It wasn’t until recently that evening primrose oil was used for its amazing health benefits, so you may be surprised to learn about the impact it can have on your hormone health, skin, hair and bones.
Native Americans and European settlers used evening primrose, a wildflower that grows in eastern and central North America, for food. The seeds of the flower are gathered and cold pressed for their oil; the oil is then encapsulated for dietary supplement use so people can take advantage of the evening primrose oil health benefits. The oil is high in essential fatty acids — which provide the building blocks for cell membranes and a variety of hormones and hormone-like substances. (1)
Essential fatty acids are necessary for human health, but the body can’t make them — you have to get them through food. Along with omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function, as well as normal growth and development. (2)
Your body needs a healthy balance of essential fatty acids, such as omega-6, found in evening primrose, and omega-3, found in fish oil. Consuming fats slows down absorption so we can go longer without feeling hungry. Fats also act as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K. Dietary fats are needed for the conversion of carotene to vitamin A, for mineral absorption and for a host of other processes.
Evening primrose oil also has a range of therapeutic properties. It’s known to help reduce the pain associated with PMS and improve chronic skin complaints like eczema, acne and psoriasis. The oil could also be used as an anti-inflammatory agent and is known to be helpful for menopause symptoms, arthritis and so much more!
7 Evening Primrose Oil Benefits
1. Hormones (PMS + Menopause)
What are the benefits of taking evening primrose oil capsules? For starters, women around the world take evening primrose oil to naturally treat PMS symptoms because of its essential fatty acid content. Getting enough omega-6 fatty acids, such as LA and GLA, is shown to support overall hormonal function within the body.
During a woman’s premenstrual period, she may experience breast tenderness, bloating, water retention, acne, depression, irritability, foggy thinking and headaches — these symptoms reportedly can subside after using evening primrose oil, according to a study in the journal Lipids. (3)
Evening primrose oil menopause use is also quite common because, again, this natural oil can help to balance hormones and improve unwanted menopause symptoms.
In 2013, the results of a randomized clinical trial which looked at the effects of evening primrose oil on 56 menopausal women (aged 45–59 years), was published. These women took two 500 milligram capsules of evening primrose oil or a placebo every day for a total of six weeks. The researchers then compared hot flashes between the two groups and found that oral evening primrose oil decreased the intensity of hot flash attacks and decreased the life disruption that results from these attacks. (4)
An omega-3 fatty acid, GLA, has been shown to increase the production of cervical mucus, a factor in successful reproduction and thus a natural treatment for infertility. Cervical fluid is vital for allowing the sperm to swim freely through the cervix. Having a healthy pregnancy is more difficult for women with little or no cervical fluid because the sperm have trouble moving and there may not be a friendly environment for the sperm to sustain themselves.
To increase cervical mucus, the recommended dosage is 500 milligrams of evening primrose oil, three times a day. If you aren’t getting results after trying 1,500 milligrams a day, double your dose during the next cycle.
The high levels of essential fatty acids present in evening primrose oil have a direct effect on uterine cells as well — enabling another evening primrose oil health benefit. These essential fatty acids cause the contraction and relaxation of muscle tissue, and this tones the uterine muscles in preparation for pregnancy. Consuming evening primrose oil for its fatty acid content is best only when naturally trying to get pregnant — not for women who are already pregnant because the contraction of the uterus may be problematic at that point.
An animal study done at the Department of Animal Nutrition and Management included male and female blue foxes that were given evening primrose oil during mating season in order to measure its effect on reproductive performance. An interesting result was an increase in litter size, mainly as an effect of male treatment, which might indicate that evening primrose oil benefits go beyond the uterus and have an impact on semen quality as well. (5)
Is evening primrose oil acne clearing? Even though there aren’t a lot of studies to prove evening primrose’s benefits for acne, dermatologists are known to recommend it as part of an anti-acne regimen and first-hand accounts by acne sufferers also celebrate its skin-clearing benefits when used externally and/or internally. (6, 7)
Hormonal acne can be troublesome for many people, especially teenagers who are dealing with fluctuating hormones during puberty. A hormonal imbalance can lead to acne in teens and adults alike, and many people don’t realize that acne can be treated naturally. This is especially true for women because they go through regular periods of hormone fluctuations — this includes the menstrual cycle and menopause.
In order to treat hormonal acne, you need to tackle the root of the problem — the hormonal imbalance. No topical treatment does that for you; it only treats the already existing pimples or scars. Getting a proper balance of omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids from healthy sources (like evening primrose oil) may help to overcome and prevent acne. (8) These fatty acids also play a role in cell structure, improving nerve function and promoting skin elasticity.
To take advantage of this evening primrose oil health benefit for hormonal acne, you can take an evening primrose oil capsule daily — much like a fish oil capsule. You can also put the oil on your face directly. This is known to help with the healing process and improve the overall appearance of your skin.
4. Hair Loss
Men and women struggle with hair loss, and sometimes the best way to prevent this issue is with diet or supplements. Hormones in both men and women are responsible for many body processes. When it comes to hair, hormones play a significant role — including in the hair pattern found on your head, as well as the rest of your body.
