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  Why I use Evening Primrose Oil, Not Borage Oil In Udo's Choice Oil Blend
 •  Summary Article   •  Expanded Version
 •  Full Length 6-part Document with Scientific References: Index, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

 

PART 6: Addendum to Borage Article, December 2002
press release ... lab results ... Udo's Commentary

In 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 release
Borage oil proven safe by independent lab tests
Chemisches Laboratorium of Germany confirms no pyrrolizidine alkaloids are detectable in borage seed oil
 
September 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 world, with 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 the comfrey family, produces a variety of alkaloids in its leaf tissue as part of its natural defence (sic) mechanisms. In recent years, the issue of PA's in borage came to the forefront when the German Federal Health Office published 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.

Although 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.

New, 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 used by Chemisches Laboratorium of Germany are 250 times lower than the levels deemed safe by the German Health Office. The newly released results mean that a person would have to consume more than 250 capsules of borage oil daily for many years to experience any potentially harmful effects.   Testing methods and results

Chemisches 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 Corp.

The 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.

  Borage 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, and PMS.

 

  Certified Lab Results from Chemisches Laboratorium
Grlamoorstrasse 23, 22851 Hamburg-Norderstedt
  Sample Lot Number PA Content
Borage seed 10478 37.8 mg/kg or 37.8 ppm

Refined oil (emph. added) 800669 No PA's detectable (detect. lt. of 4mcg.kg or 4 ppb)

Borage cake (left 62.8 mg/kg or 62.8 ppm over after pressing the seeds

mg/kg = milligrams per kilogram ppm = parts per million mcg/kg = microgram per kilogram ppb = parts per billion

  To receive copies of the Certificates of Analysis, please contact the Bioriginal Education Programs Director at 306-975-9550.

 

        Comment 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.
How much damage is done? Let's do the math.  Note that for easier computation, the numbers used have been rounded. The molecular 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 number of 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 cooking oils.
 
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.

Evening 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 processes.

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 by pesticides, mercury, dioxins, and chlorinated pesticides. The removal of these toxins requires more processing with further destruction of fish oil molecules. Finally, even the cleanest fish oils are not free of contaminants.

 

References:

  1. Redden PR, Lin 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.
  2. Fan Y-Y & Chapkin RS Importance of Dietary Gamma-Linolenic Acid in Human Health and Nutrition. Journal of Nutrition 1998 Sep; 128(9): 1411-14.
  3. Gibson RA et al Gamma linolenic acid (GLA) content of encapsulated evening primrose oil products. Lipids 1992 Jan; 27(1): 82-4.
  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; 13: 739-751.
  5. Belch JJ, Hill A Evening primrose oil and borage oil in rheumatologic conditions. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Jan 2000; 71 (1 suppl): 352S-6S.
  6. 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.
  7. Engler MM Comparative study of diets enriched with evening primrose, black current, borage or fungal oils on blood pressure and pressor responses in spontaneously hypertensive rats. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 1993 Oct; 49(4): 809-14.
  8. Dines KC, Cotter MA, Cameron NE Effectiveness of natural oils as sources of gamma-linolenic acid to correct peripheral nerve conduction velocity abnormalities in diabetic rats. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 1996 Sep; 55(3): 159-65.
  9. Mills S & Bone K Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Churchill Livingstone, London. 2000. Pp 364-5.
  10. Integrative Medicine web site: www.onemedicine.com March 2000.
  11. Erasmus U Fats That Heal Fats That Kill. Alive Books, Burnaby, Canada. 1993.
  12. Lloyd, Ian Botanical Contraindication s and Drug Interactions: www.pharmacyconnects.com/content/phpost/2000/03-00/ce-03-00.html Jul 2001
  13. Evening Primrose Oil-Toxicity Factors: www.sbwise.com/ingredients/eveningprimroseol.html Jun 2001
  14. Horrobin DF Nutritional and medicinal importance of gamma-linolenic acid. Prog Lipid Res 1992; 31(2): 163-94.
  15. Gamma-Linolenic Acid: www.mdadvice.com/library/vita/vitamin292.html Jul 2001
  16. Evening Primrose Oil: www.gnc.co.uk/healthcentre/Supp/Evening_Primrose_Oil.htm Jun 2001
  17. Cornell University Poison Plant web page: www.ansci.cornell.edu/plants/toxicagents/alkaloids/pyrrolizidine.html Jul 2001
  18. Cornell University Poison Plant web page: www.ansci.cornell.edu/plants/toxicagents/manuel/alkaloid.htm Jun, 2001
  19. USDA/ARS Poisonous Plant Research Laboratory web page: www.pprl.usu.edu/pa.htm Jun 2001
  20. Robbers JE & Tyler VE Tyler's Herbs of Choice: the Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals. The Hawthorn Herbal Press, Birmingham, NY. 1999. Pp 194 and 221-2.
  21. Letter from Varro E Tyler, Dean and Distinguished Professor Emeritus, to the American Botanical Council's Wayne Silverman, July 24, 1998.
  22. Pyrrolizidine alkaloids: www.ace.orst.edu/info/extoxnet/faqs/natural/pyr.htm Jun 2001
  23. Pyrrolizidine, Quinolizine, and Indolizidine Alkaloids: www.life.uiuc.edu/plantbio/363/lecture30.html Jun 2001
  24. Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids: www.ansci.cornell.edu/courses/as625/1997term/Sopheak/pyrol625.htm Jun 2001
  25. Med Nets Patient Information web page: www.mednets.com/pyrrolizidine.htm Jul 2001
  26. Borage (Borage officinalis): www.gnc.co.uk/healthcentre/enc/Herb/Borage.htm Jul 2001
  27. Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids and Borage Oil: www.bioriginal.com/bio_facts/pyrrolizidine.html Jul 2001
  28. DeSmet PAGM. Safety of borage seed oil. Can Pharm J 1991. Vol 124, p 5.
  29. Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD Herbal Medicines: a Guide for Health-Care Professionals. The Pharmaceutical Press, London. 1996. p 49.
  30. Parvais OB et al TLC detection of pyrrolizidine alkaloids in oil extracted form the seeds of Borago officinalis. Journal of Plant Chromatography Modern TLC 1994; 7(!): 80-2.
  31. Mierendorff HJ Determination of pyrrolizidine alkaloids by thin-layer chromatography in the oil of seeds of Borago officinalis. Fett Wissenschaft Technologie 1995; 97(1): 33-7.

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