Health News

The power of the primrose

Go Vita health consultants look at the evidence surrounding the health benefits of evening primrose oil and why its supporters are ever growing around the globe.

Evening primrose oil (EPO) is no newcomer to the natural health scene. It has, however, been heavily scrutinised in recent decades regarding its health claims. Yet, for every naysayer you will find a band of devoted followers who swear by this plant-based oil’s curative qualities particularly in the areas of hormones, skin and beauty.

One undeniable fact is EPO is high in essential fatty acids which provide the foundation for cell membranes, the function of various hormones and other substances which affect body. Essential fatty acids are vital for human health and the body can’t make them. They must be acquired through food. We require a balance of essential fatty acids, such as omega-6, found in evening primrose oil and omega-3, found in fish oils, for optimal living. Both are vital for brain function, growth and development.

Containing large amounts of gamma linolenic acid (GLA), EPO comes from a wildflower native to America. Native Americans ate the seeds from the Oenothera biennis plant from which EPO is produced. They used the plant for poultices to heal bruising, wounds, haemorrhoids and skin problems.

The legions of EPO consumers attest to its effectiveness for:

Hormone health, PMS relief and beautiful skin It’s believed the essential fatty acids in EPO help women experiencing symptoms associated with hormonal imbalance, PMS and menopause.

One of the knock-on effects of hormonal imbalance can be teenage and adult acne. The omega-6 fatty acids in EPO are thought to regulate hormone levels helping to treat hormonal acne. The fatty acids play a role in cell structure, improving nerve function and promoting skin elasticity, which is why EPO is often used in beauty products. It can be applied topically or taken in capsule form to help moisturise, revitalise and nourish the skin from the inside and out.

While limited in research, EPO is often touted as beneficial to reduce menopausal hot flushes, a small 2013 study found EPO improved the severity of menopausal hot flushes after six weeks of treatment.

A number of clinical trials have assessed the role of EPO in easing the breast tenderness and breast pain symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). In these trials EPO was noted in some patients to also improve the symptoms of mood and bloating.

Dry skin conditions More than 30 human studies report the benefits of EPO for atopic eczema. Atopic eczema sufferers appear to be unable to process fatty acids normally, which results in GLA deficiency. Atopic eczema tends to run in families where other atopic disorders exist such as asthma, diabetes or hay fever. GLA can assist with reducing inflammation and promoting cell growth; it helps relieve the itch and soothes the irritation of dry skin conditions. Capsules can be taken orally or pierced and the oil applied to the ‘good’ skin around eczema patches. For relief of eczema, EPO takes at least 6-8 weeks to take effect.

Note: EPO is not recommended if taking blood thinning or blood pressure medications.