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Borage Oil Supplements – Neither Miracle Nor Myth

A little yellow jacket toxin, a drop of cobra venom straight from the fang, a spoonful of finely crushed fish cartilage, bullfrog skin extract, 1cc of the purest camel colostrum secretion, pure snail slime obtained under the most sterile conditions and, finally, a smidgen of fresh placental tissue…there. Now I’ll just add a little dry ice for the whole “witch’s brew” effect and there you have it – the latest and greatest Anti-Aging potion combo on the market. It comes in a lotion as well and it’s recommended that both are used for the full “synergistic” effect. Do any of these “miracle” pills and serums work or is it all myth?

Some of the claims made by cosmetic/anti-aging manufacturers are so out there that that’s exactly where they need to stay: out there and away from your face and body! In fact, the crazier the idea seems, the more obsessed some consumers are about buying it. But without clinical trials and data to support the bizarre anti-aging claims, a full salt shaker of skepticism is the way to go.

Having said that, there are some supplements and topical ingredients that are simple yet effective for certain skin and chronic health conditions. Borage Oil is one such ingredient.

Borage oil (also referred to as starflower oil) is derived from the borage-oil-nefertitiseed of the borage plant (borago officianalis) and has been a known skin remedy for thousands of years. It was among the natural beauty armamentarium of Cleopatra and Nefertiti. What these earth goddesses didn’t know at the time (or maybe they did?) is that borage oil contains one of the earth’s richest sources of essential fatty acids (EFAs), specifically, gamma-linoleic acid (GLA). Other less economical sources of GLA are found in Primrose Oil (contains about 8% GLA) and Black Currant Seed Oil (contains about 15%), but not in the concentration found in the borage oil seed (about 24% GLA).

GLA is an Omega 6 EFA that cannot be produced by the human borage-oil-purple-flowersbody. The other EFA we need to ingest is Omega 3 which is commonly found in cold water fish and flax seeds. However, please keep in mind that, in general, we tend to be far more deficient in Omega 3 than Omega 6. We need both EFAs to perform many important functions such as normal brain development, normal cell function and, for purposes of our discussion here, Prostaglandin production. Since we don’t make EFAs, we have to consume them or take a supplement that contains them. The average person gets plenty of EFAs from basic vegetable oils and margarine but then the quality of such oils factors in as well. (the good oils vs. the evil oils is a whole other topic…). There are studies using high doses of Omega 6 for the treatment of arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases. Omega 6 reduces inflammation, improves cardiovascular health and can be therapeutic for premenstrual and menopausal symptoms as well.

But let’s assume, for purposes of discussion, that our bodies have plenty of high quality EFAs…now what? In order to be fully beneficial, EFAs need to be biochemically converted to Prostaglandins (PG1). I know it sounds like you have to have a prostate to make prostaglandins but, ladies, have no fear, the prostate is only where prostaglandins were first discovered. We, however, can make plenty of prostaglandins without a prostate. In the average healthy person, this conversion of EFAs to PG1 takes place with the help of an enzyme called Delta-6 Desaturase (D6D). So the challenge is that in order for our bodies to produce prostaglandins, we must have the building blocks (essential fatty acids) and the “catalyst converter” (D6D) working harmoniously together.

Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances that are essential for normal cellular processes, blood vessel contraction and dilation, trans-epidermal water retention, blood clotting/thinning, hormone synthesis, inflammation/pain/swelling regulation and many other biological functions that are necessary for good health.

Studies have shown that some people have a D6D enzyme deficiency. As a result, prostaglandins cannot be converted or20derived from the Omega-3 and Omega-6 EFAs consumed by these individuals. In other words, if a person is D6D deficient, they are also deficient in prostaglandins. Chronic health conditions such as diabetes or glucose intolerance, vitamin/mineral deficiencies and even too high an intake of saturated fats can also interfere with this conversion of EFAs into PG1. Even having too much Omega 6 and not enough Omega 3 can interfere with this conversion process. People that suffer from chronic skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, atopic or seborrheic dermatitis have a decreased level of D6D enzyme (or they have D6D but it’s not working effectively) and thus a decreased level of PG1.

borage-oil-baby-headHere’s where borage oil can be of great help. Remember borage oil has a high concentration of straight up GLA so it doesn’t need the enzyme D6D to make PG1. It bypasses it and thus plenty of PG1 can be made! There have indeed been studies on the use of borage oil oral supplementation as well as topical use in helping dry or damaged skin conditions (especially in children). It has been used to help with diaper rashes, eczema, psoriasis and even “cradle cap” on babies (that dry, yellowish cracked skin on their heads that bothers moms way more than the baby so we pick at it…). In such cases, topical borage oil can be very helpful as an anti-inflammatory and healing agent.

So will bathing in a tub of borage oil once daily get rid of all your wrinkles and give you skin like a baby’s bottom….only if you do simultaneous yoga while chanting in an incense filled room!

borage-oil-capsules The bottom line: In the category of Essential Fatty Acids, supplementation with both Omega 3 and Omega 6 is the best way to go, with emphasis on the Omega 3s (fresh fish/flax seed). They need each other and we need both to obtain the health benefits of prostaglandin synthesis. So, in my black cauldron, I would throw in some organic flaxseed oil, some organic borage seed oil (probably in a 3:1 ratio) and take it with a balanced, healthy diet and plenty of water to obtain the optimal synergistic effect for good health and beautiful skin. Alternatively, you could probably make a great flax seed crusted salmon entree and literally eat it “to your heart’s (and skin’s) content!”

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