Evening primroses (Oenothera speciosa) are fairly common in subtropical and temperate regions, but are often ignored as nothing more than a wild flower found in roadsides and neglected fields.1 But while it is common, its various uses and applications remain to be unknown to a number of people.
In the earlier times, the evening primrose plant was a staple in the Native American diet. They boiled its roots and applied it as poultices to bruises and other injuries to speed up healing. While it was originally cultivated in Mexico, it spread throughout the world through trade and commerce, reaching as far as Europe. In current times, evening primrose is used to help alleviate pain and various skin conditions. Additionally, most parts of the plant can be incorporated in salads and other dishes to add flavor and color.2
The evening primrose plant is also the source of a valuable oil used in holistic medicine and cosmetics, most commonly known as evening primrose oil (EPO). To know more about the applications of evening primrose oil, continue reading this article.
Uses of Evening Primrose Oil
Evening primrose oil is made from the plant’s seeds and is most commonly utilized as a supplement for oral administration. Some of the well-known uses for this oil include helping with the following:
• Minimizing acne breakouts. Aside from poor hygiene, a primary cause for acne is hormonal imbalance. Evening primrose oil can help regulate the production of hormones and prevent acne formation. It also helps in diluting sebum, decreasing the risk of pore clogging and acne lesioning.
Taking three capsules of evening primrose oil a day may radically reduce acne in adults. However, it is highly recommended that you consult a health practitioner for the correct dosage for your condition.3
• Reducing hair loss. Massaging evening primrose oil onto the scalp can help in reducing hair loss by promoting healthy blood circulation and strengthening and nourishing the hair roots.4
• Alleviating symptoms of psoriasis. Psoriasis is a skin condition that is often characterized by dry, itchy and inflamed skin. It is often linked to leaky gut, where the toxins that manage to penetrate the gut lining and enter the bloodstream are forced out of the skin, which then cause psoriasis lesions.
The high amount of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) in evening primrose oil can help lessen the inflammation in the gut lining and repair leaky gut. By taking evening primrose supplements, you can treat psoriasis internally.5
Health Benefits of Evening Primrose Oil
Aside for the common uses mentioned above, there are the other health benefits you can get from evening primrose oil:
• Helps in premenstrual and menstrual pain. EPO helps in regulating the inflammatory prostaglandins before or during menstruation. This helps in reducing breast tenderness, bowel flare-ups and other conditions women experience during menstruation.
• Improves reproductive health. Taking EPO has also been linked to the improvement of impotence in men and infertility in women by stimulating better penile blood flow and making the cervical mucus more fertile, respectively.7
• Maintains heart health. EPO is rich in GLA, a healthy fat that has been linked to the improvement of blood circulation. GLA assists in preventing the occurrence of arterial constriction.8
• Promotes skin and hair health. Various studies show the ability of evening primrose oil to assist in alleviating itchiness, redness and edema. It’s been recommended as a natural approach to the treatment of eczema, severe acne and psoriasis, either as a supplement or a topical ointment. For hair health, EPO improves hair strength, regrowth and overall appearance.9
Composition of Evening Primrose Oil
The numerous health benefits of evening primrose oil are attributed to the abundance of the healthy fats it contains. This essential oil is high in omega-6 fatty acids in the form of both linoleic acid and GLA.
While most Americans get their fair share of omega-6 fatty acids from unhealthy vegetable oils, the GLA found in evening primrose oil is actually a healthier form of omega-6 and offers various health benefits.
The reason why GLA is healthier than linoleic acid is because of the prostaglandins it contains. Prostaglandins are essential in the overall function of the body and are required for regulating numerous organ functions. It is also responsible for the anti-inflammatory properties of this oil, which helps in easing arthritis and other inflammatory disorders. GLA has also been linked to the improvement in brain function, hormone balance and body metabolism.10
How Does Evening Primrose Oil Work?
The bulk of evening primrose oil’s benefits are known to be the result of the high concentration of gamma-linoleic acid. Research shows that healthy people have the ability to synthesize GLA and transform it into chemicals to optimize body function. In women who suffer from premenstrual syndrome, the low-percentage of GLA and prostaglandins in the body has been observed.
GLA also ameliorates the presence of inflammation in the body by reducing the production of interleukin 1-beta, which is a cytokine responsible for aggravating inflammatory disorders in the body.12
Is Evening Primrose Oil Safe?
Evening primrose oil is generally safe for human consumption and application for short periods of time. However, the safety of the longer administration of this oil is yet to be proven through scientific studies.13
Although it can help in alleviating pain and other bodily aches, it’s recommended that you seek the advice of a health professional before administering or consuming this oil. This will also determine the correct dosage and whether it won’t interfere with the mechanism of other medications you’re taking. If applying it topically, do a skin patch test prior to use.
Side Effects of Evening Primrose Oil
Like any other essential oil, evening primrose oil also has certain contraindications you should know about before you start utilizing it. These include the following:
• EPO can lower blood pressure levels and interfere with medications that regulate your blood pressure.14
• This oil is known to interact with blood thinning medications, such as warfarin and Coumadin, which may heighten your risk for abnormal bleeding and bleeding problems during surgery.15
• If you suffer from convulsions, seizures and other conditions that affect the central nervous system, avoid EPO. Research shows that the gamma-linoleic acid found in evening primrose oil can aggravate the symptoms of epilepsy and other conditions that cause seizures and convulsions.16
The use of evening primrose should also be avoided by pregnant or breastfeeding women due to the insufficient studies about the possible effect of this essential oil on the pregnancy or on the child.17 Young children should also refrain from using EPO.