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Hearing that borage promotes healthy hair might make you think borage could be a remedy for hair loss too. Borage contains essential fatty acids that are supposed to have a beneficial effect on hair and skin, but no evidence exists that borage will actually stop or reverse thinning hair.
Borage, or Borago officinalis, is an annual plant native to the Mediterranean region. All parts of the plant, including the flowers, have been used in food and drink in one form or another for centuries. The Whole Health MD website notes that a wine made from the leaves and flowers was renowned for "relieving boredom and dispelling melancholy" in Europe in the 1600s. Borage oil is commonly found as an omega-6 fatty acid supplement.
Omega-6 fatty acids positively affect and promote skin and hair growth, and this may be why some look to borage as a hair remedy. Borage oil also has large amounts of gamma-linolenic acid, or GLA, an omega-6 fatty acid that may reduce inflammation. Whole Health MD claims that taking flaxseed oil plus either borage or evening primrose oil will make your hair more lustrous and softer.
Despite the role of omega-6 fatty acids in healthy hair and skin, and despite the amounts of omega-6 fatty acids in borage oil, no evidence exists that borage oil itself helps with thinning hair. The connection between the two appears to be based solely on the fact that borage oil has omega-6 fatty acids.
Borage oil does seem to have an effect on skin, however. A 2010 review published in “Nutrition” looked at the results of studies testing borage oil intake on atopic dermatitis, a type of eczema. Results were mixed. Some studies showed an effect and others didn’t, but the researchers concluded that milder cases might benefit to some extent. An earlier study did find positive results when borage oil supplements were given to women with irritated skin. After 12 weeks, skin irritation and dryness had been reduced in groups taking borage oil or flaxseed oil. That study was published in 2009 in “The British Journal of Nutrition.”
Don’t take borage oil or borage-containing products without consulting a doctor first. While some borage is tolerable, as demonstrated by the research studies, the researchers who wrote the 2010 review note there aren’t any studies on long-term effects. Kansas State University warns that borage leaves contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which may be toxic to the liver and carcinogenic. Risks also exist for pregnant women and for men with prostate cancer or who are at risk of developing the disease.
- PubMed.gov: Borage Oil in the Treatment of Atopic Dermatitis
- PubMed.gov: Intervention with Flaxseed and Borage Oil Supplements Modulates Skin Condition in Women
- Kansas State University: Borage
- Whole Health MD: Supplement Recommendations for Hair Problems
- Whole Health MD: Borage Oil
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-6 Fatty Acids
- Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Getty Images