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 sexual 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 cucumber-like 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 arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, along with gingivitis, heart conditions, and your adrenal gland. It’s also said to have anti-inflammatory properties, and may be able to reduce discomforts related to menopause and PMS, such as breast tenderness, mood swings, and hot flashes. While some of the claims for borage seed oil have merit, those for PMS and premenopausal symptoms are not yet supported by any reputable studies.
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 findings in a 2007 clinical study, GLA can help reduce tumors without damaging healthy cells. There also seems to be some evidence that GLA can reduce the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy, the nerve pain associated with diabetes.
Making Safe Choices
If you choose to try borage seed oil to treat your hormonal symptoms, there are some things you should be aware of. Some preparations of borage may 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. And make sure to ask your doctor about any medications you’re already taking and how they might interact with borage seed oil. Borage seed oil has not been studied in children.