Borage for Courage

Something I’ve been delighted to discover in Santa Cruz is an abundance of Borage – it’s in my front yard and all over the beautiful herb and vegetable garden at my son’s new school, which is where  I took the photo above. The Borage has bright, star-shaped blue flowers. It’s threaded through here with a fabulous orange-flowered climber which is completely new to me, but I’m told is a kind of Hawaiian Passionflower.  I’ve yet to find out the latin name or whether it has any of the medicinal qualities of the Passiflora incarnata I use. Do let me know if you can enlighten me.

You don’t often see Borage growing wild in London, though its rampaging look-alike alkanet splashes many city gardens with blue. Both are members of the boraginaceae family, whose other members include comfrey, lungwort and forget-me-nots. All share characteristic furry, slightly bristly leaves and most have blue flowers.

The saying ‘Borage for Courage’ comes from a belief that Roman soldiers took the herb before heading into battle. I don’t know whether that’s true, but it’s informed my prescribing on a number of occasions, I really do feel this herb can help people when they are unsure whether they can face the task ahead. I feel there are many aspects to Herbal Medicine. We are taught the science and pharmacology at college and it’s crucial to understand those, of course. But as I have said before, I think there is a lot more to the relationship between the plant and animal kingdoms: ways in which the spirit of the plant can interact with our own unconscious.

I would certainly say Borage is an adaptogen, or herb which supports the adrenal glands. And robust adrenals help us face things with courage and fortitude, since they are responsible for  the stress hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol and can become depleted over extended periods of  stress. The best known adaptogens are exotic and expensive herbs like ginseng, I love that there is a very good one which grows perfectly well in gardens, here in California and in England too.

Since I couldn’t bring my dispensary with me, I am creating one for myself here, using the herbs I can beg and borrow from kind Santa Cruzians. And thanks to the generosity of Caprice, the doyenne of the school garden, I’m delighted to say that the very borage plant in this photo, as well as a few of its brothers and sisters, are hanging up right here in my house ready to be tinctured tomorrow! A good borage tincture often has a dark blueish tint from the flowers, I’ll let you know how it turns out!

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