If you’re a woman over 50, you’re probably familiar with the discomforts of menopause. You may be prone to sudden sweat attacks, interrupted sleep, breast tenderness, and an arc of hormonal mood swings like you haven’t seen since 10th grade. You also might notice an unwelcome reduction in your sex drive and uncomfortable vaginal dryness.
Symptoms and severity of menopause are different for every woman. There’s no magic pill for any one symptom or combination of symptoms. Many women head to the health supplement aisle for solutions. Borage seed oil is touted as a treatment for menopausal symptoms and even those related to premenstrual syndrome (PMS). But is it safe? And how should it be used?
What is borage seed oil?
Borage is a leafy green herb commonly found in Mediterranean and cooler climates. The leaves can be eaten on their own, in a salad, or as a cucumberlike flavor for foods. The seed extract is sold in capsules or liquid form.
The oil from its seeds has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. Used topically, it’s said to treat acne and similar minor bacterial eruptions, as well as more long-term skin conditions like dermatitis and psoriasis.
Taking in borage seed oil in food or as a supplement may help treat the following conditions:
- rheumatoid arthritis
- heart conditions
- adrenal gland problems
According to the Cleveland Clinic, borage oil has anti-inflammatory properties and may be able to reduce discomfort related to menopause and premenstrual syndrome (PMS), such as:
- breast tenderness
- mood swings
- hot flashes
The clinic emphasizes that research results are mixed on these uses of borage oil, and recommends more research.
What’s the secret ingredient?
It seems the magic potion in borage seed oil is a fatty acid called gamma linolenic acid (GLA). GLA is present in evening primrose oil, another natural supplement you may have heard about that’s said to help treat women’s hormonal symptoms.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, preliminary research results show that GLA has potential for treating the following conditions, but more studies are needed:
- rheumatoid arthritis
- breast discomfort
A study by the Mayo Clinic showed that GLA helped reduce the growth of some pancreatic cancer cells in mice. Though the study shows potential for borage oil’s treatment of cancer, the study has yet to be duplicated for humans.
Making safe choices
If you choose to try borage seed oil to treat your hormonal symptoms, you should be aware that some preparations of borage might contain elements called hepatotoxic PAs. These can cause damage to the liver and may also cause some cancers and genetic mutation. Shop for borage seed oil that is labeled hepatotoxic PA-free or free of unsaturated pyrrolizidine alkaloids (UPAs).
Don’t take borage supplements or borage seed oil without talking to your doctor first, especially if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Make sure to ask your doctor how any medications you’re already taking might interact with borage seed oil. Also, borage seed oil has not been studied in children.
Borage oil shows great promise in treating symptoms of menopause, inflammation, and even cancer. However, more research is needed before results are definitive. If you decide to try borage oil, be sure to check with your doctor first and look carefully at the label to make sure it does not contain hepatotoxic PAs, which could damage your liver.