Evening primrose are a flowering plant that are thought to have originated in New Mexico and temperate areas of South America, but are now found in most temperate regions of the planet mainly due to international tourism.
Evening primrose and the extract oil that comes from its seeds have been a source of intense debate in the health community over the last few decades. This is largely because of the recent public shift toward finding natural remedies for conditions that have traditionally required the use of side-effect-inducing prescription medications that often do more harm than good with extended use.
When the oil is extracted from the seeds of the plant (often labeled “EPO” for “Evening Primrose Oil”) it’s used for a number of internal and topical applications to reduce inflammation and protect our nerves from pain and damage.
As with most superfoods used today, we have the natives of Mexico and Central America to thank for identifying the flower’s anti-inflammatory and pain reducing benefits to the world:
• They used the ground up plant to make healthful teas for painful, inflammatory conditions of all kinds.
• They found that when rubbed on the skin, the oil from the evening primrose reduced the itching, swelling and redness from eczema and other skin conditions.
• The women from these same early Native tribes consumed evening primrose to ease the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and menopause.
Above are just a few uses the Natives had for this GLA rich oil. As Europeans and early North American settlers became aware of the plant, even more health-related uses were discovered over the centuries. In 1700’s England, the oil was called the “King’s Cure All” because of all the ailments it relieved.
Top 5 Evening Primrose Oil Herbal Supplements
|Brand||Now Foods||Nature’s Way||Barlean’s||Now Foods||Sports Research|
|Overall Rating||5 / 5||5 / 5||4.8 / 5||4.0 / 5||5 / 5|
|Serving Size||1 Softgel||1 Softgel||2 Softgels||1ml||1 Softgel|
|Effectiveness||5 / 5||5 / 5||5 / 5||3.8 / 5||5 / 5|
|Quality||5 / 5||5 / 5||4.7 / 5||5 / 5||5 / 5|
|Taste||5 / 5||5 / 5||4.7 / 5||3.2 / 5||5 / 5|
|Digestibility||5 / 5||5 / 5||5 / 5||4.0 / 5||5 / 5|
One of the Top 3 Natural Sources of Gamma Linoleic Acid
There are only two other more potent “natural” sources of GLA to be found in nature: Borage oil and black current oil; both of which contain up to 20% GLA content. Evening primrose oil contains up to 10% depending on the quality of the source seeds and manufacturing/storing process. There’s also a genetically-modified safflower oil on the market that contains up to 40% GLA content, but genetically modified is a definite no-no if you’re looking for a natural health product.
Gamma-linoleic-acid, an omega-6 fatty acid, is the main effective ingredient in evening primrose that’s most beneficial to health. Strangely enough, evening primrose seeds were the very first plant that GLA was isolated from years ago.
Science has long known that GLA is essential to keeping inflammation under control in the body, as well as having major neuroprotective duties on our nerve cells. GLA is the precursor to Dihomo-γ-linoleic acid (DGLA); a compound that’s used in the production of essential anti and pro inflammatory fatty hormones in the body called “eicosanoids” which are made up of two important hormones: prostaglandin and thromboxane.
Eicosanoids are used to regulate inflammation throughout the body, to constrict arteries for blood pressure control, to control blood platelet counts, to modulate immune function, and a number of other important functions you can learn more about here. Eicosanoids are also used in the production of the myelin sheaths that protect each and every nerve cell in the body, and which also act as a conductor for the millions of nerve impulses that travel throughout the brain and body every day.
Evening Primrose Oil Benefits
Most who work in classical medicine believe many of the benefits enjoyed by those who take it is merely a placebo effect. Keep that in mind as you research EPO and its benefits. Some are steeped in scientific research, while others have nothing but those who’ve used EPO with success to back them up.
However, as with so many of the natural health products covered regularly in this blog; how can so many millions of people who’ve used it with great success over the centuries really be wrong?
