Evening Primrose Essential Oil

© 1998 by Gaylin Walli, g.walli@infoengine.com

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Evening Primrose oil has obtained a certain amount of notoriety in the health and beauty aids industry because of its purportedly wide range of applications. PMS, arthritis, depression related to alcohol consumption cessation, and eczema are among the most mentioned conditions supposedly benefitting from Evening Primrose oil treatments. Here is some information that can be viewed on the WWW regarding Evening Primrose Oil.

Common Names:

Evening Primrose, Primrose, Tree Primrose, Scurvish, Scabbish, King's Cureall, Nightwillow.

Botanical Name and Info:

Oenothera biennis (L.)is a wild plant native to Eastern Canada and the Northeastern U.S.A. It can be found in the wild along roadsides, fence rows, or in uncultivated fields [1].

The flower close up - The immature fruit - The mature fruit

History [1]:

Evening Primrose is a plant that was used for both food and medicine by North American Indians. Native people did not extract the oil from the seeds, but simply consumed them as part of their diet. In the seventeenth century, Evening Primrose was brought to Europe and gradually obtained the name "King's Cureall."

Known Side-effects & Contraindications:

Too much Evening Primrose oil taken internally may cause headaches, skin rashes, and nausea. Doses of up to 4,000 mg have been well tolerated; however, medical literature reports that it may exacerbate temporal lobe epilepsy and it can worsen mania in a manic depressive. It is therefore contraindicated in these two conditons [2].

Special Information:

Many medical practitioners believe that you must take or use Evening Primrose oil daily for at least one month before you being to see the beneficial effects [3].

How It Works & Studies that Support or Refute the Claims:

Evening Primrose Oil (EPO) contains fatty acids called linolenic acid (LA) and gamma linolenic acid (GLA). These are substances within your body which are required in order to produce another substance called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are hormone-like compounds. They are in constant use throughout the body, controlling the way we feel and rejuvenating cells. One particular prostaglandin, Prostoglandin E-1, helps increase blood flow and decrease blood clotting while at the same time reducing inflammation. It is this claim that usually supports the use of EPO as a treatment for PMS symptoms. However, these claims have not been proven and the long-term safety of EPO has not been established [4].
    GLA is especially helpful for easing sore, swollen breasts -- and also helps reduce benign (fibrocystic) breast lumps [5]. Excess prostaglandin F2 alpha, released into the bloodstream as the endometrial lining of the uterus breaks down during the menstrual cycle, causes uterine spasms and pain. Studies have shown that, when taken throughout a woman's menstrual cycle, GLA can be very protective against menstrual cramps [6,7]. In one double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 37 patients, six months of GLA from borage seed oil relieved sore joints by 36 percent and swollen joints by 28 percent, without side effects. In another study of 56 men and women who used twice as much as the regular dose of GLA, people also reported a decrease in swelling, joint tenderness, stiffness and pain (note: no mention was made as to the statistical significance of the findings) [7]. One Canadian study has shown that patients who took 4 grams of Efamol (a brand of EPO) daily experienced a 31.5 percent decline in cholesterol after three months of treatment [8].
     Of greatest interest to the home toiletries enthusiast should be the studies conducted on the use of EPO to treat eczema. A 1987 study in the British Journal of Dermatology concluded that patients with eczema showed significant improvement after being treated with EPO and were able to reduce their dependence on steroids [8]. However, conflicting studies argue that this is not necessarily true. Fore example, in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study looking at Evening Primrose oil for atopic dermatitis (eczema) in 102 people over 16 weeks, no benefit was found [7].

[1] Indian Agricultural Program of Ontario's "Evening Primrose Oil" available at http://primroseoil.com/ as retrieved on 6/3/98

[2] Discussion Board called "Health, Fitness & Dieting with Charles Attwood, M.D." at http://www.vegsource.com/wwwboard/health/messages/1913.html as retrieved on 6/3/98

[3] IVI Publishing's "OnHealth" website at http://www.onhealth.com/harts/chest/drugs/htm/evening.htm as retrieved 5/28/98

[4] The Health Care Reality Check FAQ Sheet at http://www.hcrc.org/faqs/e/eveprim.html as retrieved on 5/28/98

[5] The Medical herbalism Website at http://medherb.com/92JILL.HTM (Note: Very scientifically oriented. Well researched, however, it assumes you have a medical education. Not necessarily accesible by the layperson.)

[6] Canited International's "History of Evening Primrose" http://www.canited.com/EPOhistory.htm as retrieve on 5/28/98

[7] "Ask Dr. Wiel" at http://cgi.pathfinder.com/drweil/qa/0,1471,1083,00.html as retrieved on 5/28/98

[8] Mother Nature's General Store article "Evening Primrose" at http://www.mothernature.com/Family/Free/eveprim.htm as retrieved on 6/2/98

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