When dusk begins, the evening primrose comes to life. The plant, which originates from North America, owes its name to its luminous flowers, which only open fully when it gets dark. The oil, produced from the seeds of the evening primrose, contains gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). This is an omega-6 fatty acid that the body needs to maintain brain function and reproductive health. The fatty acid is also essential for hair growth and bones. Due to the variety of ingredients, evening primrose oil is said to have a positive effect on skin diseases, menstrual and menopausal symptoms. 

Table of contents

What is evening primrose oil?

Evening primrose belongs to the genus Oenothera. It grows mainly on the North and South American continent, but it is also naturalized in Europe - in contrast to lucuma and reishi. It was brought to Europe about 350 years ago as an ornamental plant and now also grows wild, for example on railroad embankments. The bright flowers, which only fully unfold at dusk, attract moths, which also perform the pollination. Only the seeds of the evening primrose plant are used to produce evening primrose oil. There is no fixed harvest time, as the individual seeds are subject to a different ripening process. Therefore, it is important that growers monitor the complete ripening process. Only when the sensitive seeds have taken on a brown color can they be harvested with the utmost care. In a further processing step, the seeds are dried and then treated with a cold pressing process. This makes it possible to preserve the valuable ingredients of the seeds.

Evening primrose oil - Ingredients

Evening primrose oil has valuable ingredients, a large part of which are fatty acids. Due to the high proportion of healthy fatty acids, evening primrose oil can be an alternative to conventional oils from flaxseed or sunflower.
  • Gamma linolenic acid: Gamma linolenic acid is a triple-unsaturated omega-6 fatty acid that is used primarily to treat high blood pressure and neurodermatitis. In addition, the fatty acid is said to help limit inflammatory foci and soften scarring.
  • Linoleic acid: Linoleic acid also belongs to the triple unsaturated fatty acids. Users know the fatty acid mainly as an additive in creams. The anti-inflammatory properties of the fatty acid are used in the treatment of acne or for the therapy of inflamed skin areas. Linoleic acid is also used to prevent scars, as it is said to strengthen the skin barrier.
  • Oleic acid: It is one of the monounsaturated fatty acids and can develop its effect deep in the skin. It is particularly often used to prevent skin cracks and dry skin. Especially in the cooler season, it protects the sensitive skin barrier from cold damage.
  • Polyphenols: These ingredients are said to have special properties. Among other things, they are said to prevent fat deposition within the vessels and cells, which is also supposed to prevent vascular calcification. Some polyphenols are also said to have a favorable effect on the course of Alzheimer's disease. But the skin also benefits from the anti-inflammatory properties of polyphenols.
  • Vitamin E: Not without reason, many cosmetic products contain vitamin E. The antioxidant effect is said to effectively soften small wrinkles and thus rejuvenate the skin's appearance. But also for the heart muscle and the vessels vitamin E could play an essential role. Both Gotu Kola and evening primrose oil contain vitamin E. 
 

Evening primrose oil - application

The positive effects of evening primrose oil on the skin have long been described. Some studies have been devoted to, among other things, the positive influence of evening primrose oil on neurodermatitis.

Evening primrose oil is used for the following diseases and ailments:

  • Neurodermatitis
  • Psoriasis
  • Acne
  • Dry skin
  • Itchy skin
  • Sore skin
  • Arthritis (rheumatoid)
  • Allergies
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • Menopausal complaints
  • Headache
  • Regulation of fat metabolism

Evening primrose oil - effect

Evening primrose oil is used for various complaints and diseases. Especially positive effects on the skin were observed.

Evening primrose oil for skin problems

Evening primrose oil can have a beneficial effect on stressed skin. Acne patients usually suffer from itching and pain. Acne also causes aesthetic problems, making sufferers feel very uncomfortable. It is not uncommon for acne lesions to cause scars. Evening primrose oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which can regulate fat metabolism. In addition, the ingredient can have a soothing effect on the skin and improve the complexion. That is why evening primrose oil is not infrequently used as an adjunct to acne therapy. Patients with neurodermatitis also complain of discomfort. Persistent severe itching, dry skin and eczema can greatly restrict daily life. Evening primrose oil can have a soothing effect on scaling, itching and redness. Patients with psoriasis also report positive experiences with evening primrose oil. In their case, itching and redness have been alleviated. In addition, the skin is supplied with moisture. Patients with skin diseases should be patient, as the oil needs a few weeks to develop its positive properties. But a disease is not always the cause of dry, taut skin that itches. External influences, such as frequent washing or cold weather, can put a lot of stress on the skin. Evening primrose oil can help to maintain the acid mantle of the skin. At the same time, the ingredients of evening primrose oil have an anti-inflammatory and soothing effect. Allergy sufferers can also benefit from the oils contained.

