Evening primrose oil (Oenothera Biennis) is a supplement extracted from the seeds of the evening primrose plant. Commonly called Fever Plant or Sun Drop, it is touted by many as a treatment for everything from PMS to migraines to inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. It is available over the counter in most pharmacies or health food stores as a dietary supplement in pill form - usually gel caps. As a skin beautifier and softener, you may use the creams, lotions and soaps to harness its benefits.
Studied Benefits of Taking Evening Primrose Oil
While evening primrose oil (EPO) lacks scientific evidence to treat most diseases, it is gaining notoriety. There are also a few documented uses of EPO.
Treats Skin Conditions
Since the 1930's, EPO has been a common treatment for eczema. Today, it is also a treatment for acne and psoriasis. Early studies showed EPO to be effective at treating eczema; however, it should be noted that a recent reevaluation of those studies indicate that using EPO in combination with steroids (a common treatment for severe eczema), may reduce its effectiveness. EPO is also a popular ingredient in beauty products that nourish nails, scalp, and hair. A National Institute of Health abstract cites a study showing a combination of EPO and antioxidants to be effective at limiting wrinkle formation.
Provides Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Rich in vitamins and minerals, the seeds of the primrose also provide omega-6 fatty acids, such as gamma linolenic acid (GLA) and linoleic acid, which your body needs to complete functions such as insulin absorption, cell structure, regulate hormones, improve nerve function, promote skin elasticity, regulate the heart and regulate the mood. The body does not manufacture its own omega-6 fatty acids so it must derive it from a food source.
The high GLA content in EPO is what leads to recommendations for EPO as a supplement for those with inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. The Arthritis Foundation lists EPO as an arthritis supplement on its website, and according to Arthritis Today, GLA is an effective treatment for reducing the inflammation from arthritis. As a bonus, it has few side effects.
Eases Breast Pain
According to Harvard Health Publications, there is no evidence showing EPO relieves hot flashes. However, Harvard points out that there is there is some evidence that the supplement helps relieve menopause-related breast pain.
Other Potential Health Benefits
In addition to the above mentioned conditions, the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database indicates that EPO is used for a host of diseases, although it should be noted that there are not a sufficient number of controlled studies to prove many such claims. These include:
- Alzheimer's Disease
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Breast pain
- Cholesterol regulation
- Diabetic nerve damage
- Heart disease
- Menopausal Symptoms
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Sjogren's Syndrome
- Whooping cough
How to Take Evening Primrose Oil
Usually taken internally in pill form, EPO may also be used externally in the form of creams and lotions. According to the Mayo Clinic, a common adult dosage is four to eight grams taken daily in doses throughout the day. Larger doses are indicated in some cases. The gel caps generally contain at least 9 percent GLA. EPO should be consumed in conjunction with Vitamin E, or some other antioxidant, to prevent oxidation of the fatty acids.
Although EPO remains a popular holistic remedy for many ailments due to its high levels of fatty acids and anti-inflammatory properties, further research is needed to prove its efficacy. Please consult your health care professional before taking EPO, especially if you are taking any additional medications, have seizure disorders, are taking medications for mental illness, or if you are pregnant or nursing. There have been reported incidents of seizure associated with EPO for persons who had prior seizure disorders or who were taking anesthesia. As a precaution, read about possible side effects before taking this supplement.