The Borage, with its gallant blue flower, is cultivated in our

gardens as a pot herb, and is associated in our minds with bees and

claret cup. It grows wild in abundance on open plains where the

soil is favourable, and it has a long-established reputation for

cheering the spirits. Botanically, it is the Borago officinalis, this

title being a corruption of cor-ago, i.e., cor, the heart, ago,

I stimulate--quia cordis aff
ctibus medetur, because it cures weak

conditions of the heart. An old Latin adage says: Borago ego

gaudia semper ago--I, Borage, bring always courage; or the

name may be derived from the Celtic, Borrach, a noble

person. This plant was the Bugloss of the older botanists, and it

corresponds to our Common Bugloss, so called from the shape and

bristly surface of its leaves, which resemble bous-glossa, the

tongue of an ox. Chemically, the plant Borage contains potassium

and calcium combined with mineral acids. The fresh juice affords

thirty per cent., and the dried herb three per cent. of nitrate of

potash. The stems and leaves supply much saline mucilage, which,

when boiled and cooled, likewise deposits nitre and common salt.

These crystals, when ignited, will burn with a succession of small

sparkling explosions, to the great delight of the schoolboy. And it

is to such saline qualities the wholesome, invigorating effects and

the specially refreshing properties of the Borage are supposed to

be mainly due. For which reason, the plant, when taken in

sallets, as says an old herbalist, doth exhilarate, and make the

mind glad, almost in the same way as a bracing sojourn by the

seaside during an autumn holiday. The flowers possess cordial

virtues which are very revivifying, and have been much commended

against melancholic depression of the nervous system. Burton,

in his [61] Anatomy of Melancholy (1676), wrote with reference

to the frontispiece of that book:--

Borage and Hellebore fill two scenes,

Sovereign plants to purge the veins

Of melancholy, and cheer the heart

Of those black fumes which make it smart;

The best medicine that God e'er made

For this malady, if well assaid.

The sprigs of Borage, wrote John Evelyn, are of known virtue

to revive the hypochondriac and cheer the hard student.

According to Dioscorides and Pliny, the Borage was that famous

nepenthe of Homer which Polydamas sent to Helen for a token of

such rare virtue that when taken steep'd in wine, if wife and

children, father and mother, brother and sister, and all thy dearest

friends should die before thy face, thou could'st not grieve, or shed

a tear for them. The bowl of Helen had no other ingredient, as

most criticks do conjecture, than this of borage. And it was

declared of the herb by another ancient author: Vinum potatum

quo sit macerata buglossa moerorum cerebri dicunt auferre


To enliven the sad with the joy of a joke,

Give them wine with some borage put in it to soak.

The Romans named the Borage Euphrosynon, because when put

into a cup of wine it made the drinkers of the same merry and


Parkinson says, The seed of Borage helpeth nurses to have more

store of milk, for which purpose its leaves are most conducing. Its

saline constituents promote activity of the kidneys, and for this

reason the plant is used in France to carry off catarrhs which are

feverish. The fresh herb has a cucumber-like odour, and when

compounded with lemon and sugar, added to wine and [62] water,

it makes a delicious cool tankard, as a summer drink. A syrup

concocted of the floures, said Gerard, quieteth the lunatick

person, and the leaves eaten raw do engender good blood. Of all

nectar-loving insects, bees alone know how to pronounce the

open sesame of admission to the honey pots of the Borage.