What is Evening Primrose Oil?
Evening primrose oil is an essential oil extracted from the seeds of the evening primrose plant. Historically, Native Americans used it to treat bruises, hemorrhoids and minor wounds. Today it is used to regulate blood pressure, reduce nerve pain and treat various skin conditions as well as rheumatoid arthritis. It may also help relieve cramps associated with PMS and hot flashes associated with menopause (x, x, x).
Essential Fatty Acid Content
Evening primrose contains a fatty acid called gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). It is also present in other plant seed oils. The human body converts it into a chemical that regulates cell growth and prevents inflammation. GLA also helps regulate the immune system (x, x, x).
History of Primrose Oil
Historically, various parts of the evening primrose botanical—the seeds, flowers, leaves and roots—had medicinal purposes. Native Americans used it to make poultices and to treat bruises, wounds and hemorrhoids. Many tribes considered the roots a source of nutrition and an effective treatment for stomach ailments, sore throats and other gastrointestinal problems. Today, people use it to treat hair loss, high blood pressure and osteoporosis (x).
Benefits of Evening Primrose Oil
Treats Nerve Damage
Primrose oil may help relieve nerve damage. In one study, results showed that it may help alleviate nerve damage in crash-caused injuries (x). Research has also shown potential benefits in relation to diabetes-related nerve damage. Patients suffering from this condition exhibited significant improvement after taking daily doses of evening primrose oil (x).
Promotes Bone Health
Osteoporosis is a condition that reduces the bone density and makes them fragile and more prone to fracture (x). Studies show that pairing essential fatty acids with calcium, deposits calcium in the bone instead of the kidneys, arteries or other soft tissue. This stimulates bone density and reduces bone loss. Research suggests that primrose oil with calcium may benefit older adults with osteoporosis (x, x).
Essential fatty acids also improve the effects of Vitamin D and calcium absorption in the small intestine and the body loses less calcium in urinary excretion. This also helps increase calcium deposited in the bone and improve bone strength (x, x).
Eases Eczema and Psoriasis
Evening primrose may also relieve psoriasis and eczema symptoms with its fatty acid content and some patients use it as an alternative treatment. Both conditions are caused by inflammation and fatty acids help prevent it, while regulating abnormalities in essential fatty acids in the body. However, some researchers conclude that it may not be effective and may cause side effects. It is best to consult a doctor before using it as a topical treatment (x, x, x).
GLA may significantly have significant benefits when it comes to improving elasticity and smoothing wrinkles. This is because of the potent antioxidants in evening primrose oil, which help neutralize free radicals and protect the skin from oxidation. It can add hydration and smooth out wrinkles for flawless and youthful looking skin (x).
Slows Hair Loss
Studies have also suggested that it may slow hair loss by hydrating and softening hair, eliminating excess oil and stimulating longer and stronger hair. GLA also contains Vitamin E, which can reduce oxidative stress and reduce hair loss (x, x).
Minimizes Breast Pain
A 2010 research study conducted concluded that evening primrose oil may help alleviate menstrual pain, including breast pain. The study stated the gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) could reduce inflammation and aid in inhibiting prostaglandins, which is responsible for cyclical breast pain. The study also found that daily Vitamin E and oil intake for six months may reduce the severity of cyclical breast pain (x, x, x).
Improves Heart Health
Inflammation is related to heart disease and some patients use natural remedies in combination with traditional medical treatment, such as evening primrose oil. A 2014 study on rats tested the anti-inflammatory effects of primrose oil and its impact on reducing blood cholesterol level. The results suggest that they may improve cardiovascular conditions (x, x, x).
Other Health Benefits
Evening primrose oil may also play a role in treating other health conditions, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, coordination and movement problems, dyslexia, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, ulcerative colitis, Alzheimer’s, diaper rash and dry eyes. However, research has not proven its effectiveness in treating these diseases (x).
Side Effects of Evening Primrose Oil
Evening primrose is safe for short term use. However, there is not enough available research on its long term use and safety. Before taking this supplement, keep in mind that the Food and Drug Administration does not monitor supplements for quality check. It’s important to research the supplement and the company selling the product (x).
Primrose oil may cause headache, nausea, upset stomach and diarrhea. It may increase the risk of bleeding for people taking anticoagulants, or blood thinners. People scheduled for surgery should stop taking evening primrose oil at least two weeks before the scheduled operation to prevent excessive bleeding (x).
Primrose evening oil may increase the risk of seizures, so patients suffering from seizure disorders, such as epilepsy, or taking medication to treat schizophrenia should avoid the supplement. It may also put pregnant women at risk for miscarriage or induce labor (x).
Dosage and Preparation
Evening primrose oil is available as capsule in a gel cap form and can be found in most pharmacies and health food stores.
There is no standard dosing guideline for evening primrose oil, but typically one softgel of 1,000 mg is safe for adults. It is best to talk to a doctor about the proper dosage. Begin with the lowest dosage possible. If you start experiencing persistent or unusual side effects, stop using the product and see a doctor immediately. Supplements are not a substitute for medical treatment. Consult a doctor before adding supplements to your diet.
The Bottom Line
With the extensive research and a wide variety of benefits linked to evening primrose oil, it is not surprising that more and more people are starting to use this natural remedy to ease different conditions. Evening primrose oil contains an essential fatty acid called gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). The body converts GLA into a substance that fights cell growth and inflammation and supports the immune system.
Many people use evening primrose oil to address a number of conditions, including menstruation symptoms, nerve damage, high blood pressure and even skin and hair conditions. Although research suggests that it may benefit certain conditions, it is not an adequate replacement for medical treatment or a physician-prescribed treatment plan. Before taking evening primrose plant oil, talk to a doctor first to weigh the risks and benefits.