This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
"Borage" (which, with its gallant blue flower, is freely grown in the kitchen garden for Claret cup, and the bees) "doth exhilarate," says an old herbalist, "when taken in sallets, and maketh the mind glad almost as beneficially as a bracing sojourn by the seaside during an autumn holiday." "Borago ego gaudia semper ago," or "Borage give always courage,"tells a truthful Latin adage, so cordial is this popular herb even from classic times! According to Dioscorides and Pliny, the Borage was that famous nepenthe of Homer, which Polydamas sent to Helen for a token, "of such rare virtue that when drunk steep'd in wine, if wife, and children, father and mother, brother and sister, and all thy dearest friends should die before thy face, thou couldst not grieve, or shed a tear for them." The Romans named Borage "Euphrosynon" because when put into a cup of wine it made drinkers thereof merry and glad. "Vinum potatum in quo sit macerata buglossa maerorem cerebri dicunt auferre periti": -
"To enliven the sad with the joy of a joke Give them wine with some borage put in it to soak".
The fresh herb has a cucumber-like fragrance, and when compounded with lemon, and sugar, in wine, with water, it makes a delicious "cool tankard," which is refreshing, and restorative, as a summer drink. Chemically the plant contains potassium, and calcium, combined with mineral acids. The fresh juice affords 30 per cent, and the dried herb 3 per cent, of nitrate of potash. The stems and leaves supply much saline mucilage, which, when boiled, and cooled, likewise deposits nitre, and common salt. It is to these saline qualities the wholesome, invigorating effects, and the specially recruiting properties of the Borage are supposed to be mainly due. Botanically the term Borage is a corruption of Cor-ago, because this herb gives strength to the heart; "Quia cordis affectibus medetur." The plant was the Bugloss of the older herbalists, and was so named from the shape, and bristly surface of its leaves, which resemble "Bous-glossa," the tongue of an ox. "Sprigs of Borage," 'wrote John Evelyn, "are of known virtue to revive the hypochondriac, and cheer the hard student." Parkinson adds: "Borage helpeth nurses to have more store of milk, for which purpose its leaves are most conducing." The saline constituents promote activity of the kidneys, and for the same reason Borage is used in France to carry off feverish catarrhs. "It is a herb," saith G-erarde, "of force and virtue to drive away sorrow, and the pensiveness of the mind, and to comfort the heart." (After which method Sir Thomas Browne reasons in his Religio Medici, when claiming to "cure vices by physick when they remain incurable by Divinity, the same obeying his pills when the precepts of the preachers are contemned.") John Swan, in his Speculum, Mundi (1643), "advised his gentle readers to be discreet in their generation, and to gather to themselves great armsful of never-dying Borage (so called because of its fair blew flowers, ripe seeds, and buds, which may all be seen on it at once), and bravely plunge it into wine, where," saith Master Swan, "it cannot but be good, and comfortable, and pleasant for the brain, and heart; it increaseth wit, and memoire, engendereth good blood, maketh a man merrie, and joyfull, and putteth away all melancholie, and madness".