A plant from the shores of the Mediterranean, borage has been known for centuries for lifting the spirits. Traditionally borage is added to drinks and salads to provide a refreshing and invigorating tonic.
Borage, borago offlcinahs, is a very attractive annual herb, with a profusion of bright blue star-shaped flowers and large wrinkled eaves. A cultivated garden plant, it is covered all over with stiff hairs, making the leaves feel quite prickly. The herb grows to medium height, with a hollow succulent stem which tends to flop over when all the leaves and flowers are out and it becomes top heavy. It may occasionally be found growing on waste ground.
The fresh leaves have a cucumber-like scent and flavour and are mostly used nowadays to decorate Pimms drinks or in wine or cider cups. You can also add them to pickles or to a pea or bean soup. The flowers can be used as a pretty addition to salads or candied to decorate ice creams.
Borage is a very easy herb to grow even though it is an annual because it self-seeds freely and will come up again year after year. Sow the seed in the spring where it is to flower and thin the seedlings to 1 2 in (30 cm) apart. It prefers a sunny position.
The leaves, and to a lesser extent the flowers, are the parts used medicinally and in cosmetics, Borage leaves do not dry successfully unless very young, but the flowers dry well, retaining their lovely colour.
Borage is a herb well known for lifting mild depression after an illness and for reducing a fever.
* To make borage leaf tea: Pour a cup of boiling water on to I or 2 teaspoons of chopped fresh leaves. Cover and leave to infuse for 5 minutes then strain. Add honey for sweetening and take a small glassful 3—4 times a day until relief is obtained.
* To make borage flower tea: Add 2 teaspoons of the fresh flowers to a cup of boiling water. Simmer gently for about 1—2 minutes then remove from the heat. Leave to infuse for a little while longer then strain the tea and serve.
A hot poultice made from crushed fresh borage leaves will help to relieve the pain of gout and inflamed swellings.
* To make a poultice: Crush the leaves well and heat them by putting them between 2 plates over a pan of boiling water. For those with a sensitive skin the pulp can be placed between 2 pieces of cloth to prevent direct contact with the skin. Bandage the poultice lightly in place and keep renewing it when it gets cold until relief is felt.
Borage can help to clear the skin of troublesome spots.
* To make a lotion: Mix together equal quantities of the juice of dandelion, watercress and borage. Clean the face and gently smooth the mixture over the affected parts. Allow to dry completely before washing the face again. Always prepare a fresh juice mixture for each application.