Borage oil is a good vegetarian source of gamma linoleic acid (GLA), an omega-6 fatty acid with anti-inflammatory properties. One of the key reasons for taking fatty acid supplements is the anti-inflammatory properties. This article explains what benefits borage seed oil supplementation offers, who should take it, and what you should look for on the label to protect your health.
Why is Borage Seed Oil Special?
Borage seed oil has the highest GLA content of any oil. Other oils that contain high levels of GLA are evening primrose oil, hemp seed oil, and blackcurrant seed oil. GLA is one of the few omega-6 fatty acids that has anti-inflammatory properties. This is useful because many people who don't get enough fish oil are deficient in EPA, the anti-inflammatory component of fish oil. Borage seed oil supplementation is useful for people who don't eat fish or take fish oil supplements. Although it should be noted that borage seed oil will not provide any DHA.
Borage oil contains inflammation-reducing GLA
What is GLA doing in the body?
Omega-6 fatty acids like the related linolenic acid are typically pro-inflammatory in the body, but GLA sticks out as anti-inflammatory. Why is that? When we eat fatty acids, they don't just stay static. They actually are converted into a whole complicated mess of other fatty acids and signaling molecules. These signaling molecules are actually what is used to transmit pain and inflammation through the body. As I discuss elsewhere (LINK), different fatty acids coming in leads to different signals coming out. So in this case, GLA is converted to a different signaling molecules than the related omega-6, linolenic acid. The story after that gets very complicated, but the bottom line is simple: GLA supplementation lowers inflammatory signalling.
Are there any problems with borage oil?
Yes. Borage plants sometimes contain high levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids. These compounds are known to cause cancer and damage to the liver. Make sure that you only buy high-grade borage seed oil supplements that are noted to be free from these specific compounds. Also, borage plants are often treated with pesticides. Be careful to only take high-grade borage oil that is tested to be free from pesticides and herbicides.
Borage seed oil supplementation is a good idea for anyone who isn't getting EPA from fish or fish oil. And buy organic.
1. Kapoor, R, Huang, YS. "Gamma linolenic acid: an antiinflammatory omega-6 fatty acid." Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 7 (2006) 531-4.