Side effects and interactions of borage seed oil

February 21, 2014 at 11:45 PM

Borage seed oil is plant oil derived from the seeds of the Borango officinalis. It has got a number of medicinal uses including the cure of eczema, respiratory tract infections, arthritis and inflammatory disorders. Herbs are natural substances that are generally very safe to use. But yes, side effects do appear when these herbs are used in an inappropriate dosage or without the recommendation of an expert. Same is true for borage seed oil.

Not only does borage oil produce side effects, but also leads to significant interactions with the drugs that you might be using.

Side effects of borage oil

The potential side effects and drug interactions of borage oil are as follows:

Digestive upset & headache

Minor side effects associated with borage seed oil include GIT upset. These side effects include nausea, diarrhea or headache associated with GIT upset.


Pyrrolizidine alkaloids are naturally occurring alkaloids that are believed to cause hepatotoxicity (damage to the liver). Studies conducted in the Memorial Sloane Kettering cancer center have shown that borage seed oils contain high levels of hepatotoxic chemical like pyrrolizidine and amabilene. The chances of hepatotoxicity are particularly high in people suffering from some kind of liver and kidney disease. The reason being, liver and kidneys are the most important organs that are meant for detoxification and elimination of harmful chemicals respectively. So, if the liver or kidney is damaged, the level of toxic substances increase inside body and result is further amplification of harmful effects- liver failure in this instance. However, alkaloid free supplement are now available that extract harmful components of the borage oil. So, if you decide to eat borage oil supplements, make sure that you chose the alkaloid free varieties.

Side effects during pregnancy and breastfeeding

Use of borage oil supplements is particularly contra-indicated in pregnant females due to three main reasons. First, as explained earlier borage oil contains high level of hepatotoxic substances that significantly increase the chances of liver failure and cancer in mother. Second, borage oil has seen to possess prostaglandin E agonist activity. Prostaglandin E is a chemical that can induce strong contractions of uterus. Such contractions during pregnancy can lead to the induction of premature labor. Finally, these alkaloids can cross the placenta and can gain access to the fetus. This can lead to serious birth defects. Similarly, use of these supplements is contraindicated during breastfeeding because these alkaloids can pass from mother to her baby through breast milk. These alkaloids, then, can lead to liver damage in young ones. So, never use these supplements during pregnancy or breastfeeding without consulting your practitioner.

Increased chances of bleeding

It is seen that borage oil supplements increase bleeding time and can induce significant bleeding. This effect is particularly amplified in individuals that are already suffering from some blood or liver disorder. This property of borage oil is perhaps due to the presence of gamma linolenic acid (GLA) in it.

Induction of seizures

A report published by the Georgia poison center, USA showed that individuals consuming borage oil supplements for a long period of time are at greater risk of developing seizures. So, if you’re suffering from some seizure disorder, you should never consume borage oil supplements without consulting with your doctor.

Complications during surgery

Surgery is a time of absolute emergency because there are chances of significant blood loss during it. As explained earlier, use of borage oil supplements can significantly increase the chances of bleeding. So, avoid the consumption of these supplements before going into a surgery as it can lead to surgical complications.

Drug interactions of borage oil

Borage oil is responsible for significant drug interactions. This property can alter the way your prescription drugs might respond. In extreme cases, these interactions can lead to significant toxicities.

So, knowing drug interactions of borage oil is important as it tells you which drugs are safe to use with borage oil and which drugs should be avoided.

Some important drug interactions of borage oil include:

Interaction with Cytochrome P450 inducers

Liver contains some enzymes that belong to cytochrome P450 family (there are several sub groups of cytochrome P450). These enzymes are responsible for the breakdown of several foreign materials like drugs. Borage oil is also broken down into its constituents by this enzyme system. When the breakdown of borage oil takes place, several harmful chemicals (including hepatotoxic chemical like pyrrolizidine and amabilene) are released. Some drugs can enhance the activity of cytochrome P450 system.

When this happens, the breakdown of borage oil takes place at an accelerated pace. As the result, the production of hepatotoxic metabolites of borage oil increase significantly. To put in simple words, use of borage oil supplements along with some other drugs can increase the liver damage caused by borage oil.

Such drugs include:

  • Carbamazepine (Tegretol)
  • Rifabutin (Mycobutin)
  • Phenobarbital
  • Phenytoin (Dilantin)
  • Rifampin

Interaction with anti-coagulants

Borage oil contains a high level of gamma linolenic acid (GLA). This chemical can significantly increase bleeding. Put in simple words, use of borage oil can increase the chances of bleeding in its user. The anti-coagulant effect of borage oil is enhanced several folds if it is used with other anti-coagulants. In other words, use of anti-coagulant medicines along with borage oil supplements is not safe as it can increase the chances of bleeding.

Such drugs include:

  • Warfarin (Coumadin)
  • Aspirin
  • Diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others)
  • Clopidogrel (Plavix)
  • Naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others)
  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others)
  • Dalteparin (Fragmin)
  • Heparin
  • Enoxaparin (Lovenox)

Interaction with drugs used during surgery

It is possible that borage oil might interact with medicines used during surgery. Such medicines include anesthetics. Surgery is a critical period and small things can lead to severe consequences. So, before going into a surgery you must tell your doctor about any medicine or natural product that you might be using, in order to avoid possible complications during the process of surgery.

Share this article
Written by: Michal Vilímovský (EN)
Education: Physician
Published: February 21, 2014 at 11:45 PM
Next scheduled update: February 21, 2016 at 11:45 PM
Our site uses cookies to provide services, personalize ads and analyze traffic. By using this site you agree. More info