EPOs effect on PMS has been very well documented. While it doesn’t work for every single woman that tries it, evening primrose can actually help to balance out-of-balance prolactin levels that cause women so much grief during menstruation. This imbalance is called “oestrogen imbalance”. This imbalance can be responsible for complications during pregnancy and menopause too, including preeclampsia, breast tenderness and hot flashes, just to name a few.
Oestrogen and progesterone are two hormones that are usually in relative balance during most days of the month, with the time spent ovulating being the exception. The gamma-linoleic-acid found in evening primrose seeds is converted to a substance called prostaglandin E1 which helps to quel oestrogen imbalance in most women. Native American women have traditionally just eaten the seeds, but this is far less effective and more time consuming than taking the oil directly in supplement form.
People with certain medical and lifestyle conditions have trouble synthesizing gamma-linoleic-acid. Diabetics, autoimmune disease sufferers, people with thyroid malfunction, alcoholics and drug abusers have all been shown to be susceptible to GLA deficiency. This leads to a number of complications including cholesterol imbalance, impotence, infertility, reduced cognitive function, depression, weight gain, and more.
Heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and other immune diseases are normally the end result for people who don’t get enough GLA for long periods of time. Evening primrose oil is the third most concentrated source of GLA available and definitely the most affordable for long-term supplementation. If you’re an alcoholic considering giving up the habit you’re probably GLA deficient and supplementing with EPO can help you avoid nasty withdrawal symptoms and speed up the restoration of proper liver function when taking up to 4,000mg of EPO daily (source).
3.Complications of Diabetes (Nerve Pain)
Evening primrose oil is listed as “Possibly Effective for…” preventing the nervous system malfunction and the painful neuropathy that so often afflicts long term diabetes sufferers (source). This particular rating is something to pay attention to, as few government health agencies give much credence to the effectiveness of non-conventional therapies when it comes to diabetes or any other disease.
Most of the official studies (like this one) on EPO and its effect on diabetic neuropathy have only been performed on rats to date, but people from all over claim that the benefits do extend to humans. Taking 1,000mg or more of EPO daily for 6 – 12 months has worked wonders for some people, halting and even completely reversing the tingling, numbness and pain that sufferers feel in their legs and feet once neuropathy sets in.
4.Heart Health and Cholesterol
Essential fatty acids including gamma-linoleic-acid have long been known for their heart health benefits. High levels of GLA in the blood have proven effective at lowering cholesterol levels in human beings. High cholesterol and high triglyceride levels can and usually do, lead to high blood pressure then later arteriosclerosis when high levels are left unmanaged for several years. GLA also reduces inflammation throughout the bloodstream and body (source).
Arteriosclerosis begins with inflammation of the walls of the arteries, then continues as LDL cholesterol, other fatty substances and platelets are oxidized, causing them to stick to the arteries and make them narrow over time. High doses of 3,000 to 4,000mg of EPO have to be administered daily for several months to work. Though little documentation exists, it would stand to reason that a person should plan to continue taking evening primrose oil after cholesterol levels are normalized to prevent them from rising again.
Essential fatty acids are listed near the top of alternative and complimentary therapies for people who suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder; a disease known for causing poor attention spans and erratic behavior in otherwise healthy people.
The University of Maryland Medical Center website lists fish oil (omega-3s) and evening primrose oil (omega-6s) as part of a handful of effective nutrients that should be taken to reduce the symptoms of ADHD. Studies into this area are still mixed and official research data is hard to find.
Other Possible Benefits of Using EPO
• Weight Loss: Uncontrolled inflammation in the body causes chronically high cortisol levels, leading to “stress belly” in men and increased fat accumulation in the trunk, hips and buttocks for women. EPO and its inflammation-controlling benefits may lead to weight loss for some people.
• Skin Conditions: Name a skin condition and you’ll find several people who’ve used evening primrose oil (ingested or topically applied) to help combat the problem. Eczema, rosacea, acne, dry skin and fine lines and wrinkles due to aging can all benefit from the extra GLA that evening primrose delivers.
• Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Unlike our other organs which are made up of mostly fibrous tissue, the brain is made of 60% fat content. Healthy fats like omega’s 3 and 6 are needed to keep the brain healthy and prevent the cognitive decline that happens as we age.
• Fatigue: Evening primrose oil has helped people who suffer from fatigue to feel more vitality. The best results have been achieved when fish oil is added to the mix.
• Impotence and Infertility: Since GLA helps our bodies to produce more prostaglandins, and prostaglandins are essential to sexual function and reproduction, members of both sexes suffering from impotence or infertility may notice improvements when taking evening primrose oil supplements (learn more).
There really is no official dosage that’s universally recommended for people who use evening primrose oil. Most sources recommend anywhere from 1,000mg up to 4,000mg daily, with 4,000mg (4g) being the number you’ll see most often when it comes to reducing many of the inflammatory conditions mentioned already such as heart disease.
When in doubt, follow the label instructions and or your doctor’s advice.
Evening Primrose Oil Supplement Reviews
NOW Foods Super Primrose
NOW Foods is another favorite among budget-minded folks looking for a reasonably priced way to get their daily dose of EPO. Each softgel contains 120mg of “hexane free” gamma linoleic acid. It’s important to note that I’ve put hexane free in quotations because the label doesn’t say which extraction method was used, however, even if hexane is used in the extraction process, they surely must test the finished product to make sure it meets the acceptable levels standard set by the FDA. You won’t find a more affordable way to get some healthy GLA into your body, but I suggest spending a few bucks more on one of the other 3 if your budget can handle it.
Nature’s Way Evening Primrose
These softgels from Nature’s Way are filled with 1,300mg of evening primrose oil, delivering 120mg of gamma linoleic acid per dose. The oil is extracted using a cold-pressing process, not the more commercially-popular and cheaper hexane chemical extraction, to preserve the healthfulness and integrity of the oil. Cold pressing costs the manufacturer more money to use and the cost is usually passed to the end consumer. Not so with this evening primrose oil. This is one of the most heavily used, inexpensive and highly-reviewed EPO supplements you’ll find on the market. No surprise given the company’s long-standing reputation for purity and quality.
Barlean’s Organic Oils Organic Evening Primrose Oil
Barlean’s organic products are the Mercedes Benz’s of supplements in the natural health food industry. They use only organic-sourced EPO and cold-pressing is the only method used to obtain the oil from the seeds. In fact, this is the only truly organic EPO product available, so if that’s your preference there’s no need to look any further. Barlean’s ensures you’ll get the highest quality GLA in every dose, packaging the gelcaps in a light-proof container and further protecting the precious oil with a unique carob-coated gelatin capsule which doesn’t allow any light to permeate and damage the fatty acids inside. You pay more for this product, but in my opinion, this is the only evening primrose oil product that can truly offer 100% guaranteed purity.
NOW Foods Evening Prim Oil
This non-capsule food grade oil is marketed as a skin conditioner, but you can also take it internally if you wish. The label says a quarter tablespoon of this Evening Prim oil is equivalent to a dose of NOW Foods’ Super Primrose. Strangely, the label on this particular product claims to use a low-heat expeller pressing method, whereas the Super Primrose listed first made no such distinction. Use this for nourishing the face or backs of your hand, or as a spot treatment for dermatitis, psoriasis and other skin ailments.
Much more research needs to be done into the benefits of adding evening primrose oil into the human diet. Still, one thing we all know for sure is that essential fatty acids like gamma-linoleic-acid (omega-6) are “essential” for controlling inflammation throughout the body.
We also know that most of the omega-6 fat consumed in the fast-food-happy world we live in are toxic due to the manufacturing and cooking processes they go through before the foods that contain them get to our plates.
Considering how affordable it is to consume on a month-to-month basis, people suffering from any of the health conditions mentioned on this page have very little to lose and so much to gain by adding EPO to their supplement regimen.