thousands of years, wise women and shamans have cultivated
the lore of medicinal plants, based on their intuitive
inner perception, their observation of the plants in the
wild, and their experiences with plants as healers. The
ancient herbal tradition focused primarily on physical
healing, with some relatively rudimentary and generic potions
for mental and emotional conditions.
Homeopathy, developed 200 years ago, is
a relative newcomer in the field of natural medicine. Yet
its founder, the German physician Samuel Hahnemann, translated
texts of herbal medicine from around the world and used
medicinal herbs as the primary source of his newly formulated
pharmacy. From the very beginning, homeopathy was deeply
rooted in the rich lore of herbal knowledge from the ancient
The refinement process of the homeopathic
pharmacy brought out the subtle power of plants to heal
a range of issues including mental, emotional, behavioral
and energetic imbalances. Yet homeopathic remedies maintained
the strengths of their herbal predecessors in addressing
physical conditions as well. Still more recently, the flower
essence system of healing has taken the medicinal uses
of plants to yet another level of refinement. Developed
first by English physician Edward Bach, the flower essence
system focuses entirely on emotional healing, based on
the principle that healing on the soul level will heal
ailments on the physical level.
Integral Homeopathy bridges ancient herbal lore, classical homeopathy and
the modern practice of flower essence therapy. Integral Homeopathy offers
a more complex use of medicines, by considering a variety of perspectives.
All three traditions—herbs, homeopathy,
flower essences—use medicinal plants in ways that
overlap, yet each maintains its own perceptual lens. This
article examines how each of the three healing modalities
views plants and their powers to heal, using as a model
the common pot-herb Borage. Borage will first be introduced
through the objective lens of botany, as Borago officinalis.
to originate in Syria, borage is now naturalized throughout
most of Europe and the United States. It flourishes as
a weed near houses and on rubbish heaps. While many modern
gardeners consider it a nuisance, it was traditionally
grown in gardens to use as an herb, for its edible flowers,
and for its ability to increase the yields of honey.
The plant is easily recognized by its
white prickly hairs and its bright blue star-shaped flowers.
It grows to about 1-2’ high, with many hollow, almost
succulent branching stems. The ovate to lanceolate leaves
are 3” long and 1-1/2” wide, growing in an
alternate pattern up the stems. The lower leaves are stalked,
with stiff one-celled hairs on the upper surface as well
as on the veins below. The deep green leaves have sinuous,
wavy margins. The inch-wide bright blue star-shaped flowers
have prominent black anthers forming a cone in the center.
The fruits consist of brownish-black nutlets in groups
Borage does well in ordinary soil. It
can be propagated by division of rootstocks, however, it
is easily grown from seed, which it does quite successfully
on its own year after year. The seeds often grow in the
same place. (Hoffman 1995)
According to the US Department
of Agricultural, Borage contains:
• macronutrients such as carbohydrates, protein, fats, fiber, glucose and
galactose, and gamma-linolenic acid (an essential fatty acid)
• vitamins such as ascorbic acid (vitamin C), beta carotene (pro-vitamin
A), and choline, niacin, riboflavin and thiamine (elements of the B complex)
• minerals including calcium, cobalt, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium,
sodium and zinc
• other plant compounds including allantoin, lactic acid, malic acid, mucilage,
rosmarinic acid, and tannin (Warkinton 2002)
Origins of the Common Name
While there are many popular theories
as to the origin of the name ‘borage,’ it is
believed that the Latin borago is a corruption of
the word corrago, having the root cor, ‘heart’,
and ago, ‘I lead.’ The plant was said
to have a ‘cordial’ effect, i.e. to have a
tonic and strengthening effect on the heart. The Italian borra and
French bourra, signifying ‘hair’ or ‘wool,’ are
derived from the Latin burra, ‘a flock of
wool.’ These names for the plant apparently refer
to its thick covering of short hairs.
