Practical Self Reliance: 15 Ways to Use Borage

Ashley Adamant has a typically well-written article on 15 Ways to Use Borage. Borage grows pretty well in our area. It was one of the first herbs that I planted in our garden, and, as Ashley mentions, it has reseeded itself every year since then. We always have a few plants growing even though we’re not taking any particular care with nurturing them.

Borage is a beautiful annual flower that’s popular with gardeners, mostly for its abundant display of showy blue flowers.  It also happens to be both edible and medicinal, and it has a number of uses in the kitchen and around the house.

Borage Flowers in Hand

Borage is one of those underappreciated herbs from long-ago.  While lots of gardeners grow it, few people know it as a medicinal herb (or edible flower).  For the most part, it’s planted and simply enjoyed visually, which is a shame because there are so many ways to use borage.

It’s an old-fashioned plant that has a number of medicinal properties and culinary uses. Borage Flower Cluster

Borage growing in my Vermont garden

What is Borage?

Borage (Borago officinalis) is an annual herb that grows quickly but self-seeds, so it continues to reappear year after year. When you pick a spot to grow borage, make sure it’s somewhere you want it to grow year after year. 

In the summer months, borage plants bloom with small, beautiful, blue flowers that attract pollinators and butterflies to your garden. The plants have hairy, rough leaves that measure four to six inches in length.

Don’t be surprised if your plant spreads out; one borage plant reaches 12-18 inches wide. It’s easy to see how they can overtake an area of your garden after a few years of vigorous self-seeding!

For new gardeners, borage is the perfect herb to grow. It grows well in average soil with organic matter, and you can directly sow the seeds into the garden after the last frost date. If you don’t mind reseeding, the plants will continue to show up each year, which means no work for you.

To prevent self-seeding, just be sure to harvest (and use) all the flowers, or try growing borage in containers.  It stays smaller that way, and it’s a lot easier to keep track of the seeds.

growing Borage in Containers

Borage Medicinal Properties

One look at the list of borage’s medicinal purposes, and you’ll wonder why everyone doesn’t grow it in their herb garden. This herb is a cooling, cleansing herb with adaptogenic, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, and anti-inflammatory properties. 

All parts of the borage plant contain medicinal properties. The flowers are the most commonly used part, but the leaves and oil from the seeds are useful if you want to create herbal remedies. 

Oil from the seeds is sold as a popular borage oil herbal supplement, and it’s a plant-based source of Omega fatty acids.

Herbalists use borage to treat a variety of ailments, such as:

  • Eczema
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis 
  • Stress
  • Premenstrual Syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • Asthma
  • Heart disease
  • Strokes
  • Fevers
  • Cough
  • Depression

Growing borage in your herb garden gives you a potent, versatile medicinal herb, but personally, I love it most as a culinary herb for its delicious flowers and leaves.

Borage Flowers

Ways to Use Borage

You’ll find many ways to use borage once it grows in your garden. Here are some medicinal and culinary uses for this lovely herb. 

Borage Tea

Borage tea has many uses. It helps treat nervous conditions, and tea made out of borage leaves stimulates lactation in breastfeeding mothers. Herbalists use borage tea to reduce fevers, relieve stress, and stop coughing. 

Borage tea is best made out of fresh leaves and flowers. You need around ¼ cup fresh borage leaves or flowers and one cup of hot, boiling water. Let the tea blend steep for 10-15 minutes, and use honey to sweeten to the taste you prefer. 

Borage Tea

Borage Tincture

Making a borage tincture is the same as making any other herbal tincture. Start by filling a glass jar with borage flowers, packing them tightly into the jar. Then, fill the jar with vodka or whatever alcohol that you prefer.

Seal the jar and keep it in a cool, dark, dry location for two to six weeks. When it’s time, take the jar out, and strain all of the flowers out of it.

Now, you have a homemade borage tincture, which is a shelf-stable medicinal extract that can be used year-round (even when borage is not in season). 

