PART 6: Addendum to Borage Article,
press release ... lab
results ... Udo's Commentary
June of 2002, we obtained the following press release,
sent out by Bioriginal, a manufacturer of borage oil
in Canada. Here is the release:
||News for immediate
oil proven safe by independent lab tests
Laboratorium of Germany confirms no pyrrolizidine alkaloids
are detectable in borage seed oil
28, 2000 - New
test results from an independent lab in Germany have
lain to rest any concerns about the safety of borage
seed oil due to the presence of pyrrolizidine alkaloids
(PA's). Lab analysis conducted this month by Chemisches
Laboratorium of Germany found no PA's in refined (emphasis
added) borage seed oil. The analysis used the most
sensitive testing methods currently available in the
detection limits of 4 micrograms per kilogram (4mcg/kg),
or 4 parts per billion (ppb). The
research was sponsored by Bioriginal Food & Science
Corp. of Saskatoon, Canada, a leading manufacturer
of borage oil and other essential fatty acid products. History:The
question of PA's in borage first arose with the publication
of a paper by Larson, Roby and Stermitz in 1984, (1) in
which they found unsaturated PA's in the leaf tissue
of borage plants. Borage, like many other plants in
comfrey family, produces a variety of alkaloids in
its leaf tissue as part of its natural defence (sic)
In recent years, the issue of PA's in borage came to
the forefront when the German Federal Health Office
its recommendation that intake of PA's should not exceed
1 microgram (1mcg) per day due to their potentially
carcinogenic effects and potentially harmful effects
on the liver.
testing down to 5 parts per million (5 ppm) could not
detect any PA's in refined (emphasis added) oil
made form borage seed, many authorities remained cautious
about recommending borage oil. Reputable sources such
as Dr. Varro Tyler's Honest Herbal and his more
recent book Tyler's Herbs of Choice as well as
online information providers such as Healthnotes published
cautions about borage oil due to its potential PA content.
more sensitive testing methods have allowed us to confirm
that borage oil is, indeed, a safe supplement free
from potentially harmful levels of PA's. Detection levels
by Chemisches Laboratorium of Germany are 250 times
lower than the levels deemed safe by the German Health
The newly released results mean that a person would
have to consume more than 250 capsules of borage oil
for many years to experience any potentially harmful
effects. Testing methods and results
Laboratorium tested samples of borage seed, refined (emphasis
added) oil, and cake left after pressing of the seeds.
Samples were provided by Bioriginal Food & Science
results as tabulated on the next page clearly demonstrate
that no PA's were detectable in the refined (emphasis
added) oil as determined by testing to a detection limit
of less than 4 mcg/kg or 4 ppb. However, PA's are present
in the seed and are left in the cake.
oil nutritional products are made from refined (emphasis
added) oil, which contains no pyrrolizidine alkaloids. Borage
seed oil is, in fact, a useful therapeutic oil with numerous
health benefits due to its high content of gamma linolenic
acid (GLA). Research has proven GLA to be useful in rheumatoid
arthritis, eczema, diabetic neuropathy, cardiovascular health,
Lab Results from Chemisches Laboratorium
23, 22851 Hamburg-Norderstedt
Number PA Content
seed 10478 37.8 mg/kg or 37.8 ppm
(emph. added) 800669 No PA's detectable (detect.
lt. of 4mcg.kg or 4 ppb)
cake (left 62.8 mg/kg or 62.8 ppm
over after pressing the seeds
= milligrams per kilogram ppm = parts per
million mcg/kg = microgram per kilogram ppb
= parts per billion
copies of the Certificates of Analysis, please contact the
Bioriginal Education Programs Director at 306-975-9550.
by Udo Erasmus:
|The Bioriginal press release deserves
comment. First, note that only refined borage
oil was tested. Refined oil is oil that has been destructively
processed, using harsh chemicals (NaOH, H3PO4,
bleaching clays) and is then, to get rid of rancid odor
developed by the chemical treatment, is heated to frying
temperature (deodorized). During this processing, 0.5 to1%
of the molecules is damaged and made toxic.
|The above processing is the reason why
I don't recommend cooking oils and fish oils that have
undergone similar destructive processing for the sake
of longer shelf life or the removal of toxic natural (e.g.
pyrrolizidine alkaloids) or unnatural (e.g. pesticide)
molecules. Second, note also that those who use borage
oil in their oil blends have for years told us that the
borage oil they use is unrefined and organically grown.
In fact, one of the suppliers of oils has, since I published
my concerns about borage oil, decided to remove borage
oil from their oil products. I don't know if the misrepresentation
originated with the producer of the refined borage oil
or those who market the refined borage oil.
In either case, thousands of consumers
have been misled for many years. When oils are treated
with NaOH, H3PO4, then bleached,
and then deodorized, damage is done to the oil.
damage is done? Let's do the math. Note that for
easier computation, the numbers used have been rounded.
weight of a triglyceride molecule is about 1,000. Chemistry
tells us that this number of grams of oil contains a huge
number, specifically about 6 X 1023 or about
6 followed by 23 zero's (600, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000,
000, 000) molecules. One tablespoon is about 1% of that
molecules. Knock off 2 zero's.
