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Borage Oil / GLA

Borago officinalis

What is Borage oil? Why do we need it?

Borage oil is an extract taken from the seeds of the Borago officinalis plant. It is used mainly for its high gamma linolenic acid (GLA) content[i]. This essential fatty acid can be used to control inflammation and is therefore considered helpful to reduce symptoms of many diseases[ii].

Other names: Star flower oil, tailwort, echiun amoenum

Where does GLA come from?

Due to the high GLA content in borage oil, it is celebrated for its anti-inflammatory benefits. The body converts GLA to prostaglandin E1 (PGE1), as such, it has benefits relating to skin conditions and cardiovascular conditions. Borage oil, in particular, has the highest GLA content compared with other seed oils[iii].

What does deficiency of GLA look like?

Deficiency or excess of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) can have notable effects on the body. GLA deficiency, for example, may result in dry skin, hair loss, inflammation, hormonal imbalances, and impaired immune function[iv].

What are the benefits of taking Borage oil supplementally?

GLA supplements are made from EPO, as well as black currant seed and borage seed oils. GLA is also in organ meats[v]. Supplementally, the most commonly used source of GLA is borage oil, as it is most concentrated in GLA. There are many reasons people choose to supplement with borage oil. Oral versions may work better for types of inflammation, including in vascular health, whilst topical products may work best when applied directly to skin and hair.

Eczema and skin and hair health:

GLA helps reduce inflammation, improves skin barrier function, and promotes moisture retention in the skin. Supplementing with GLA, typically sourced from evening primrose oil or borage oil, may help alleviate eczema symptoms[vi]. Dry hair, bumps on the back of the upper arms and chipped nails are also signs of potential deficiency or insufficiency of GLA (part of the omega-6 essential fatty acid family)[vii].

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA):

Evidence suggests that borage seed oil may improve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Several factors can interfere with the production of GLA from LA in the body, including ageing, dietary deficiencies, viral infections and some diseases. Participants in a study who received borage seed oil showed an improvement in joint tenderness, number of swollen joints and morning stiffness (as their symptoms of RA)[viii][ix][x].

Cardiovascular health:

Borage oil has been suggested to have potential benefits for certain heart conditions, such as reducing inflammation and improving cardiovascular health[xi].

Hormonal health (women’s health):

Due to its GLA content and its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, Borage Oil may be able to reduce discomfort related to PMS (breast tenderness, anxiety, mood swings and skin breakouts), menopause (hot flashes and night sweats) and other hormonal imbalances[xii].

Anti-inflammatory benefits:

Once it enters the body, GLA is converted to a substance called dihomo-γ-linolenic acid (DGLA) to create anti-inflammatory effects[xiii]. Taking omega-3 fatty acids together with borage may benefit more from the added anti-inflammatory benefits of omega 3[xiv].

Respiratory infections:

Borage oil taken in capsule form can help speed up healing time associated with coughs from the common cold or flu. It is thought to be beneficial due to actions such as a sticky mixture of plant sugars that can act to produce phlegm in those with respiratory issues and coughs[xv][xvi].

Dry eyes:

Similar to flaxseed oil, borage oil may help the body produce oils that can help to reduce redness and dry eyes.


Possible side effects

Reported side effects of borage seed oil include nausea, indigestion, headaches and rashes[xvii]. Excessive GLA intake can lead to gastrointestinal disturbances and increased bleeding risks[iv]. If you experience any side effects, stop taking the supplement and talk to your GP for advice if symptoms persist.


Hepatotoxic drugs (anabolic steroids, ketoconazole):

Borage contains low concentrations of substances which may place strain on the liver if taken together with these medications[xviii][xix].

Anticoagulants (warfarin):

Combined use of borage oil supplements and anticoagulants such as warfarin may cause an increase in bleeding[xx].


Combined use of borage oil supplements and NSAIDs could decrease the effects, as NSAIDs interfere with prostaglandin synthesis[xxi].

Other interactions may include tricyclic antidepressants and phenothiazines, whilst some sedatives and medications for hypertension can suppress borage seed oil’s anti-inflammatory properties[xxii].

If you are planning to take borage oil and you are currently using any medications, please consult with your GP or pharmacist first.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are advised not to take borage oil because it may harm the foetus and induce early labour[xxiii].

Image by Skyler Ewing

Recommended For

Dermatitis , Eczema , High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) , Chest Infection (Respiratory Tract Infection) , Bronchitis , Inflammation , Adolescent Hormonal Health , Acne , Perimenopause , Menstrual spotting , Breast tenderness , Low Libido (Female) , Premenstrual Tension/ Syndrome , Menstrual Pain (Period pain) , Nail Health , Dry Eyes

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