Borage Plant

Borage Infusion

Making an infusion with borage is so easy. 

All you need is a quarter of a cup of bruised, fresh borage leaves. Pour one cup of cool water over the top of the bruised leaves and let it soak in the refrigerator for a few hours (or overnight).

After steeping, strain it, and you have a simple infusion that’s cooling, and refreshing on hot summer days.

Borage Infusion

Borage Poultice

A crushed borage poultice helps with bug bites, bee stings, swelling, bruising, rashes, and boils. It’s a useful, versatile herbal remedy to have up your sleeve, especially in the summertime when bug bites happen frequently. 

I actually used this on my son, who was stung by a bee in the garden not too far from our patch of borage.

Start by gathering enough fresh borage leaves and stems to cover the area that you need to treat. Chop up the leaves and place them over the affected area; use cotton gauze to keep the poultice in place while it works.

In my case, I just quickly chewed the leaves in the garden and placed them directly on the sting.

A borage poultice works fast. You’ll quickly feel the soothing effects that help reduce skin inflammation, just be sure to get the stinger out first if it’s still in the skin.

Borage Infused Oil

The most popular type of borage oil is borage seed oil, but you can make a herbal infused oil out of the flowers. The same process that you might use for other herbs works for borage a well.

Start by picking enough borage flowers to fill a glass jar, and spread them over a baking sheet or screen. Let the flowers dry for several days, and then put them back into the glass jar. It’s important to let them dry beforehand to reduce the risk of spoiling or mold developing.

Fill the jar with olive oil, and let it sit for four to six weeks. Remember to shake it up every few days. After the time is up, strain out the flowers, and you have DIY borage-infused oil. 

You may use this oil on your skin for irritation and rashes, or you can use it to create homemade herbal salves and ointments. 

Borage Infused Oil

Borage Salve with Calendula and Lavender

This recipe combines three potent, healing herbs to create the perfect salve for skin problems. You can use hemp or olive oil for your calendula, lavender, and borage salve. This method creates an infused oil much faster than the traditional method, but the quality stays the same.

Use beeswax pastilles to make a salve after the infused oil is ready. Borage and Calendula Drying for Homemade Salve

Borage and Calendula Drying for Homemade Salve

Cucumber Borage Soap

I love cucumber soaps; the smell is so refreshing and makes your skin feel better. The mixture of cucumber and borage is perfect for those suffering from skin irritation, bug bites, inflamed skin, or eczema.

Take a look at this easy cucumber borage soap recipe

Borage Recipes

Beyond borage’s medicinal and cosmetic uses, it’s also just a tasty edible herb.  The leaves can be eaten like spinach, and it makes delightful soup.

Though it’s eaten like a cooking green (or salad green), the leaves actually taste more like cucumber than lettuce or spinach.

The flowers have a milder flavor and are best fresh.  The leave can be eaten fresh or cooked, and the stems are best cooked in my opinion.

Borage leaves and stems

Borage Cucumber Jelly

This jelly recipe is showstopping and delicious. To make borage cucumber jelly, you need six cups of borage leaves and flowers and one cucumber juiced. The recipe is easy enough that those who are new to canning will be able to make it…(continues)

Homesteading Family: How to Dry Fresh Herbs (Oven, Dehydrator, or Hanging)

Carolyn Thomas at Homesteading Family has an article on How to Dry Fresh Herbs (Oven, Dehydrator, or Hanging)

Growing and preserving fresh culinary herbs is so much easier than one might think. But there are a few tips to know when learning how to dry herbs for long-term storage and use. We’re sharing all our tips in this post.

We like to plant all sorts of herbs in our cottage garden. We’ve written a post on the top 15 medicinal herbs you can grow yourself. We also love to grow roses and use their dried petals medicinally and in a DIY facewash.

If you’re interested in other preservation methods for herbs, click this link for two more ways to quickly and easily preserve your herbs at home.

