Other Common Names:
The other common names for this particular herb ox-tongue are Bee Bread, Bee Plant,Borage,Burage,Cool Tankard,Langue de Boeuf,Star Flower and Tailwort.
Ox-tongue was sometimes called Bugloss by the old herbalists, a name that properly belongs to Anchusa officinalis.Some consider that the Latin name Borago, from which the name borage is derived.Henslow suggests that the name is derived from barrach, a Celtic word meaning 'a man of courage. Some herbalist also venture that the name of the herb might be a derivation from or the corruption of the word corago-courage, or translated as "I bring courage", thus this property of inducing confidence in a person has been associated with this herb since very early times.
'According to Dioscorides and Pliny, Borage was the famous Nepenthe of Homer, which when drunk steeped in wine, brought absolute forgetfulness. As pollinating bees seem to love to hover and collect around the flowers of the ox-tongue, it has also been nicknamed the "bee's bread" probably because of its nectar rich flowers. Borage plant is thought to be insect repellant so it is often grown in vegetable gardens to protect other vegetables from insect damage.
The herb is characterized by the presence of numerous white, very stiff, and prickly hairs which covering both the leaves and the stems of the entire plant thus giving a silvery look. This is a hardy annual plant with hollow, bristly, succulent, branched and spreading stem grows up to 2 feet tall. The leaves are bristly, oval or oblong- lanceolate, the basal ones forming a rosette and the others growing alternately on the stem and branches.
The leaf margins are entire but wavy. The flowers, which terminate the cells, are bright blue and star-shaped, distinguished from those of every plant in this order by their prominent black anthers, which form a cone in the centre and have been described as their beauty spot. The blue or purplish, star-shaped flowers grow in loose racemes from June to August. The fruit consists of four brownish-black nutlets.
Borago officinalis is a native of Northern Europe (Aleppo) and it is now naturalized in most part of Europe and in the temperate region of North America. But however it is said to be originated from Syria.
It is generally found in rubbish heaps and near dwellings, and may be regarded as a garden escape. The borage can grow in partially shaded areas, however, the best growths are observed in areas that have good sunlight all throughout the day. Soils containing some moisture are ideal for good growth of the herb.
Ox-tongue can be grown by propagating the rootstocks in the spring and by putting cuttings of shoots in sandy soil during summer and autumn. The seeds of the borage must not be planted to depths exceeding more than 6 mm or ¼ of an inch deep, this is because borage seeds need a lot of air to germinate successfully. It takes about 5 to 8 days for the first seedlings to germinate and come out of the soil. Young plants must be tended well, and the soil where they are growing must be kept moist at all times. When planting is done, all the plants in an area must be spaced at intervals of about 30 to 50 cm or 12 to 20 inches from one another to ensure sufficient space for each plant. A row of new seeds can be sowed in the soil every few weeks, so as to ensure that there is a permanent or constant supply of fresh young leaves to be plucked for various uses. When the borage plant has successfully established itself in the garden, it tends to self propagate in the immediate area and the result is a profusion of new borage plants in and around the original parent plant. As and when necessary, all the new seedlings in an area must be thinned out for space. Seeds sown in autumn will flower in May and seeds sown in spring will flower in June.
The blue or purplish, star-shaped flowers grow in loose racemes from June to August. Thus the flowering season is between early to midsummer.
Pests and Diseases
The ox-tongue plant when cultivated in gardens is quite vulnerable to many insect pests including the painted lady butterfly, the tarnished plant bug, and the wooly bear caterpillar as well as the flea beetle, it is also vulnerable to fungal and bacterial infections such as crown rot which may affect the stems and the leaf spot which may affect the leaves of the plant.
The leaves and
flowers of the ox-tongue
plant are generally used for
its medicinal and commercial value.
• Borage leaf may be useful for gently strengthening adrenal functions.
• Borage seed oil is safely used both as a supplement to correct EFA deficiencies, and in topical skin applications.
• The leaves, flowers and seeds are good to expel pensiveness and melancholy.
• The seed and leaves are good to increase the milk in women's breasts.
• The juice of borago helps yellow jaundice.
• The distilled water helps the redness and inflammations of the eyes.
• Herbalists use it for colds, fevers and lung complaints such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
• It helps in treating rheumatism and other conditions including skin diseases such as eczema, and also for pre-menstrual tension and painful breasts, migraine and pulmonary complaints.
• The herb helps in the treatment of individuals suffering from nervous disorders such as excessive apprehension or persistent worry including mild to long term depression and high blood pressure.
• Skin problems, including all kinds of boils and bodily rashes can also be treated using the herbal tea made from the ox-tongue.
• The herb is useful in the treatment of chicken pox, measles and all kinds of respiratory infections.
• It is used in treating persistent gastritis and problems such as the irritable bowel syndrome affecting patients.
• It is used to resist and expel the poison or the venom of other creatures.
• The leaves of the ox-tongue are made into an herbal infusion which is served cold in the form of a beverage or herbal tea, and this is often decorated using the gorgeous and sky blue flowers of the plant itself.
• The flowers of the ox-tongue are used on special desserts and confections after they are candied or caramelized.
• Floral arrangements can be made more pleasing by including the pretty flowers of the borage.
• The flowers make an attractive addition to summertime drinks, either floated on the surface or frozen into ice cubes.
• Summer cocktails and other drinks are also garnished traditionally with leaves and flowers.
• Flowers of borage are dried to add color to potpourri.
• Embroidered bees and borage flowers were often used to decorate the scarves of knights going into battle.