Everything You Need to Know About Evening Primrose
What is Evening Primrose?
ou're likely familiar with the importance of essential omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil, but what about omega-6 fatty acids? Although they don't get as much attention, omega-6s are also crucial for health. One of the most beneficial omega-6 fatty acids can be found in evening primrose oil.
Evening primrose oil comes from the seeds of the evening primrose plant – also known as Oenothera speciosa – native to North America. The flowers, leaves, seeds, and roots of the plant are rich in protein, fiber, and healthy fats and have a long history of use in natural medicine.
The seeds are packed with omega-6 fatty acids gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and linoleic acid as well as the antioxidant vitamin E. The oil is cold-pressed and encapsulated to make evening primrose oil supplements that are popular for reducing inflammation, boosting skin health, and supporting hormone balance.
How Evening Primrose Works
Evening Primrose Oil (EPO) provides your body with high levels of healthy fats and, in particular, the omega-6 fatty acid GLA. This is a polyunsaturated fatty acid that forms the building blocks for cell membranes, healthy skin, hormones, the protective coating around nerve fibers, and much more.
Probably most well-known for calming inflammation, GLA is converted into dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA) in the body, a precursor to the anti-inflammatory compound prostaglandin series 1. This helps to inhibit inflammatory compounds in the body (1). Chronic inflammation is a precursor to several chronic diseases, so consuming EPO may help to reduce this risk factor. Research has found that taking EPO may improve quality of life in those with rheumatoid arthritis – an inflammatory autoimmune condition that attacks the joints – and helps to combat joint pain and stiffness (2).
Health Benefits of Evening Primrose
As an essential fatty acid, GLA cannot be synthesized in the body and has to come from diet and/or supplementation. It can be converted from linoleic acid found in nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils, but this conversion process is unreliable and it's best to consume GLA directly!
Let's examine how an evening primrose oil supplement may improve your wellbeing.
Helps Reduce Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) and Other Hormonal Symptoms
Fluctuating hormone levels in women may result in symptoms of low mood, fatigue, breast tenderness, bloating, acne, and ovarian cysts. GLA from evening primrose oil is a popular natural treatment for PMS due to its ability to regulate hormone levels and inflammation in the body.
A 2010 study on women with premenstrual breast pain looked at the impact of either a daily dose of vitamin E, EPO, vitamin E plus EPO, or a placebo on symptoms. Promisingly, it found that EPO – taken alone and with vitamin E – decreased the severity of breast tenderness (3). Another 2010 study found that taking a supplement containing EPO, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin E over two menstrual cycles successfully relieved several PMS symptoms (4).
Supports Menopausal Women
EPO may also provide some hope for menopausal women. During this inevitable stage in a woman's life, a drastic drop in hormone levels results in uncomfortable hot flashes, insomnia, mood swings, and fatigue.
A 2013 study of menopausal women found that taking 1000 mg of evening primrose oil for 6 weeks reduced the severity, duration, and frequency of hot flashes (5). Participants also noticed an improvement in quality of life and sexual function.
Promotes Glowing Skin
The essential fatty acids GLA and linoleic acid from evening primrose oil promote a healthy skin barrier and glowing appearance. By building cell membranes, reducing inflammation, and balancing hormones naturally, EPO is a great supplement for reducing acne and signs of premature aging.
An interesting study found that taking a 1500 mg EPO supplement daily smoothed skin roughness and boosted several measures of skin health after 3 months. This included improved skin moisture, elasticity, and firmness (6).
May Soothe Eczema
The anti-inflammatory and skin hydrating properties of EPO make it an invaluable supplement for uncomfortable skin conditions like eczema and dermatitis (7). Interestingly, evidence suggests eczema sufferers have low GLA levels due to impairment in the enzyme delta-6-desaturase that converts linoleic acid to GLA in the body (8).
Make Evening Primrose Part of Your Daily Diet
Okay you knew it was coming... time for a shameless plug. Do you think the benefits of adding evening primrose to your daily diet could help? Create a personalized daily vitamin pack that includes evening primrose and any other vitamins, minerals or supplements you think could help. Start by adding evening primrose to your Kit here!