Borage Oil

Other Name(s):

gamma-linolenic acid, GLA

General Description:

Borage oil consists primarily of the essential fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). Gamma-linolenic acid is a precursor of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are found in all tissues of the body and act as local hormones.

Medically Valid Uses:

Borage oil currently has no documented valid medical uses. 

Unsubstantiated Claims:

Please note that this section reports on claims that have NOT yet been substantiated through scientific studies.

Borage oil has also been used in association with fibrocystic breast disease, diabetic neuropathy, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and Raynaud's phenomenon.

Dosing Format:

Sources differ widely on the recommended dosage for borage oil, partly because of the many conditions it supposedly benefits. Follow packaging instructions for correct dose.

Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should consult a physician before taking any dietary supplements.

Side Effects, Toxicity and Interactions:

Gamma-linolenic acid is considered relatively safe. Questions have arisen about the toxicity of borage oil. Evening primrose oil seems to be a safer source of GLA.

Both borage oil and evening primrose oil reportedly lower the seizure threshold and should not be taken by individuals requiring anticonvulsant medication.

Additional Information:

GLA is referred to as a polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) belonging to a group of fatty acids called omega-6 or n-6* fatty acids.

The combined essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6) should make up 1 to 2 percent of the total caloric intake. The recommended ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids is approximately 1:1 or 1:2. Because of the increased use of vegetable oil in the United States, most American diets are closer to 1:20 to 1:30.

Borage oil contains approximately 18 to 26 percent GLA. Other plant oils also contain GLA: Evening primrose contains between 7 to 10 percent, and black currant oil contains 15 to 20 percent.

Click here for a list of reputable Web sites with general information on nutrition.


  1. Klepser TB, Klepser ME. Unsafe and potentially safe herbal therapies. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 1999;56(2):125-38; quiz 139-41.

  2. Henz BM, Jablonska S, Van De Kerkhof PC, Stingl G, Blaszczyk M, Vandervalk PG, Veenhuizen R, Muggli R, Raederstorff D. Double-blind, multicentre analysis of the efficacy of borage oil in patients with atopic eczema. Br J Dermatol. 1999;140(4):685-688.

  3. Fan YY, Chapkin RS. Importance of dietary gamma-linolenic acid in human health and nutrition. J Nutr. 1998;128(9):1411-4.

  4. Borrek S, Hildebrandt A, Forster J. [Gamma-linolenic-acid-rich borage seed oil capsules in children with atopic dermatitis. A placebo-controlled double-blind study]. Klin Padiatr. 1997;209(3):100-4.

  5. DeLuca P, Rossetti RG, Alavian C, Karim P, Zurier RB. Effects of gammalinolenic acid on interleukin-1 beta and tumor necrosis factor-alpha secretion by stimulated human peripheral blood monocytes: studies in vitro and in vivo. J Investig Med. 1999;47(5):246-50.

  6. Zurier RB, Rossetti RG, Jacobson EW, DeMarco DM, Liu NY, Temming JE, White BM, Laposata M. Gamma-Linolenic acid treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. A randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Arthritis Rheum. 1996;39(11):1808-17.

  7. Leventhal LJ, Boyce EG, Zurier RB. Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis with blackcurrant seed oil. Br J Rheumatol. 1994;33(9):847-52.

  8. Leventhal LJ, Boyce EG, Zurier RB. Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis with gammalinolenic acid [see comments]. Ann Intern Med. 1993;119(9):867-73.

  9. Hounsom L, Horrobin DF, Tritschler H, Corder R, Tomlinson DR. A lipoic acid-gamma linolenic acid conjugate is effective against multiple indices of experimental diabetic neuropathy. Diabetologia. 1998;41(7):839-43.

  10. Jamal GA. The use of gamma linolenic acid in the prevention and treatment of diabetic neuropathy. Diabet Med. 1994;11(2):145-9.

Connect with MLH

New Appointments

 Well Ahead Newsletter


Copyright 2014 Main Line Health

Printed from:

The information provided in this Web site is for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice. All medical information presented should be discussed with your healthcare professional. See additional Terms of Use at For more information, call 1.866.CALL.MLH.