Published in 1611, Mattioli the herbalist wrote a curious summary regarding the benefits of anxiety and borage oil, "It strengthens the heart and vital spirit, takes away anxiety, depression and grief." Many centuries later, scientific studies are discovering that borage oil may help in the treatment of anxiety and mood disorders.
What Is Borage Oil?
Borage, also known as the starflower due to the shape of its five-pointed petals, is an annual herb that grows wild in the Mediterranean and was later cultivated in North America.
The starflower's constituents include the minerals calcium and potassium; tannins; mucilage; acids; and a rich supply of omega-6 fatty acids, a source of gamma-linoleic acid (GLA). GLA is a necessary fatty acid needed for proper functioning of many bodily structures, such as the nervous, endocrine and cardiovascular systems. Borage also contains a toxin known as alkaloids and should be used with care.
About Anxiety and Borage Oil
Throughout history borage has been renowned for its health benefits and culinary uses. It is said the novelist Charles Dickens enjoyed a fondness for borage punch, an alcoholic concoction of brandy, sherry and borage flowers. Moreover, the gin-based cocktail, Pimm's No.1, contains borage within its ingredients. The plant has a cool and refreshing flavor resembling cucumber, and is used in soups, salads and refreshments throughout the world.
The Herb of Gladness
Historically, borage was used as a medicinal tea to combat general malaise, stress and worry. Known as the herb of gladness since Roman times, borage was mixed with wine - a potent elixir to combat stress and sagging spirits. By medieval times, borage was considered an herb to strengthen the heart and boost courage. It has been said the crusaders mixed borage and wine as an elixir before going to battle. In retrospect, borage was one of the earliest medicinal herbs used to remedy what are currently classified as mood disorders.
It has only been since the 1940s that scientific research begun testing the benefits of anxiety and borage oil, as well as other mood disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), depression and panic disorders. Unfortunately, many of the early clinical studies were conducted with primrose oil, another source of omega-6 gamma-linoleic acid, rather than directly with borage oil. However, even with preliminary studies, borage oil shows promise in the treatment of anxiety disorders.
How Does Borage Oil Work with Anxiety?
Herbal remedies for mood disorders work by supporting the nervous system and realigning biochemical imbalances of the mind. Overall, soothing herbal preparations act as natural sedatives which calm the nervous system, prevent anxiety attacks and generally act as antidepressants. Other traditional herbs used to alleviate anxiety include St. John's wort, valerian, kava, catnip and skullcap.
The unique properties of borage oil are also believed to help combat anxiety. Borage oil contains the highest percent of gamma-linoleic acid compared to primrose oil and black current seed oil, all natural sources of GLA. The human brain is predominately made of fats. Over 20 percent of human brain fat consists of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Moreover, EPA and DHA are naturally found within omega-3 sources, such as:
- Cold water fish
- Fish oils
- Flax seeds
- Flax seed oil
- Krill oil
While borage oil, as part of the omega-6 family, does not contain EPA and DHA, but rather GLA; nor does it appear GLA is part of normal brain fat, GLA is nonetheless converted into prostaglandin E1 (PGE1) - a substance that does positively affect brain functioning. Moreover, omega-6 GLA is eventually converted into omega-3 EPA and DHA, rather than these omega-3 fatty acids being readily available without conversion. Therefore, a combination of omega-3, omega-6 and even omega-9 are suggested in the treatment of anxiety disorders, in order to replenish necessary fatty acids for optimal brain health.
Treatment Plan for Anxiety
While there are different ways to approach a treatment plan for anxiety disorders, many health practitioners will work with anxiety using a holistic approach. A combination of these methods may be used to reduce stress and anxiety:
- Stress reduction exercises
- Cognitive behavior therapy
- Nutritional diet plan
- Herbal supplement sedatives
- Vitamin supplements
- Essential fatty acid supplements (Omega-3, Omega-6 and Omega-9)
Always consult with your health practitioner before taking borage oil or any new herbal supplement. Borage oil may interact with other herbal remedies, prescription drugs or cause other serious side effects in some individuals.