Tips for the Best Herbs

There are a few tips you should follow in order to get the best tasting, and highest quality culinary herbs.

  1. Start with freshly harvested herbs. Herbs that were harvested a day or more prior to drying will lose flavor and potency. It’s best to work with herbs that are as fresh as possible.
  2. Know the “enemies” of herbs. Sunlight, air exposure, and moisture are all no-no’s when it comes to getting quality herbs. We’ll discuss each of these more in-depth below.
  3. Enhance the flavor of your herbs!

 

By following all these tips, you’ll end up with the most flavor, the most potent and the best quality herbs. Not to mention you won’t be paying grocery store pricing as you’ll only have spent a few cents on the price of the seeds!

Fresh Herbs

Starting with fresh herbs ensures the best end product. You don’t want to harvest herbs and allow them to sit and get wilted before dehydrating.

When possible, harvest herbs just before you plan to bundle them and dry them. It’s really best to do this all in one day, even within an hour or so from harvesting.

Dried Herb “Enemies”

As mentioned above, the “enemies” of herbs are sunlight, airflow, and moisture.

Sunlight

When drying and storing herbs, it’s important to choose a section of your home where they’ll be out of direct sunlight.

It’s true herbs need sunlight to grow, but when it’s time for them to be dried, sunlight will degrade the herbs quickly.

Airflow

Choose an area of your home where there is minimal foot traffic.

Herbs that are hanging will collect dust and particles floating around in the air, so the less air movement surrounding them, the better quality you’ll end up with in the end.

Moisture

Storing herbs correctly will prolong the life of your herbs. This is probably the most important one to watch out for.

When storing herbs, an airtight container such as a mason jar is a great option.

But it’s imperative your herbs are completely dry before sealing them.

One test you can do is to crumble them and seal them tightly in a mason jar. Watch the jar for 24 hours, if ANY condensation forms on the inside of the jar, the herbs were not completely dry.

If this happens, remove the herbs from the jar and allow them to continue drying.

You can do this test as many times as needed.

Different Methods for Drying Herbs

There are a few different methods for drying herbs. You can use your oven, a dehydrator, or our favorite method is to hang them in bundles.

How to Dry in the Oven

Drying in the oven doesn’t actually mean turning the oven on.

To dry herbs in the oven, arrange your herbs on a cookie sheet and then place them in an oven with only the pilot light lit, or the oven light on.

Drying with a Dehydrator

Using a dehydrator is a great option if you want them done quickly and in a protected area.

Arrange herbs on the dehydrator trays and dehydrate at the lowest possible temperature until completely dry.

Hang Dry in Bundles

Our favorite method for how to dry herbs is to hang them in bundles.

We have a room off of our kitchen that doesn’t get too much foot traffic where we hang them from the ceiling until completely dry.

Keep reading for our tips on how to hang dry herbs.

 

How to Hang Dry Herbs

The best tip when hanging herbs is to gather the sprigs in bundles that aren’t too dense, nor too sparse.Where you live and the humidity in the area you’re drying the herbs will determine how thick your bunches can be.

In dessert climates, you can bundle together many more herbs than say the humid south.

Hang From Twine

Twine is a great tool to hang herbs with. Tying the twine in a slipknot and then wrapping that around the end of your bundle will allow the twine to tighten down on your herbs as they dry, eliminating the possibility of losing sprigs to the floor.

Once your herbs are completely dry, crumble them with your hands and store in an airtight container.Now you can enjoy your homegrown culinary herbs all year long!

Bleyhl Co-op Workshops, April 2018

Sheep/Goat Owners Workshop

Thursday, April 12th, 6:30pm

Sunnyside Store (509) 837-5755

or

Thursday, April 26th, 6:30pm

Pasco Store (509) 547-5577

RSVP to save a seat

 

Plant Your Own Herb Garden

Saturday, April 14th, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm

Zillah Store (509) 829-6922

Choose three herb plants, all supplies, and directions provided. $5 per person while supplies last.