If one percent damaged molecules
are present in an oil that has been destructively processed
(such refined oils include cooking oils, encapsulated refined borage or other oils, and encapsulated fish oils),
knock off 2 more zero's to get a measure of the number
of damaged molecules.
|1 Tbsp contains
about 6 X 1019 damaged toxic molecules that
can do harm to health. Note 1: Borage
oil is even more sensitive to destruction by light, oxygen,
and heat than are cooking oils, and may therefore sustain
even more damage during processing. Note 2: Fish
oils contain the long chain omega-3 derivatives EPA and DHA.
These omega-3 derivatives are up to 25 times more sensitive
to destruction by light, oxygen, and heat than are cooking
oils. Fish oils can therefore contain an even higher
percentage of damaged molecules than one would find in
|The huge number of damaged, toxic molecules
(numbers based on damage done to cooking oils during the
processes used to 'refine' these oils) adds up to about
1,000,000 toxic molecules for every one of the 60 trillion
cells in the body. Those million toxic molecules come
from just 1 Tbsp of oil that is only 1% damaged. One Tbsp
of oil weighs about 14 grams. A 500mg capsule of oil is
about 1/30th of 1 Tbsp. A 500mg capsule of refined oil can provide about 2 X 1018 damaged, toxic
molecules (1/30th of 6 X 1019 toxic
molecules), or about 33,333 toxic molecules for every cell
in the body (2 X 1018/6 X 1013 =
2/6th X 105 molecules). If only 0.5%
of the oil molecules are damaged, a 500 mg capsule will
supply 1 X 1018 toxic molecules. Each cell in
the body must then contend with about 16,667 toxic molecules.
Should you be concerned? I can't decide that question for
you, but I am concerned enough to avoid using or recommending
cooking oils, refined encapsulated oils, and encapsulated
fish oils for people looking for the best of health.
It is ironic. Borage-the leaves, the
seeds, the seed cake, and the unrefined oil-can contain
toxic pyrrolizidines. To remove these, the oil is 'refined'.
Refining removes parts per million of toxic pyrrolizidines,
but damages oil molecules to parts per hundred (about 10,000
times more). It is not entirely clear which is more toxic.
I cannot in good conscience recommend either type of borage
oil for the improvement or maintenance of health.
primrose oil, the other readily available source of GLA,
is available from organically grown seeds, mechanically
pressed under protection from light, oxygen (air), and
heat, and unrefined. Evening primrose oil is naturally
free of toxins, and therefore need not be damaged by
refining. I still prefer evening primrose oil to borage
oil. I prefer
evening primrose to other sources of GLA such as black
currant seed oil, which is also damaged by oil refining
And I do not recommend fish oils for the same
reason: damage done to the oil during processing. In
addition, there are concerns about fish oil contamination
mercury, dioxins, and chlorinated pesticides. The removal
of these toxins requires more processing with further
destruction of fish oil molecules. Finally, even the
oils are not free of contaminants.
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X, Fahey J, Horrobin DF Sterespecific analysis of the
major triacylglycerol species containing gamma-linolenic
acid in evening primrose oil and borage oil. Journal
of Chromatography, 1995; 704: 99-101.
- Fan Y-Y & Chapkin
RS Importance of Dietary Gamma-Linolenic Acid in Human
Health and Nutrition. Journal of Nutrition 1998 Sep;
- Gibson RA et al Gamma
linolenic acid (GLA) content of encapsulated evening primrose
oil products. Lipids 1992 Jan; 27(1): 82-4.
- Barre DE, Holub
BJ, Chapkin RS The effect of borage oil supplementation
on human platelet aggregation, thromboxane B2, prostaglandin
E1 and E2 formation. Nutritional Research 1993;
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A Evening primrose oil and borage oil in rheumatologic
conditions. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Jan
2000; 71 (1 suppl): 352S-6S.
- Fan Y-Y, Chapkin
RS Mouse peritoneal macrophage prostaglandin E1 synthesis
in altered by dietary gamma-linolenic acid. Journal of
Nutrition 1992; 122: 1600-1606.
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study of diets enriched with evening primrose, black current,
borage or fungal oils on blood pressure and pressor responses
in spontaneously hypertensive rats. Prostaglandins
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MA, Cameron NE Effectiveness of natural oils as sources
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K Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal
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web site: www.onemedicine.com March
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That Heal Fats That Kill. Alive Books, Burnaby, Canada.
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Poison Plant web page: www.ansci.cornell.edu/plants/toxicagents/alkaloids/pyrrolizidine.html Jul
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Poison Plant web page: www.ansci.cornell.edu/plants/toxicagents/manuel/alkaloid.htm Jun,
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The Hawthorn Herbal Press, Birmingham, NY. 1999. Pp 194 and
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Information web page: www.mednets.com/pyrrolizidine.htm Jul
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officinalis): www.gnc.co.uk/healthcentre/enc/Herb/Borage.htm Jul
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and Borage Oil: www.bioriginal.com/bio_facts/pyrrolizidine.html Jul
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