Interestingly, the herbalist Henslow suggested that the Celtic barrach,
meaning ‘a man of courage’ relates to the borage plant as
well. (Grieve 1971)
The French herbalist Gerard discussed
Borage by referring to the ancient Greek naturalist Pliny,
who said that the plant ‘maketh a man merry and joyful.’ (Hoffman
1995) Dioscorides, the first century Greek physician, mentioned
the use of Borage to ‘comfort the heart, purge melancholy
and quiet the lunatic person.’ Both Pliny and Dioscorides
believed Borage was the famous nepenthe of Homer, which when
steeped in wine brought about forgetfulness.
John Evelyn, the seventeenth century English
herbalist, spoke of Borage ‘to revive the hypochondriac
and cheer the hard student’, while his contemporary
Culpepper used the plant for ‘putrid and pestilential
fever, the venom of serpents, jaundice, consumption, sore
throat and rheumatism.’ (Hoffman 1995)
The tops of Borage were used throughout
Europe as a pot-herb for making soups and stews, and the
young leaves were often added to salads. With a faint cucumber-like
flavor, the leaves can impart coolness to sweetened drinks.
It has been added to vinegars and wine to enhance flavor,
and the flowers were traditionally made into candies.
Modern herbals consider this plant a diuretic,
promoting the activity of the kidneys; a demulcent, soothing
raspy sore throats; and an emollient. (Grieve 1971) It
is also used for fevers and pulmonary complaints. Other
modern herbalists use borage as a restorative for the adrenal
cortex for people who are overworked, exhausted and burned
out. The leaves stimulate production of milk in nursing
mothers. (Hoffman 1995)
Modern clinical trials have shown that
Borage seed oil “reduces cardiovascular reactivity
to stress by reducing the systolic blood pressure and heart
rate and by increased task performance .” (Haughton
2001) It helps prevent inflammation of the gastrointestinal
mucosa in cases of allergy and infection, and it may also
assist in iron absorption. It has also been useful as an
eyewash to relieve irritation. It has anexpectorant action,
promoting the loosening of phlegm in a cough.
The oil is rich in gammalinolenic and
linoleic acid, used as a source of prostaglandins to treat
menstrual problems and chronic skin conditions. Combined
with evening primrose oil, it helps reduce blood cholesterol
levels. (Haughton 2001)
Medicine and Empiricism
Samuel Hahnemann established the principles of homeopathic
medicine between 1796 and 1804, one of the key tenets
was that the action of a medicinal substance is ‘discovered’ through
an empirical process or ‘proving.’ This process
involves healthy people ingesting the substance and empirically
noting, by self-observation, all the resulting physiological
and psychological changes.
Borage has recently been added to the
homeopathic pharmacopeia through such a proving, conducted
by four provers under the supervision of Stephen Olsen.
The resulting proving journals were published (Olsen 1997)
and will be briefly summarized here. The combined experience
of these provers point to a remedy type of a strong-minded
person who has difficulty compromising. This type of person
becomes hard and abrasive or even angry to the point of
rage if not listened to and from an inability to listen
to others and to see different points of view.
A person needing Borage fears failure.
They feel that it is their duty to take on all the responsibility
in a given situation, resulting in resenting their role
in life. Somatically this attitude can be expressed as
stiffness in the joints, high blood pressure, tension headaches
and flaring eczema. People needing the remedy Borage tend
to be warmer than others and to feel worse in the heat.
It seems this ‘borage type’ may
have a history of taking on the role of parent in their
family at young age. If a parent was missing or sick they
take on heavy family responsibilities such as looking after
younger siblings. Since they are often not ready for this
task, they may compensate for their anxiety by taking on
a more exaggerated parental nature, becoming overly protective,
strict and authoritarian. They are argumentative, forceful,
and angry, tending to create tension and to lack flexibility.
There is a sense that they must attend
to every detail or a catastrophe will befall the family.
By saving others, they are limiting the possibility that
they themselves will be abandoned. Gradually they lose
any playful, carefree, and spontaneous aspects, because
they feel that everything has to be right. They may become
very disagreeable and easily offended, resenting the choices
of other people.
and Goethean Science
Flower Essence Therapy was developed
by Edward Bach in the early 20th century. (Barnard 2002)
Richard Katz and Patricia Kaminski (1996) in the development
of the Flower Essence Society, have taken the work of Bach
and further developed its principles, using Goethean science.
