Evening primrose is a wildflower that grows throughout the U.S., and has served as food and medicine throughout history, often for upset stomach and respiratory infections.
The oil is found in the plant's seeds and is high in the essential fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).
Oil is extracted from the seeds and prepared as medicine using a chemical called hexane.
The seeds contain up to 25% essential fatty acids including linoleic acid (LA) and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).
Both LA and GLA belong to the omega-6 family of fatty acids.
The vast majority of North Americans get too much omega-6 fatty acid in their diet. However, there are different types of omega-6 fatty acids. Some are health promoting, such as those found in evening primrose oil (EPO), while others can be more harmful, such as those typically found in the standard American diet.
The body needs a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to function normally. Omega-3 oils can be found in cold water fish such as salmon, as well as some plant sources, or in dietary supplements.
Other sources of GLA include spirulina (a blue-green algae), borage, hemp, and black currant oils.
Medicinal Uses and Indications:
EPO is used primarily to relieve the itchiness associated with certain skin conditions (such as eczema and dermatitis) and to ease breast tenderness from premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or other causes. Some of the uses for EPO include:
Clinical trials of EPO for arthritis began in the early 1980s. Available research has not demonstrated consistent support for arthritis, and currently there is not adequate evidence to recommend for or against this use of EPO.
Diabetic neuropathy is a nerve condition caused by diabetes. Patients experience numbness, tingling, pain, burning, or lack of sensation in the feet and legs. EPO may be beneficial in reducing these symptoms.
EPO is officially licensed for the treatment of breast pain (mastalgia) in the United Kingdom and considered first-line therapy in several European countries. EPO was found effective at decreasing breast pain in several clinical studies, however, other studies show no benefit.
Although EPO has gained some popularity for treating hot flashes, the research to date has not confirmed that GLA or EPO is beneficial for these symptoms.
•Breast cancer and breast cysts
•Chronic fatigue syndrome
•Pregnancy-induced hypertension (pre-eclampsia)
•Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
It is the balance of omega-6 (such as GLA) and omega-3 (such as fish oil) that promotes health. Taking an omega-3 fatty acid supplement along with EPO may be more beneficial for health than EPO alone in these and other conditions.
The main active ingredient in EPO is an omega-6 fatty acid known as gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). .
EPO is available as an oil or in capsules. EPO products should be kept in the refrigerator and out of direct sunlight to prevent the oil from becoming rancid. Generally, high-quality oil will be certified as organic by a reputable third party, packaged in light-resistant containers, refrigerated, and marked with a freshness date.
EPO should be standardized to contain 8% gamma-linolenic acid