The evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) is not only a beautiful flower, but a number or studies support the health benefits of the oil in its seeds.
Relief from eczema and skin irritation
May improve premenstrual (PMS) symptoms like breast pain, bloating, clumsiness, irritability and depression
Native American tribes were the first to use evening primrose oil as a food and remedy.
Evening primrose oil contains the omega-6 essential fatty acid, gamma linolenic acid (GLA). People with PMS, diabetes and eczema may have a metabolic block that interferes with the body's ability to make GLA. Supplemental GLA, for this reason, seems to be beneficial.
Preliminary research has also shown a possible benefit in the treatment of bronchitis, chronic fatigue syndrome, breast cancer, diabetic nerve damage and pre-eclampsia, but more research is needed to confirm these results.
A growing number of research studies are showing that supplementation with essential fatty acids - also the GLA found in evening primrose oil - can benefit children with learning difficulties and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, no strong recommendation can be made as yet.
Evening primrose oil can be taken in the form of liquid-filled capsules, liquid, oil or tablets. Doses of between 4 and 8g, divided into several doses throughout the day, is frequently recommended.
Epileptics and other people with seizure disorders should not take evening primrose.
People on anticoagulants like warfarin should not take very high doses as this can lead to a bleeding tendency.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take evening primrose oil, as its safety hasn't been confirmed.
Avoid evening primrose if you're allergic to plants of the Onagraceae family.
(Information source: The American Pharmaceutical Association's Practical Guide to Natural Medicines by Andrea Peirce, published by William Morrow and Company, 1999.)
- (updated by Birgit Ottermann, Health24, August 2010)