Have you ever heard of the Evening Primrose? It is a biennial plant, meaning it takes two years to complete its biological life cycle, and it is characterized by it’s beautiful yellow flowers. Its name stems (no pun intended) from the fact it’s flowers only bloom in the evening. Although well known for the plant itself, it is better known for the therapeutic oil extracted from its seeds.
What is Evening Primrose Oil?
Evening Primrose Oil (EPO) is extracted from the seeds of the Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) plant. This oil contains a fatty acid called gamma-linolenic acid, or GLA for short, as well as linoleic acid. These two acids are thought to be the healing ingredients in EPO.
This oil has a wide variety of uses within the health and beauty industries. It is often used to improve the appearance of skin in the beauty industry and can be part of treatment for skin disorders such as eczema. Evening primrose oil is also used to treat conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, weak bones, Multiple Sclerosis, and nerve pain.
This promising herbal remedy treats symptoms of neuropathy such as hot and cold sensitivity, numbness and tingling. One study published in 2014 treated diabetes mellitus-associated neuropathy with vitamin E oil and Evening Primrose oil for one year and found that 88% of the study population found relief from their neuropathic pain.4 In fact, many of the studies on Evening Primrose Oil are for six months or more. This means it is a commitment to long term use to determine if it will be of help.
Relief of pain and other symptoms of neuropathy is potentially due to increasing circulation to the nerves or helping to heal damaged nerves. Both GLA and linoleic acid are imperative for maintaining myelin which is a lipid-rich substance that insulates nerve cells and can be helpful in cases of neuropathy where myelin is damaged. The studies reviewed are mostly focused on diabetic neuropathy; but it is possible similar results may be expected of other myelin-based neuropathies.
EPO is available as an oil to be applied topically or consumed orally in capsule form. For neuropathy it is normally taken orally with a recommended dose of 360mg-480mg of GLA daily.
Herbal medications can interact adversely with medications and have negative effects on some conditions and as such the use of EPO should be discussed with a family physician prior to use. Those wishing to incorporate EPO in their regime shouldn’t be taking medications that slow blood clotting such that EPO may increase bruising and bleeding alongside these medications. Lastly, anyone taking EPO should be aware of the mild side effects which include upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea and headaches.
- Cold, F. and Health, E. (2019). Evening Primrose Oil: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning. [online] Webmd.com. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1006/evening-primrose-oil [Accessed 23 Feb. 2019].
- Debra Rose Wilson, C. (2019). Evening primrose oil: Uses and drug interactions. [online] Medical News Today. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/263027.php [Accessed 23 Feb. 2019].
- Healthline. (2019). Evening Primrose Oil: Benefits, Use, and More. [online] Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/evening-primrose-oil [Accessed 23 Feb. 2019].
- Ogbera, A., Oshinaike, O., Ezeobi, E. and Unachukwu, C. (2014). Treatment of diabetes mellitus-associated neuropathy with vitamin E and Eve primrose. Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, 18(6), p.846.
- Peripheral neuropathy – Diagnosis and treatment – Mayo Clinic Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/peripheral-neuropathy/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20352067 [Accessed 23 Feb. 2019].
Food for thought…