Evening Primrose Oil
Evening primrose oil comes from the seeds of a wildflower that grows throughout North America but is also found in Europe. The oil, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), is an omega-6 essential fatty acid that is also found in the seeds of borage and black currant. The human body cannot make GLA so it must be obtained from outside sources. However, the body can convert another omega-6 fatty acid, linoleic acid found in nuts and vegetable oils, to GLA. In general, however, GLA is hard to come by in the diet.
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. The Native Americans and European settlers used 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.
Native Americans used evening primrose oil seeds, leaves and roots for food. They also made poultices from the whole plant to heal bruises, and decoctions of the roots to treat hemorrhoids. The leaves were employed to treat minor wounds, gastrointestinal complaints, and sore throats.
It wasn’t until the 1930s that evening primrose oil benefits were discovered for addressing many different health problems including brittle nails and hair, eczema, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), rheumatoid arthritis, Raynaud’s phenomenon, multiple sclerosis, Sjogren’s syndrome, diabetic peripheral neuropathy, breast pain, menopausal symptoms, and others. Evening primrose oil has also been used in pregnancy for preventing high blood pressure, shortening labor, starting labor, and preventing late deliveries.
After reviewing the scientific evidence, the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, concluded that evening primrose oil is “possibly effective” for treatment of breast pain (but may not be effective for severe, long-term pain) and for treatment of osteoporosis when used in combination with calcium and fish oils.
Evening Primrose Oil Benefits
Evening Primrose Oil has been called the most sensational preventive discovery since vitamin C. It contains the pain relieving compound phenylalanine and is increasingly being used to treat chronic headaches. It is currently being studied all over the world as a treatment for aging problems, alcoholism, acne, heart disease, hyperactivity in children, symptoms of menopause, multiple sclerosis, weight control, obesity, PMS and schizophrenia. It has so many preventive and therapeutic qualities that it has become a standard part of recommendations of many herbalist for maintaining youth and preventing disease.
Evening Primrose Oil contains a high concentration of a fatty acid called GLA and it is this fatty acid that is largely responsible for the remarkable healing properties of the plant. In fact, Evening Primrose contains one of the highest concentrations known of this important substance and only a few other plants contain it at all. This makes Evening Primrose an important medicinal herb, and as studies continue, the list of benefits will likely become much longer. The gamma-linoleic acid, linoleic acid and other nutrients in this oil are essential for cell structure and improve the elasticity of the skin. These fatty acids also help to regulate hormones and improve nerve function aiding problems ranging from PMS to migraine headaches. The hormone balancing effect contributes to healthy breast tissue.
Specifically, evening primrose oil may help to:
Relieve the discomforts of PMS, menopause, menstruation, endometriosis and fibrocystic breasts
By interfering with the production of inflammatory prostaglandins released during menstruation, the GLA in evening primrose oil can help to lessen menstrual cramps. It may also minimise premenstrual breast tenderness, irritable bowel flare-ups, and carbohydrate cravings, and help to control endometriosis-associated inflammation. Many PMS sufferers are found to have unusually low levels of GLA in their systems, which is why supplements might help so much. In women with fibrocystic breasts, the oil’s essential fatty acids can minimise breast inflammation and promote the absorption of iodine, a mineral that can be present in abnormally low levels in women with this condition. In menopause, it is widely reported that Evening Primrose oil reduces hot flushes and increases feelings of well being.
Ease the joint pain and swelling of rheumatoid arthritis
Prevent diabetes-associated nerve damage
Research indicates that the GLA in evening primrose oil can help prevent, and in some cases even reverse, the nerve damage (neuropathy) so commonly seen with diabetes. In a year-long study, such symptoms as numbness, tingling, and loss of sensation in participants with mild diabetic neuropathy were less marked in those who took evening primrose oil than in those who took a placebo.
Reduce the symptoms of eczema
In some cases, eczema develops when the body has problems converting dietary fats into GLA. Getting supplemental GLA from evening primrose oil may therefore be helpful. Some studies indicate that this oil can outperform a placebo in relieving eczema-related inflammation, as well as the itching, oozing, and flaking associated with this condition. By taking GLA, eczema sufferers may tolerate reduced doses of steroid creams and drugs, many of which cause unpleasant side effects.
Help treat acne and rosacea
By working to dilute sebum, a thick oily substance that is oversecreted in some people with acne, the essential fatty acids in evening primrose oil may reduce the risk of pores becoming clogged and lesions developing. The oil’s EFAs help treat rosacea by reducing inflammation, controlling cells’ use of nutrients and by producing prostaglandins, which stimulate the contraction of blood vessels.
Combat damage from multiple sclerosis
The abundant supply of essential fatty acids in evening primrose oil may be valuable in minimizing the inflammation associated with this progressive nerve disorder. The fatty acids may also contribute to healthy nerve development when taken over time.
Treat Alzheimer’s-related memory deficiencies
By boosting the transmission of nerve impulses, evening primrose oil may be valuable in treating this progressive brain disorder.
Counter impotence and female infertility
By promoting blood flow, the GLA in evening primrose oil can help treat a primary cause of male impotence; compromised circulation leading to impaired penile blood flow. The oil is often taken with vitamin C and ginkgo biloba for this purpose. In addition, when the oil is taken long term, GLA can help prevent blood vessel narrowing, often a consequence of plaque buildup from high cholesterol. By improving uterine function, GLA may also help those who are unable to conceive.
Nourish nails, scalp, and hair
The rich stores of essential fatty acids in evening primrose oil not only prevent nails from cracking but also help to keep them generally healthy. In addition, the essential fatty acids nourish the scalp, making the supplement potentially valuable in treating a variety of hair problems.
Prevent alcohol withdrawal symptoms
GLA prompts the brain to produce a specific type of prostaglandin called prostaglandin E, which works to prevent withdrawal symptoms such as depression and seizures by indirectly protecting the liver and nervous system.
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