Evening primrose oil for menopausal and menstrual problems

Menstrual complaints such as abdominal pain, tightness in the breasts, migraine attacks, fatigue and depressive moods affect many women every month. Hormone fluctuations are often the cause of the complaints. Evening primrose oil has anti-inflammatory properties and is said to have a positive effect on the so-called prostaglandins. As a result, evening primrose oil is said to significantly reduce menstrual cramps. Women in menopause mainly complain about symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, weight gain, hot flashes and headaches. These symptoms are also triggered by hormonal fluctuations, for example by falling estrogen levels. With the help of evening primrose oil, it is said to be possible to rebalance the hormones. In addition, the oil is said to have a positive effect on the skin and fat metabolism.

Evening primrose oil studies

Science has also become aware of the oil from evening primrose and is studying the positive effects of the plant on humans.

Effect on the skin

In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, healthy adults were administered Efamol evening primrose oil in capsule form. At specific intervals, the subjects' skin was assessed for moisture, redness, firmness, elasticity, resistance to fatigue and roughness, and water loss through the skin. After 12 weeks, it was found that almost all variables - except redness - had changed compared to the placebo group. The authors of the study therefore came to the conclusion that the gammalinolenic acid contained exerts a significant influence on the function and structure of the skin 1. Another study looked at the benefits of evening primrose oil in atopic dermatitis. For this purpose, 14 patients with atopic dermatitis, who had itchy, scaly and dry skin, were treated with evening primrose oil. Part of the study was also to determine serum levels of gamma interferon (IFN-gamma) and IgE antibodies. In this way, the scientists wanted to determine whether evening primrose oil was possibly immunologically effective. After the observation period, it became clear that the patients had a better skin condition and less itching. The IFN-gamma levels showed a higher value and the serum IgE level a lower value. From the treatment results, the scientists conclude that evening primrose oil is suitable for the treatment of a non-inflammatory form of atopic dermatitis. 2.

Evening primrose oil for women

In a study, researchers wanted to find out whether a combination of vitamin E and evening primrose oil or the ingredients alone could have a positive effect on periodic pain. A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study model was chosen for this purpose, involving 85 women with premenstrual periodic breast pain. Four groups were formed by random allocation. Over 6 months, the subjects took either the combination or the sole substances at different doses. In the fourth group, only a placebo was administered. Within the study, the researchers measured the changes with regard to breast pain. For this purpose, they used a pain questionnaire. At the end of the study, the differences between the groups were recorded. This showed that a daily dosage (over 6 months) of 1200 IU vitamin E and 3000 mg evening primrose oil or vitamin E and evening primrose oil in combination - in the same dosage - could reduce breast pain 3. Another study dealt with hot flashes in menopause and to what extent evening primrose oil could have a positive effect on the complaints. The placebo-controlled, randomized study on 56 women was conducted over a period of 6 weeks. The subjects received two capsules of evening primrose oil (equivalent to 500 mg) or a placebo. It was observed that the complaints were significantly reduced and the women were able to pursue their activities, social contacts and sexuality more intensively. 4.

Evening primrose oil and inflammatory bowel disease

One study was devoted to the question of whether medicinal plants can have a positive effect on the course of inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. It was found that evening primrose oil, which is rich in gamma-linolenic acid, could indeed have a positive effect on the course of ulcerative colitis. Therefore, the authors of the study consider evening primrose oil as a suitable supportive measure in the treatment of ulcerative colitis 5.

Evening primrose oil - intake

Evening primrose oil can be used both internally and externally. The form of application depends on the underlying complaints.

