Borage oil might or might not ease eczema

I am a 51-year-old woman who has been plagued with persistent eczema. The skin on my hands was always red, itchy, cracked and often bleeding. My hands were always covered with bandages or gauze.

Dermatologists prescribed cortisone creams of increasing strength. None was helpful in the long term. Hand cream for dry skin was useless.


Five years ago, I went to an allergist for an unrelated problem. When he saw my hands, he was concerned that the open sores put me at risk of infection. He suggested taking borage oil, since it had helped many of his patients.

I tried it, taking one capsule of borage oil after breakfast and one before bed. Within a few months, the eczema on my hands had disappeared completely, and the condition is now only a minor annoyance. My dry skin is controlled with ordinary hand cream. I hope this tip will help others.


Borage oil is rich in a fatty acid called GLA (gamma-linolenic acid). The oil comes from the plant Borago officinalis, also known as star flower. We are delighted that you got such relief, but not everyone will benefit.

A placebo-controlled study recently published in the British Medical Journal (Dec. 13, 2003) suggests that borage oil is ineffective for eczema. The researchers conclude that "it seems unlikely that dietary supplementation with gamma-linolenic acid is beneficial in management of atopic dermatitis."

You recently wrote about canker sores (aphthous ulcers). I have found that toothpaste with SLS (sodium laurel sulfate) makes the ulcers much worse. When I switched to Weleda toothpaste, I saw an immediate improvement. Toothpaste with tartar control seems to be especially irritating.

Thanks for the testimonial. Some dentists recommend avoiding toothpaste with SLS to reduce canker sores.

We also heard from another reader that a vitamin might be helpful: "My mother had many canker sores. In a routine physical, she was tested for vitamin B-12 and found to be deficient. Once her doctor started her on B-12 shots, the canker sores disappeared and have not recurred."