Borage oil: Health benefits and Side effects

Edited By: Dr. Asha Jyoti Bharati


Borage oil is obtained from the seeds of the borage plant scientifically known as Borago officinalis of family Boraginaceae. It is also known as starflower oil, is an annual plant used since ancient times for culinary and medicinal purposes.


Borago officinalis is native to the Mediterranean region, North Africa and the Middle East and distributed throughout the world.

Common name and general description

Starflower oil, Borage oil, and Gaozaban or Lisan al-Thawr oil is the common names of Borage oil.

Recently, interest in borage has been renewed because of its seed oil which is used for different medical and nutritional benefits. Borage oil is considered as one of the best sources of gamma-linolenic (all cis-6,9,12-octadecatrienoic acid (GLA)) 26-38% oil that accounts for 17-28% of the oil and used as a dietary supplement for the prevention and/or treatment of various degenerative pathologies illnesses.

Constituents of Borage oil

Borage oil contains mainly triacylglycerol (95%), while 5% presents minor components composed of tocopherols, flavonoids, phospholipids, sterols, free fatty acids and also mono-and diacylglycerols

Health benefit of Borage oil

Borage oil is used for the prevention and/or treatment of various degenerative pathologies such as osteoporosis, blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, liver disease, cytotoxic and free radical scavenging activities (1).

1. Treat rheumatoid arthritis

Borage oil contains a large amount of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). It treats the signs and symptoms of inflammatory rheumatoid arthritis activity, with negligible side effects (2). It also reduces pain intensity, improved disability thus this oil has potential benefit in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) (3). 

2. Healthy skin

Borage oil is a rich source of omega-6 fatty acids which leads to a decrease in skin roughness, transepidermal water loss (TEWL), itching and scaling. 

Thus ingestion of borage oil for 12 weeks improves skin moisture and TEWL as well as firmness and improves cutaneous barrier function (4).  Borage oil also restores acidic skin pH and increased epidermal levels of lactate, most free fatty acids (FFAs), and free amino acids (FAAs) which is generated by lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), secreted phospholipase A2 (sPLA2), or filaggrin degradation with peptidyl arginine deiminase-3 (PADI3) (5).

3. Borage oil helps in Treating acne

The study suggested that borage oil (400 mg γ-linoleic acid) supplementation decrease both inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne lesions without any side effects. Therefore this oil may be used as adjuvant treatments for acne patients (mild to moderate acne vulgaris) (6).

4. Treat atopic dermatitis

Borage oil contains two to three times more GLA than any other oil which is beneficial to prevent the development of atopic dermatitis. However this oil majorly effective on less severe atopic dermatitis (7).

5. Treat Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is sudden and serious lung failure in which fluid collects in the air sacs of the lungs, depriving organs of oxygen. However high-fat, low-carbohydrate formula supplemented with EPA, GLA, and antioxidants of borage oil improved oxygenation, reduced time on mechanical ventilation decreasing mortality, length and new organ dysfunction. Therefore, borage oil shows a wonderful effect in adults patients with ARDS (8).

6. Treat osteoporosis

Borage oil lifelong supplementation decreases inflammation and improves bone health because it contains high γ-linolenic acid which inhibits osteoclastic resorption, restores inflammation and preventing age-related locomotor dysfunctions (9).  

7. Protect from a neurodegenerative disorder

Borage oil contains a good amount of gamma-linolenic acid which improve memory impairment by scavenging free radicals, inhibits reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation, inhibits the effects of inflammatory proteins and protect from neurotoxicity.  Thus borage oil improves the learning impairment and oxidative damage may lead to an improvement of Alzheimer’s disease induced cognitive dysfunction (10).

8. Treat hypertension

Gamma-linolenic acid (18-25 %) present in borage oil increase membrane fluidity, which in turn influences membrane receptor function, enhances the levels of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the plasma, liver and vascular tissue (11). Therefore, this oil reduces blood pressure attenuates the development of hypertension which is a major risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease (12).

9. Treat liver disease

Consumption of borage oil which is rich in γ-linolenic acid (GLA) may provide protection against γ-irradiation-induced toxicity by improving serum levels of liver enzymes, lipids profile, as well as serum and hepatic GSH and MDA levels (13). 

Therefore, borage oil may be used as a beneficial supplement for patients during radiotherapy treatment.  Furthermore, borage oil improved the liver morphology, decreased triglyceride contents and normalized serum marker enzyme activities thus protect against liver alcoholic steatosis with its antioxidant properties (14).  

10. Prevent Heart attack

Borage oil contains a high amount of anti-inflammatory substances which reduces heart failure by creating a slow down process of cardiac arrest and improve the patient’s condition after myocardial infarction. Thus, borage oil protects against heart attacks and strokes (15). 

Moreover, borage oil activates macrophage autophagy, improve mitochondrial function, and attenuate the NLRP3 inflammasome activation. These results may inform future dietary recommendations to reduce cardiovascular disease and promote public health (16).

11. Treat Menstrual pain (dysmenorrhea)

Menstrual pain (dysmenorrhea) is a common problem with symptoms like headache, nausea, constipation or diarrhea, urinary frequency, and vomiting. Borage oil (rich in GLA) converts linoleic acid, via gamma-linolenic acid, to dihomo-gamma-linolenic without any side-effects. Thus borage oil may be very helpful for drug treatments of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms (17).

12. Prevent obesity

Borage oil contains omega-6 fatty acids which promote weight loss and reduce energy efficiency and prevents white adipose tissue accumulation without affecting food intake. Moreover, this oil also increases serum HDL-cholesterol levels, improves insulin resistance and promotes the down-regulation of Cebpa, an adipogenesis-related gene thus prevent weight gain (18).

13. Prevent cancer

Borage oil is non- toxic and its main component GLA show DNA safe (non-genotoxic), antioxidants and antimutagenic properties which inhibit the growth of cancerous cells and promote apoptosis (19). 

Side effect of Borage oil

As we know that borage oil may be helpful for prevention of sensitization, eczema or atopic dermatitis, allergic rhinitis, asthma, and other allergic disorders. But borage oil shows only short term effects in pregnant and breastfeeding women (20). 

Risk of epileptic

A research study suggested that borage oil contain a un-identified toxin which causes gelastic seizures progressing to status epilepticus after ingestion. Thus before intake of borage oil precautions should be needed if you are already seizure patient because it can be a dangerous result in patient’s illness (21).

Unsafe for pregnant women

Borage oil contains an alkaloids namely pyrrolizidine alkaloid N-oxides which is unsafe to pregnant women and newborn children as it is carcinogenic in nature.




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