While there hasn’t been much research to date on using evening primrose specifically as a hair loss remedy, since the oil has been shown to improve skin inflammation and dryness, it makes sense that these benefits would transfer to the skin on our scalps and likely help to boost hair growth and quality. (9)
You can apply evening primrose oil directly to the scalp and hair. Let it sit for 30 minutes as a rich, hydrating mask, and then wash your hair as you normally would.
5. Skin Health
Evening primrose oil has proved to be a valuable treatment choice for people suffering from skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis and atopic dermatitis. Studies published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science have even shown that evening primrose oil can help with age-related structural and functional changes in skin tissues, such as redness, firmness, roughness and fatigue resistance. (10)
Eczema is generally caused by an allergic response to foods, chemicals or other substances, such as perfumes or soaps; it causes dry, red, itchy skin that can blister or crack.
Research shows that people with eczema don’t have the normal ability to process fatty acids; this results in a deficiency of gamma-linolenic acid, or GLA. GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid that the body can convert to substances that reduce inflammation and cell growth. Studies prove that evening primrose oil is remarkably effective in relieving many symptoms of eczema, including itching, redness and edema.
Psoriasis occurs when skin cells replicate too quickly, which results in swollen patches under the skin covered with whitish scales on top. The scaly patches, also known as psoriatic plaques, are areas of inflammation and excessive skin production. The cause of psoriasis includes hormonal changes, poor diet and difficulty digesting protein. An evening primrose oil benefit is its ability to help naturally treat psoriasis — because the essential fatty acids help with hormone balance and digestion.
Atopic dermatitis is a chronic, relapsing, itchy skin condition that commonly starts in childhood. The condition begins with a defective metabolism of essential fatty acids. One study published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology measured the impact of 500 milligrams of evening primrose oil on patients who struggled with this skin condition. Ninety-six percent (!) of the patients showed improvement after five months, and this form of treatment was noted as safe and effective. (11)
6. Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a type of chronic arthritis that occurs in joints on both sides of the body — such as both hands, both wrists or both knees. It’s an autoimmune disease, which means that the body’s immune system attacks its own healthy tissues. The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is a combination of genetic, environmental and hormonal factors.
Some studies show that primrose oil may be a suitable natural remedy for rheumatoid arthritis. One study done by Arthritis Research UK measured the effects of evening primrose oil on 49 people. The data found that 94 percent of participants who got evening primrose oil reported a significant improvement of disease-related symptoms, including pain and morning stiffness. When using evening primrose oil for symptoms of arthritis, it may take one to three months for benefits to appear. (12)
Osteoporosis is when small holes or weakened areas are formed in the bone; this can lead to fractures, pain and a dowager’s hump (a hump at the upper back).
Some studies propose that people who don’t get enough of some essential fatty acids are more likely to have bone loss than those with normal levels of these fatty acids. Taking evening primrose oil, along with fish oil and calcium, seems to decrease bone loss and increase bone density in elderly people with osteoporosis.
In one controlled trial, women either took a placebo or six grams of a combination of evening primrose oil and fish oil along with 600 milligrams of calcium every day for a total of three years. The women who took evening primrose, fish oil and calcium had zero spinal bone loss in the first 18 months and an impressive 3.1 percent increase in spinal bone mineral density during the last 18 months. (13)
Evening Primrose Oil Side Effects
Evening primrose oil is generally safe when used in recommended dosages, which is 2 to 8 grams daily. Evening primrose oil side effects are rare, but reported side effects have included headache, stomach upset, nausea, dizziness and rash. (14)
Recent research reveals that too much omega-6 in the diet creates an imbalance that can interfere with production of important prostaglandins. This disruption can result in increased tendency to form blood clots, inflammation, high blood pressure, irritation of the digestive tract, depressed immune function, sterility, cell proliferation, cancer and weight gain.
Evening primrose oil pregnancy recommendations vary. Don’t take evening primrose or use evening primrose oil to induce labor unless instructed to by your health care provider.
Is there estrogen in evening primrose oil? According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, “Evening primrose oil does not have hormonal properties, but some products that contain it may also contain phytoestrogens, which are plant-derived sources of estrogen. Therefore, patients with hormone-sensitive cancers should use evening primrose oil products with caution.” (15)
If you take medication for depression, blood thinning or blood pressure medication, speak to your health care provider before consuming evening primrose oil. If you’re prone to seizures and take a class of medications called phenothiazines — which is used to treat schizophrenia — you shouldn’t take evening primrose oil because it may increase your risk of seizures.
- Evening primrose oil is extracted from the seeds of the evening primrose plant.
- Evening primrose supplements contain the beneficial fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).
- Evening primrose oil uses include female hormonal balance issues like PMS and menopause; fertility; skin concerns including eczema, psoriasis and acne; arthritis and osteoporosis.
- What are evening primrose oil capsules good for? They can be used both internally and externally depending on your health goals.
- Check with your doctor before taking evening primrose if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have a history of hormone-sensitive cancers, or are taking blood thinners, blood pressure medications or antidepressants.
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