Borage oil

Fatty acids, particularly omega-3 fatty acids, are well-known for their role in reducing inflammation in the body (1). On the other hand, omega-6 fatty acids hold a reputation for triggering low-grade inflammation, but in fact show potential for lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol and raising “good” HDL cholesterol (2). Borage oil is one of those omega-6 fatty acids that shows great promise for providing heart health benefits.

What is borage oil?

Borage oil is made up mostly of the omega-6 fatty acid known as gamma linolenic acid (GLA) (3). It’s a lesser known fatty acid with promising health benefits (3). Borage oil claims suggest that it could help reduce inflammation in the body such as helping those with arthritis, allergies, or inflammatory skin conditions like atopic dermatitis.

Isn’t omega-6 fatty acid harmful to health?

Some previous studies may have said that omega-6 fatty acids are harmful since its most common form, linolenic acid, can be converted to pro-inflammatory arachidonic acid (2). Research by experts of the American Heart Association have since found that very little linolenic acid converts to this other compound, even when someone consumes a great deal of linolenic acid.

Is there research on the benefits of borage oil?

Research shows that borage oil, because of its GLA content, is an effective agent for treatment of such conditions as (4):
• Acute respiratory distress syndrome
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Atopic dermatitis
• Diabetic neuropathy
• Menopause-related symptoms
It can improve health of the bones as well as reduce inflammation throughout the entire body.

How much borage oil should I consume daily?

When taking borage oil by mouth for conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, a dose of 1.1 to 1.4 grams of borage seed oil daily for 24 weeks is safe and effective (5). However, be sure to talk with your healthcare provider before taking any new supplement.

Side effects and safety of borage oil

Borage seed oil is generally tolerated in most adults without adverse effects (6). It’s important though to ensure you use a trusted brand of borage oil since this oil naturally contains compounds called pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA) that can be harmful to health (5). Therefore, choose PA-free borage oil products.
Those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have bleeding disorders should not consume any borage oil products (5). Also, due to increased risk of bleeding, those who are planning on having surgery in 2 weeks should avoid borage oil. Those who are taking certain medicines should talk to their pharmacist before taking borage seed oil due to potential side effects. These medicines include anesthesia, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen, or blood clotting drugs.

Bottom line

Newer research shows certain omega-6 fatty acids, like borage oil, can provide heart health benefits unlike what was previously thought. Borage oil can help reduce inflammation in the body and in turn reduce symptoms of certain inflammatory conditions. Therefore, speak to your healthcare provider today to see if borage oil may help you improve your health in any way.


1. Saini, R.K. and Keum, Y.S. (June 2018) “Omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids: Dietary sources, metabolism, and significance- A review.” Life sciences, 203: 255-267.
2. Harvard Health Publishing Harvard Medical School (updated August 20, 2019) “No need to avoid heart-healthy omega-6 fatty acids.”…
3. University of Rochester Medical Center (accessed January 10, 2020) “Borage oil.”…
4. Tasset-Cuevas, I., et al. (2013) “Protective Effect of Borage Seed Oil and Gamma Linolenic Acid on DNA: In Vivo and In Vitro Studies.” PLoS One, 8(2): e56986,…
5. RxList (accessed January 12, 2020) “Borage.”…
6. Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed) [Internet]. (2006-present). Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US),…