Borage Oil Relieves Periodontitis
Borage seed oil supplements reduce gum inflammation (gingivitis) and improve gum health in people with inflammation in the areas of the mouth around the teeth (periodontitis), according to a recent study in Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids (2003;68:213–8).
Symptoms of periodontitis include bleeding gums, receding gums, loosening of the teeth, and infection in pockets that form between inflamed gums and teeth. Left untreated, periodontitis can progress to the underlying bone and result in tooth loss. Good dental hygiene, including regular brushing and flossing, and periodic removal of plaque by a dentist or dental hygienist, is effective for prevention.
Bacteria in the mouth can initiate the process of inflammation, but it is believed that overactivity of the mouth’s immune system perpetuates chronic periodontitis. Anti-inflammatory medicines applied directly to the mouth or taken orally have been used to treat periodontitis with good effect. However, long-term use of oral anti-inflammatory medications can damage the stomach lining and cause gastritis and ulcers.
The omega-6 fatty acids from borage seed oil and the omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil are known to have anti-inflammatory effects that don’t harm the stomach lining. Both of these fatty acids act by altering the formation of substances known as prostaglandins that influence inflammation. Increased levels of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins are produced when there are high levels of these fatty acids in the body. A number of studies have demonstrated the beneficial effects of supplementation with these fatty acids in people with chronic inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, eczema, systemic lupus erythematosus, and others. Conversely, high levels of the fatty acids from animal fat increase pro-inflammatory prostaglandin production.
In this new study, 24 people with periodontitis were randomly assigned to receive one of the following four treatments: (1) 1,000 mg of fish oil three times per day, (2) 1,000 mg of borage oil three times per day, (3) 500 mg each of borage and fish oils three times per day, or (4) placebo. At the end of twelve weeks, there was a significant reduction in gingivitis and depth of pockets around teeth in the borage oil group. Some improvement was also noted in the other treatment groups but those improvements did not reach statistical significance. There was no improvement in gingivitis or pocket depth in the placebo group.
The results of this study suggest that borage seed oil might be useful in the treatment of periodontitis. The study is limited by its small size and by the small amounts of oils used. One prior controlled trial found that 6,000 mg of fish oil significantly reduced gingivitis after eight days of treatment. Larger trials, possibly involving higher amounts of both borage and fish oils, need to be done to confirm their therapeutic effects in people with periodontitis. The combined effect of limiting intake of pro-inflammatory dietary fats while supplementing with fish and borage oils might also be determined in future research.
Other nutritional therapies that have been shown to reduce gingivitis and periodontitis include folic acid mouth rinse, coenzyme Q10, and vitamin C in people with deficiency. There is evidence suggesting that bioflavonoids and some preparations made from anti-inflammatory and antibacterial herbs might also be helpful.
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, Vermont, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.
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