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Borage seed oil is an essential oil that is cold-pressed from the seeds of the borage plant. Borage is a tall, annual plant native to Syria with small purple flowers and slightly hairy leaves. The seeds, leaves and flowers of the borage plant are edible. Borage seed oil is rich in gamma-linolenic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid that helps reduce inflammation. It is used in natural preparations to treat sore joints, skin disorders, and symptoms associated with menstruation and menopause.
Used topically, borage seed oil can help reduce the inflammation and discomfort of eczema. Creams or oils containing borage seed oil are often used alongside conventional treatments for eczema such as steroids and topical creams. The essential oil can also help with other skin conditions such as acne and rosacea.
When mixed with massage oil such as grapeseed or sweet almond oil, borage seed oil can be rubbed into joints and muscles that are sore as a result of arthritis or over-exertion. Applied directly to a joint or muscle, the essential oil can help reduce swelling, stiffness, and soreness. Like most essential oils, borage seed oil should never be applied to the skin without being diluted in another oil.
Taken internally, borage has possible anti-inflammatory effects due to the high content of omega-6. For this reason, it is often used to treat inflammatory diseases such as lupus or ulcers. Omega-6 is also associated with reduced heart and artery diseases. Borage oil may be added to food after cooking, or mixed with cold water for drinking. It should always be used cold, as heat can break down the beneficial constituents.
Borage has a long history in traditional medicine as a natural treatment for many women's complaints associated with fluctuating hormones. It is often used to alleviate the discomforts of menstruation, such as breast pain and abdominal cramps. In menopausal women, borage seed oil may help reduce hot flashes and the weight gain that results from metabolic changes.
Borage seed oil is sold as capsules, tinctures, or bottles of oil. It should always be kept in a cold, dark place, and it has a limited shelf-life. Unpleasant side effects are possible from ingesting borage seed oil, such as nausea, vomiting, headaches, or jaundice. It can also interfere or interact with some medicines such as tranquilizers and blood-thinners. This medication is contraindicated for people with liver conditions and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.