Evening primrose oil - Internal use

Users have the option of taking evening primrose oil pure or in the form of capsules. The easiest way is to take about a teaspoon of evening primrose oil daily. Those who do not want to swallow the oil can also mix it into food and drinks. Especially for people with inflammation of the stomach and intestines, internal use is suitable. Many people rely on evening primrose oil capsules to cover the need for valuable oils. Ready dosed, they offer an easy way to properly dose evening primrose oil.  

Evening primrose oil - external use

Pure evening primrose oil is excellent for skin care. It can be applied thinly to heavily stressed skin and rubbed in. As a rule, it is quickly absorbed and does not leave an annoying greasy film. Scaling on the skin can also be treated with a cotton pad that has previously been soaked in evening primrose oil. After about 60 minutes of exposure, the scales are easier to remove. The skin underneath can be treated again with a few drops of evening primrose oil. For larger skin areas, compresses are suitable, which can be made with warm water and a small amount of evening primrose oil. Regardless of whether evening primrose oil is used internally or externally, it initially takes some time for the ingredients to have a positive effect on the body. Especially patients suffering from persistent skin diseases such as acne or neurodermatitis need to bring a little patience. Only after a few weeks to months can it be determined whether the evening primrose oil has had a positive effect.

Dosage

The pure oil can be drizzled over a salad or mixed into a drink. An overdose is hardly possible with a usual amount. For ready-dosed capsules, package inserts provide recommendations on how often the product should be taken. Usually, for skin rashes, 1 to 4 capsules are taken daily, over an application period of 12 weeks. People with rheumatoid arthritis are recommended to take 20-30 ml of evening primrose oil daily, with a maximum treatment period of one year and a minimum of 3 months. To pursue weight loss goals, people should take 3-5 g daily with meals. For skin problems, the pure oil is applied thinly twice daily for 4 months. Supplementary evening primrose oil capsules can be taken to support the healing process.

Evening primrose oil - side effects

When taking evening primrose oil, side effects may occur in rare cases. These include headache, gastrointestinal discomfort and nausea. If users experience the side effects repeatedly, they should refrain from taking it. People who have allergies to plants should pay special attention to any side effects. To rule out interactions, people who suffer from epilepsy and are pregnant or breastfeeding at the same time should consult their doctor before taking the product. Women with estrogen-dependent breast cancer should also consult a physician first. Some components of evening primrose oil can have a blood pressure-lowering effect under certain circumstances. Again, it is advised to consult a physician first if users have low blood pressure. By the way, the same applies to pregnant women or people with chronic diseases.

Buy evening primrose oil

Evening primrose oil can provide the body with valuable fatty acids. The intake is also suitable for vegans and vegetarians. Users should purchase evening primrose oil products from a trusted retailer. Indications of good quality are provided by the DE-Öko seal and the BIO seal. This gives the buyer the assurance that the production is based on strict quality controls. Indications such as "100% pure" and "cold-pressed" indicate that the products have been manufactured professionally and gently. Users are often irritated by the cloudy appearance of evening primrose oil. However, pure evening primrose oil is naturally cloudy, which is not an indication of poor quality. Users are advised to prefer small bottles, as evening primrose oil spoils quite quickly due to the access of oxygen. Those who want to be on the safe side prefer the capsule form. Thus, the evening primrose oil is directly optimally dosed and keeps accordingly long.

Sources:

  1. Muggli R.: Systemic evening primrose oil improves the biophysical skin parameters of healthy adults. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18492193
  1. Yoon S, Lee J, Lee S. - Department of Dermatology, College of Medicine, Inha University, Inchon, Republic of Korea: The therapeutic effect of evening primrose oil in atopic dermatitis patients with dry scaly skin lesions is associated with the normalization of serum gamma-interferon levels. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11803254
  1. Pruthi S et al - Breast Diagnostic Clinic, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA: Vitamin E and evening primrose oil for management of cyclical mastalgia: a randomized pilot study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20359269
  1. Farzaneh F, Fatehi S, Sohrabi MR, Alizadeh K.: The effect of oral evening primrose oil on menopausal hot flashes: a randomized clinical trial, Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2013 Nov;288(5):1075-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23625331
  1. Triantafyllidi A, Xanthos T, Papalois A, Triantafillidis JK.: Herbal and plant therapy in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Ann Gastroenterol. 2015 Apr-Jun;28(2):210-220, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25830661