The Benefits of Evening Primrose Oil

Evening Primrose flower. Anna Yu/Getty Images

What Is Evening Primrose Oil?

Evening primrose oil is sourced from Oenothera biennis, a plant native to North America. It contains gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a fatty acid required by the body for growth and development.

Health Benefits of Evening Primrose Oil:

Research suggests that evening primrose oil may be of little value in the management of premenstrual syndrome or menopausal symptoms. However, other studies indicate that evening primrose oil may help with certain conditions:

1) Eczema

Evening primrose oil may help relieve the itching, crusting, redness, and swelling associated with atopic eczema, according to a meta-analysis published in 2006. Fatty acids are thought to play a role in these beneficial effects.

Evening primrose oil is just one remedy for eczema. Find out about other Natural Remedies For Eczema.

2) Rheumatoid Arthritis

To date, there's little research on the effectiveness of evening primrose oil in treating rheumatoid arthritis (an inflammatory condition that causes pain and swelling of the joints). However, a report published in 2001 suggests that evening primrose oil may have indirect anti-inflammatory actions and may help manage this autoimmune disease.

See Natural Remedies For Rheumatoid Arthritis.

3) Breast Cancer

Preliminary research suggests that GLA may help destroy tumors without inducing damage to normal cells or causing harmful side effects.

And in a small study published in 2000, researchers found that participants who took GLA supplements in addition to the breast cancer drug tamoxifen responded more quickly to breast cancer treatment than those who took tamoxifen alone.

Learn about Natural Remedies For Breast Cancer Prevention as well as complementary therapies.

Uses for Evening Primrose Oil

In herbal medicine, evening primrose oil is typically used to treat these health problems:

Caveats

Evening primrose oil may cause mild side effects such as gastrointestinal upset, headache, and nausea in some individuals.

Intake of evening primrose oil may increase risk of bleeding for people taking anticoagulant or antiplatelet medication. It also may interfere with phenothiazines (tranquilizing drugs with antipsychotic actions).

Since evening primrose oil may increase risk of pregnancy complications, pregnant women should consult their physician before using this supplement.

Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. Also keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established.

You can also get tips on using supplements here.

Using Evening Primrose Oil

Available in many health food stores and in pharmacies offering herbal supplements, evening primrose oil is typically sold in capsule form.

If you're considering using evening primrose oil in treatment of a chronic condition, make sure to consult your physician first. It's especially important to seek medical guidance if you're seeking to manage a condition such as breast cancer or rheumatoid arthritis. Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. Also keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get tips on using supplements here, but if you're considering the use of nux vomiva, talk with your primary care provider first. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Sources

Budeiri D, Li Wan Po A, Dornan JC. "Is evening primrose oil of value in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome?" Control Clin Trials. 1996 17(1):60-8.

Darlington LG, Stone TW. "Antioxidants and fatty acids in the amelioration of rheumatoid arthritis and related disorders." Br J Nutr. 2001 85(3):251-69.

Kenny FS, Pinder SE, Ellis IO, Gee JM, Nicholson RI, Bryce RP, Robertson JF. "Gamma linolenic acid with tamoxifen as primary therapy in breast cancer." Int J Cancer. 2000 85(5):643-8.

Kronenberg F, Fugh-Berman A. "Complementary and alternative medicine for menopausal symptoms: a review of randomized, controlled trials." Ann Intern Med. 2002 19;137(10):805-13.

Medline Plus; (Oenothera biennis L.). Evening primrose oil; Accessed at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/patient-primrose.html.

Menendez JA, Ropero S, Lupu R, Colomer R. "Omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid (18:3n-6) enhances docetaxel (Taxotere) cytotoxicity in human breast carcinoma cells: Relationship to lipid peroxidation and HER-2/neu expression." Oncol Rep. 2004 11(6):1241-52.

Morse NL, Clough PM. "A meta-analysis of randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials of Efamol evening primrose oil in atopic eczema. Where do we go from here in light of more recent discoveries?" Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2006 7(6):503-24.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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