Borage Oil for Arthritis
Borage oil is an alternative treatment for relieving the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Borage oil derives from the seeds of the plant Borago officinalis, found throughout North America, Europe, Northern Africa and Asia. Borage oil contains gamma linoleic acid, or GLA, an omega-6 fatty acid that may decrease inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Borage seed oil contains about 20 to 26 percent GLA, according to Arthritis Today.
GLA works by decreasing the joint pain, swelling and stiffness associated with rheumatoid arthritis. GLA is an essential fatty acid, meaning the body is unable to produce it on its own. It must be obtained through diet or supplementation. The body converts GLA to dihomo-gama-linolenic acid and then prostaglandin E1, or PGE1. PGE1, a hormone-like substance with anti-inflammatory properties, may benefit arthritis. Low levels of PGE1 in the body are associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
A study published in the Journal of Rheumatology found patients treated with 2.8 g per day of borage oil for six months showed a reduction in the number of tender joints, as well as joint swelling and tenderness and number of swollen joints. A in Annals of Internal Medicine showed a reduction in the number of tender joints by 36 percent, tenderness of joints by 45 percent, number of swollen joints by 28 percent and swelling of joints by 41 percent when patients were given 1.4 g of borage oil per day for 24 weeks.
The most common side effects are nausea, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, gas, indigestion and headache. These may be avoided by taking borage oil supplements with food. Stop taking borage oil if symptoms of an allergic reaction such as swelling of the face or mouth, difficulty breathing or rash occur.
You can take borage seed oil in liquid and capsule form. Researchers at the University of Michigan Health System recommend taking 1.4 g to 2.8 g of borage oil per day for at least two months.
Borage seeds may contain a small amount of a liver toxin known as unsaturated pyrrolizidine alkaloid. Use borage oil products certified free of unsaturated pyrrolizidine. Do not take borage oil in conjunction with blood thinning medications, such as Coumadin or aspirin, as it may prolong bleeding. Borage oil may lower the seizure threshold if taken with anti-seizures medications such as phenothiazines, so avoid it if you have a seizure disorder. Borage oil is considered a teratogen and may cause premature labor, so it is contraindicated in those who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Omega-6 fatty acids such as GLA may be associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer. Don't take borage oil if you have prostate cancer or at risk for prostate cancer.