What is Evening Primrose Oil?

Evening primrose oil is a plant oil extract that is rich in linoleic acid omega 6 oils, as well as some gamma linolenic acid (GLA). It has been used as treatment for a variety of inflammatory diseases such as arthritis and dermatitis. Some women may also use this supplement to treat PMS or menopausal symptoms. Although the efficacy of such uses receives mixed opinions from the scientific community, what is certain is that evening primrose oil does provide essential fatty acids that are needed for good health.

Where Does Evening Primrose Oil Come From?

Evening primrose oil is extracted from the seeds plants belonging to the evening primrose (Oenothera) genus. These plants originate from North and South America, but can now also be found in parts of Europe and Asia.

Evening Primrose Oil Benefits

Evening primrose oil is a good source of omega 6 fatty acids. Typically, this is made up of 65 to 75% linoleic acid and 7 to 10% GLA (Stonemetz, 2008). These are both omega 6 fatty acids that are needed for skin, hair, and bone health, regulating metabolism, and reproduction (UMMC, 2011).

Evening Primrose Oil Benefits for Anti-inflammation

Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful condition experienced by some older people, but may affect people of all ages. It is characterised by the body attacking joints, causing inflammation and pain. One potential way to treat such a disorder is through supplementation with evening primrose oil. It has been found that the GLA content of evening primrose may help to reduce inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis (Belch et al, 1988). Such benefits may be applicable to the world of bodybuilding, where such supplements may be used to reduce inflammation and aid recovery.

Evening Primrose Oil Benefits for Premenstrual Syndrome

Premenstral Syndrome or PMS can manifest in a variety of ways from pain, bloating, food cravings, to mood swings. A natural remedy for relief of symptoms would therefore be very sort after. Although not as effective as pharmaceutical drugs, evening primerose oil has some evidence to support its ability to assist with the management of PMS symptoms (Dickerson et al, 2003).

Evening Primrose Oil Negatives and Side Effects

Evening primrose oil is considered to be safe. It is generally well tolerated, though some people may experience mild headaches or stomach upsets from use. However, its use should be avoided during pregnancy (Stonemetz, 2008).

There are some primrose oil drug interactions that you may need to be aware of. Primrose should not be mixed with any anticoagulants or medications that may induce seizures. Furthermore, it is also possible that there are other herbal supplements that may negatively interact with evening primrose oil, such as red clover and ginkgo (Stonemetz, 2008). Because of such a wide range of drug interactions, you should always check with a health care professional if you are currently taking other medications or have any doubts.

Evening Primrose Oil Recommended Doses and Nutrient Timing

Evening primrose oil is needed to in high doses to exert its anti-inflammatory effect to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Doses of around 540 mg GLA was found to be effective (Belch et al, 1988). This equates to around 5.4 g of evening primrose oil/day. However, if you are reading this article, chances are you are not trying to relieve rheumatoid arthritis, thus, lower doses of around 1 to 2 g/day may be more than adequate. Doses can be split up and taken with meals.

Evening Primrose Oil Supplements

Evening primrose oil is available as a stand-alone supplement. However it can also found in essential fatty acid supplements and various protein powders.

Stacking Evening Primrose Oil

Because of the potential negative interactions of evening primrose oil and some other herbal supplements, it is best not to stack these supplements haphazardly. However, it can be safely stacked with other fatty acids and protein powders.

Belch et al (1988): Effects of altering dietary essential fatty acids on requirements for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: A double blind placebo controlled study. Ann Rheum Dis, 47: 96-104
Dickerson et al (2003), Premenstural syndrome. American Family Physician, 67(8):1743-1752
Stonemetz (2008), A Review of the Clinical Efficacy of Evening Primrose. Holist Nurs Pract, 22: 171-174
UMMC (2011), Omega-6 fatty acids. University of Maryland Medical Center


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