Borage, also known as "Burrage," "Beebread," "Beeplant," and "Talewort," is native to Great Britain, Europe and North Africa but has been naturalized all over the world. Its leaves are oval, pointed, with bristles on both surfaces. The stems are sturdy, ridged, and bristly reaching two to three feet tall and covered with blue, star-shaped flowers; the blooming period is from June into August. Its flowers are attractive to bees as well as other pollinating insects.
The flowers are edible and make an attractive addition to summertime drinks, either floated on the surface or frozen into ice cubes. In times passed, the flowers were preserved and candied for off-season use. Borage is an annual that will self-sow and return year after year in most areas. Each packet contains two grams, which is approximately 100 seeds.
Borage has been used by people since prehistoric times as a diuretic, demulcent, emollient. Pedanius Dioscorides
, the ancient physician and author of the original De Materia Medica
, wrote of the plant's properties in the First Century AD, as did Pliny the Elder
. Pliny called it "Euphrosinum" because, "... it maketh a man merry and joyfull
," and was said to, "drive away sadness dullness and melancholy
." Of course, consider that the prescription used for this ancient purpose included wine, which in quantity, with or without borage, produces similar effects.
Although it has been used as a potherb, the plant material can contain small levels (2 to 10ppm) of pyrrolizidine alkaloids, so modern uses are generally restricted to external applications in the form of poultices or extracts.