cocktails, punches, and fruit juice mixes, the leaves often give beverages a bright, summery freshness. The flowers, also edible, generally make pretty garnishes and can even be dipped in a mixture of egg whites and sugar to make them sweet. The flowers and leaves may both make appearances in savory salads and fruit salads.
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