Borage is one of the remedies developed by the Flower Essence
Borage, as a flower essence, is for heavy
heartedness and lack of confidence when facing challenges.
The remedy is said to bring courage to the taker, providing
a condition of “buoyancy of the soul”. (Katz
and Kaminski 1994) Borage is said to bring “lightness
and ebullience to the soul, filling it with optimism and
The use of Goethean science allows the
flower essence approach to consider the ‘gesture’ of
the flower and the plant as a whole. The practitioner first
observes the plant carefully, then meditates upon the flower,
trying to bring a mental image of the plant into the mind.
This active or ‘exact’ imagination allows one
to “see the essential gesture of the plant” (Katz & Kaminski).
As we tend to our perceptions, our understanding becomes
When I did this with the Borage growing
in my front yard, I first began to notice the contrast
between heaviness and lightness. The stems are thick and
the flowers drop back down towards the earth, yet the tiny
hairs are light and almost translucent. The leaves have
a heavy mucilaginous, watery quality, while the light blue
flowers have a richness and lightness of color. The star
flower radiates outward, with well defined symmetry. The
newly blossomed flowers look up toward the sun before nodding
downward with age. This uplifting form bestows lightness
and speaks of spiritual harmony.
chose to meditate with the borage plant when I was feeling
heavyhearted myself, and I could feel my inner state resonating
with the drooping of the older flowers. Yet the longer
I meditated, the more I could feel the lightness and upliftment
of the newer flowers soothing my heart.
The full vitality of the plant in spring
becomes quiet and calm in the summer months, dying back
in the full summer sun. The heavy nodding of the flowers
down to earth links Borage to usage for venous blood such
as phlebitis, where gravity plays a part in the action
of the blood stream. (Pelikan 1997)
a Remedy for An Integral Homeopathy
Each healing modality which uses Borage— medical
herbalism, classical homeopathy and flower essence therapy—illumines
different aspects of this plant. In Integral Homeopathy,
the practitioner uses any of these forms of the remedy,
depending on which aspect of the plant is needed.
As an herb, it comforts the heart, bringing
cheer, restoring adrenal functioning, promoting lactation
in nursing mothers and healing fevers of pulmonary origin.
As well, it reduces cholesterol and soothes the gastric
mucosa and respiratory tract.
As a homeopathic remedy, it brings playfulness
and spontaneity to persons who have been burdened by family
responsibility, becoming hardened and resentful. Their
argumentativeness stems from their protective nature due
to their anxiety about the family’s welfare.
The flower essence promotes optimism and
enthusiasm in a person who has suffered burdens experienced
in the heart.
A central theme emerges: Borage is a remedy
for heaviness of the heart, bringing lightness and flexibility.
Dioscorides’ remarkable observation of two thousand
years ago is consistent with all three modern perspectives:
he said that Borage ‘cheers the heart and helps drooping
May the reader find Borage, as a remedy
or flower essence or even a living plant to meditate with,
as a healing balm for a heaviness of the heart.
Barnard, J. (2002) Bach flower
remedies: form & function. Bodmin, Cornwall:
MPG Books Ltd.
Grieve, M. (1971) A Modern Herbal. http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/b/borage66.html
Haughton, C. (2001) www.purplesage.org.uk/profiles/borage.htm
Hoffman, D. (1995) http://www. healthy.net/asp/templates/article.asp?
Katz, R. & Kaminski, P. “The Twelve Windows of Perception.” www.
Olsen, S. (1997) Trees and plants that heal. Maple Ridge, British
Columbia: Legacy Publications.
Pelikan, W. (1997) Healing plants: insights through spiritual science.
Spring Valley, NY: Mercury Press.
Warkinton, D. (2002) Reference Works San Rafael, CA, Kent Associates.
Joel Kreisberg, DC, CCH, is the Director
of the Teleosis Foundation, founder of the Teleosis School
of Homeopathy, and a practicing homeopath and chiropractor
in Berkeley, CA. He lectures nationally on Ecologically
1521B 5th St.
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