by Tatsiana Bialiayeva
Oh man, so many options!
“Acai”, "Manuka Honey”, “Ashwagandha”, “Moringa”, “Milk Thistle”, “Krill Oil”, “Alfalfa”...
Have you ever felt lost staring at a grocery aisle with all the fancy so-called super-foods? I know, me too. And how many times did you think about whether you needed that particular item or not? There are many different products but let’s concentrate on a yellow flower that blooms in the evening and is thought to possibly offer healing properties - evening primrose.
Evening primrose originates in North America but can be found in Europe and other places of the Southern hemisphere. On the market, evening primrose can be found in the form of oil supplement (Evening Primrose Oil, 2016).
What’s so unique about this flower?
Evening primrose oil (EPO) contains gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an essential fatty acid that plays a vital role in immune functions (Kapoor & Huang, 2016). It is also a phytosterogenic plant that like soy, flaxseed, and some other foods is believed to provide numerous health benefits including lowering the risk of heart diseases and osteoporosis. However, more studies need to be done on humans to have strong evidence to support these claims and their relationship to EPO (Patisaul & Jefferson, 2010).
Evening Primrose Oil and Skin
In the body, GLA is converted from linoleic acid also known as omega-6. In some cases, if there is a lack of specific enzymes that are involved in this conversion, this leads to a skin problem, namely Atopic Dermatitis (AD). Some studies show that evening primrose oil can improve skin hydration in the areas of eczema and therefore can serve as a safe additional holistic treatment for atopic dermatitis (Je Jung et al., 2017).
Evening Primrose Oil and Diabetes
Diabetes is a lifelong health condition that can impact quality of life significantly. Besides messing up your blood glucose, this disease has complications if left uncontrolled. Mainly, it pays a massive toll on blood vessels leaving your heart and other organs vulnerable. Besides, diabetes impairs specific metabolic functions such as conversion of linoleic acid to GLA (that is important in blood flow health). Evening primrose oil in combination with antioxidants are shown to improve nerve blood flow caused by diabetes. However, further studies on humans are needed to use this oil in medical practice (Gunstone, 2003).
Evening Primrose Oil and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a health issue that affects women’s reproductive system causing hormonal and metabolic imbalances. Since evening primrose is a phytosterogenic plant(it mimics estrogen), it may give hope for women to alter hormonal concentration and insulin sensitivity in place of conventional drugs. More complete studies are needed though (Vakili at el., 2018).
Primrose Oil and Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune condition in which the protective coverings of nerve cells are affected. These coverings are also known as the myelin sheath, and it is composed of fatty acids. Its destruction leads to altered communications between a person’s brain and body causing muscle weakness, numbness, trouble with balance and memory issues (Multiple Sclerosis, n.d.). Unfortunately, the causes of this health condition along with its conventional treatments are not fully recognized. However, a relatively new study shows that Evening Primrose Oil (EPO) significantly improves cognitive function and overall life satisfaction. Using EPO as a holistic treatment can alleviate pain and fatigue during MS flare-ups (Majdinasab & Namjoyan, 2018). It looks like this pretty yellow flower does have some superpower.
After digging into studies regarding different health issues and their relationship to EPO, we can see that evening primrose oil hasn’t been fully studied. Until there are solid long-term studies, EPO cannot be used in place of conventional medicine. And therefore, always consult with your health provider about risks and side effects of herbal supplements before taking them.
Evening Primrose Oil. (2016). National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Retrieved November 5, 2018, from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/eveningprimrose
Gunstone, F., D. (2003). Gamma-Linolenic acid. Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition (Second Edition). Retrieved November 5, 2018, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/biochemistry-genetics-and-molecular-biology/gamma-linolenic-acid
Je Jung, M., Won Choi, Y., Hee Son, J., Se Cho, Y., Young Chung, B., One Kim, H., Wook Park, C. (2017). Effect of evening primrose oil on Korean patients with mild atopic dermatitis; a randomized, double blinded, placebo-controlled clinic study. Retrieved November 5, 2018, from http://www.papersearch.net/thesis/article.asp?key=3553641
Kapoor, R., Huang, Y. (2006). Gamma linolenic acid: an anti-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acid. The Journal Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, 7(6), 531-4.
Majdinasab, N., Namjoyan, F., Taghizadeh, M., Saki, H. (2018). The effect of evening primrose oil on fatigue and quality of life in patients with multiple sclerosis. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 14, 1505-1512. doi: 10.2147/NDT.S149403
Multiple Sclerosis. (n.d.). U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved November 5, 2018, from https://medlineplus.gov/multiplesclerosis.html
Patisaul, H., B., Jefferson, W. (2010). The pros and cons of phytoestrogens. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, 31(4), 400-419. doi: 10.1016/j.yfme.2010.03.003
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