Borage oil

Borago officinalis L., Boraginaceae

INCI: Borago officinalis seed oil

Purpose: skin medicine, for dry skin, for various inflammatory skin diseases

Price: medium expensive oil

Healing secret: γ-linolenic acid (GLA)

My remark: really a golden oil, although it can also be green. Inevitable as an aid in various inflammatory skin diseases (except acne).

Oral use: absolutely, one of the most healing vegetable oils, from rheumatoid arthritis, menopausal symptoms, painful periods to inflammatory skin diseases

Borage oil, like evening primrose oil, is one of the typical oils that owe their healing properties to the fatty acid composition, γ-linolenic acid (GLA). I’ve already explained why this is so in the section on the healing properties of fatty acids, so I wouldn’t repeat it. In short, this fatty acid restores the balance between pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory lipid mediators (messengers) of inflammation. Borage contains on average twice the concentration of this medicinal fatty acid than evening primrose oil. And of course, the price is higher, but fortunately not twice. It used to cost a pretty penny, and today its price has reached an acceptable level for everyone’s pocket. Borage is a beautiful plant that is still planted in gardens, especially in Dalmatia.

Like evening primrose oil, borage oil is very versatile. It is used internally or orally as an adjuvant therapy for various skin problems, from atopic dermatitis, lichen, acne, to psoriasis of all types. On top of all that, it helps with painful periods, polycystic ovaries, menopausal problems and rheumatoid arthritis. This was unknown 25 years ago, but over time, both evening primrose and borage have become widely known to the public.

Externally, it is used as an extremely nourishing face oil, most often in a mixture with other oils (kukui, almond, apricot, rosehip seed oil…), and it’s excellent in creams for very dry skin, and for various inflammatory skin diseases. This primarily concerns inflammation that is not of an infectious nature, but for diseases caused by errors of the immune system. The most common are atopic dermatitis and psoriasis. Because it is a relatively “heavy” oil that is poorly absorbed, it is not used for acne topically, but only orally. It is extremely nutritious, quite greasy and absorbs slowly.

One of the disadvantages of borage oil is its characteristic scent that develops especially on the skin- it reminds me of metal. But everyone forgives this without any problems. It spoils relatively easily due to the high level of polyunsaturated fatty acids and the low content of natural tocopherols and tocotrienols, so it is useful to preserve it with rosemary CO2 or natural vitamin E. This is especially true for emulsion systems. When making emulsion systems that involves heating, add antioxidants to it before the heating process. Of the sterols, cycloartenol, campesterol, gramisterol, obtusifoliol, 9,19-propanesterol dominate. It contains 4-desmethylsterols such as cycloartenol about 3.5g/kg.

People often ask me: if borage oil contains twice as much GLA, will we completely eliminate evening primrose oil? Not. Not at all. These differences are of great importance in oral therapy, and in cosmetics the amount of GLA in evening primrose is sufficient for effect. This is seen both in real life and in practice. The choice is up to you.

Borage oil can look very different, depending on the year and the manufacturer. Its colour varies from yellow to green. Fortunately, what we focus on is GLA and regarding that borage oil is usually of a very reproducible composition.

Borage oil is not a magic wand for inflammatory skin diseases, but it can be one of the useful strategies. Borage is not just the oil of “serious conditions”. Don’t forget to try it in quite ordinary cosmetics.

Quality requirement*
Basic characteristics 
Organoleptic characteristicsClear pale yellow to yellow liquid, sometimes green-yellow in color. Characteristic mild odor.
olourPale yellow to yellow or green.
Relative density0.910 - 0.925
Acid number mg KOH/gmaximum 4.0
Peroxide number mEq O2/Kgmaximum 8.0
Saponification number185-195
Content of unsaponifiable matter (%)maximum 1.5
Water content (%)maximum 0.1
Fatty acid content (%)
C16:0 palmitic acid8.0 - 12.0
C18:0 stearic acid2.0 – 5.0
C18:1 oleic acid14.0 – 20.0
C18:2 linoleic acid35.0 – 42.0
C18:3 γ-linolenic acidmimimum 20.0
C20:1 eicosenic acid3.0 – 5.0
C22:1 erucic acid1.0 – 3.0
C24:1 tetracosenoic acid1.0 – 2.0.
Other fatty acids1.0 – 3.0

*according to the last Ph. Eur.

Useful references


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