Joint-easing, skin-clearing, weight-losing, mood-balancing, PMS-busting – is there anything that starflower oil can’t do? Some people even believe it’s a hangover cure. In this post, we explore four wellness benefits associated with this supplement and whether there’s any truth behind the claims.
People have used the leaves and flowers from the starflower in cooking for thousands of years. However, the discovery of the wellness benefits of the plant’s seed oil is relatively recent. But we’re now seeing starflower oil popping up more and more in capsules as a nutritional supplement and as an oil for topical skincare.
First, what is starflower oil?
Starflower oil is a golden coloured oil extracted from the seeds of the borage plant (or borago officinalis to give it its formal Latin title.)1 Due to its star-shaped blue flowers, borage is often dubbed ‘starflower’ and this nickname is commonly used when describing the oil.
Borage is a botanical that’s associated with many wellness benefits. This is down to the flowering herb being jam-packed with fatty acids and antioxidants.
You’ll find it growing wild in the Mediterranean region, but it’s also cultivated in other countries, including the UK.
Starflower oil comes in two main forms
- As a liquid oil
- In starflower oil capsules or softgels
Starflower oil vs borage oil – what’s the difference?
Let’s clear up any confusion – starflower oil and borage oil are alternative names for the same liquid extracted from the seeds of the borage plant. These names are used pretty interchangeably.
- Starflower oil is extracted from the seeds of the borage plant
- It’s also commonly known as borage oil or borage seed oil
- The oil can be used both topically and taken orally
What’s so special about this plant seed oil?
Now some herbs and botanicals (take curcumin in turmeric for example) are backed by clinical trials and all kinds of credible research. Unfortunately, this isn’t currently the case for starflower oil.
Although there are lots of wellness claims attached to the use of this seed oil, the evidence behind them is mostly anecdotal.
But one thing that’s unanimously agreed is that starflower oil is an exceptional source of GLA (Gamma Linolenic Acid). And this may be sufficient reason for you to give this supplement a well-deserved spot in your wellness routine.
What does GLA do?
GLA is an omega 6 fatty acid found in various plant oils, including starflower oil and evening primrose oil. About one-third of the content of starflower oil is GLA (around 26%-38% to be more precise).2 This is significantly more than other seed oils.
Your body converts GLA into prostaglandin – a hormone-like chemical which gives your body important fighting abilities. So, it’s no surprise that starflower oil is the subject of much research in relation to reducing symptoms of various chronic inflammatory conditions.
However, there’s also a lot of buzz around GLA’s influence on hormone regulation. This fuels speculation that it could aid PMS and menopause symptoms.
- Starflower oil is famed for being a rich, natural source of GLA
- GLA is an omega 6 fatty acid with impressive anti-inflammatory properties
- This has led to claims that the GLA in starflower oil reduces symptoms of various chronic inflammatory conditions
What is starflower oil used for?
You may have been urged by friends to use starflower oil for menopause or PMS symptoms. Or maybe you’ve heard people rave about starflower oil weight loss. There are many potential benefits of this plant seed oil, but in this post, we focus on four popular uses.
4 uses of starflower oil
- Easing joint discomfort
- Improving skin barrier health
- Rebalancing hormones
- Supporting weight loss
Reducing joint discomfort
If you suffer with stiff, achy limbs, there are promising signs that taking starflower tablets could help with the tenderness and swelling that causes you daily discomfort. For example, there’s decent evidence emerging to suggest that GLA helps manage the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.4
UK charity Versus Arthritis, refers to two randomised control trials investigating the use of borage oil alongside medical treatments for rheumatoid arthritis.5
- Participants taking borage oil in the first trial reported improvements in joint tenderness, number of swollen joints and morning stiffness
- In the second trial, 64% of participants taking borage seed oil showed reductions in joint tenderness and morning stiffness
It could support healthier skin
Fatty acids have a crucial role in the structure and function of your skin’s outermost barrier.6 If your skin can’t produce enough of these protective oils, inflammation can occur. This shows on the surface as dry skin and other flare-ups.
So, for people who are low in essential fatty acids, a dose of GLA-rich starflower oil may help restore a healthy skin barrier. And there’s some evidence to suggest that topical application of the oil may have skin-soothing effects for some people with inflammatory skin conditions.
- A 2018 review of the role of plant oils in skin barrier repair, suggested the application of borage oil may be helpful to children suffering with dermatitis7
- According to another study, taking a supplement containing GLA (such as starflower oil) could contribute to reducing acne lesions8
- And in a trial of 45 healthy female participants, a 2g daily supplement of borage oil increased skin hydration and reduced skin scaling and roughness9
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It can help with symptoms triggered by fluctuations in hormones
Evening primrose oil and starflower oil are the two classic supplements that many women credit with tackling symptoms sparked by fluctuations in hormones. For example, many believe taking these plant seed oils can help with reducing hot flushes, calming mood swings, relieving menstrual cramps and generally regulating the menstrual cycle.
There currently aren’t sufficient high-quality studies to draw accurate conclusions on whether taking starflower oil for menopause and PMS symptoms really helps. But it seems plausible that a deficiency in GLA could contribute to the inflammation that makes PMS and menopause symptoms worse.10
- The GLA in starflower oil may interfere with menstrual cramp-inducing prostaglandins.11 However, there’s very little research out there to confirm this leads to a reduction in abdominal discomfort for women.
- A plentiful dose of the GLA you get from starflower oil could help with reducing breast discomfort connected with the menstrual cycle.12
Starflower oil weight loss maintenance
Unfortunately, taking starflower is unlikely to have any magical fat-burning effects. However, research suggests the GLA in starflower oil could be helpful in reducing the risk of weight regain after significant weight loss.13
- In one study, taking a daily 5g dose of borage oil helped 50 obese participants to reduce the amount of weight they regained.14
- Starflower oil is connected to many wellness claims, from improving skin health to aiding certain aspects of women’s health
- There isn’t currently sufficient scientific study on humans to draw any robust conclusions on many claimed benefits of this plant seed oil
- That said, some promising potential benefits of starflower oil are emerging, particularly in relation to joint and skin health
Is starflower oil the same as evening primrose?
Evening primrose oil and starflower oil are both rich sources of the fatty acid GLA. As a result, there’s significant overlap in their uses. But a significant difference is the GLA content found in the two plant seed oils.
In short, starflower oil is a more concentrated source of GLA than evening primrose oil. In fact, starflower oil capsules deliver more than twice the level of GLA than the equivalent-sized evening primrose capsule.15
What are the side effects of starflower oil?
Borage oil appears very safe to use. Little has been found in the way of side effects of taking it as a supplement.
Like other fatty acid supplements, it's possible that you may experience unwanted effects such as bloating, nausea and indigestion.
If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, have a blood disorder or liver disease, or if you have surgery scheduled, seek medical advice before taking supplements containing borage seed oil.
- Starflower provides a more concentrated dose of GLA than evening primrose oil
- As a supplement, it’s considered safe for most people
- Exceptions include women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and people with blood or liver disorders
- Starflower oil side effects include bloating, nausea and indigestion
Conclusion: Is starflower oil worthy of the hype?
The bottom line is the unearthing of starflower oil’s GLA-powered wellness benefits is relatively recent. As a result, there isn’t plentiful high-quality research to back up all of the recommended uses at this moment in time.
However, it’s a supplement with an enthusiastic fanbase. And as it’s generally safe for most people to use (with only a few exceptions), many people feel the potential benefits make it worth adding to their wellness routine.
Last updated: 05 May 2021