Evening primrose oil (EPO) comes from the seed of the evening primrose plant and is great for skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis and acne. EPO is used in pregnancy for preventing preeclampsia, starting and shortening labor and preventing late deliveries. Women use evening primrose oil to fight PMS, breast pain, endometriosis, symptoms of menopause and hot flashes.
Evening primrose is commonly called Oenothera, “The King’s cure-all,” which is reflected in the wide range of its healing attributes that just goes on and on. In addition to the benefits listed above, EPO is used for rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, Raynaud’s syndrome, multiple sclerosis, Sjogren’s syndrome, ADD, alcoholism, Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, asthma, cancer, high cholesterol, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetic nerve damage, dyspraxia, heart disease, hyperactivity, leg pain, neurodermatitis, obesity and weight loss, whooping cough, and gastrointestinal disorders including ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome and peptic ulcer disease.
EPO is converted to a hormone-like substance called prostaglandin E1 which has anti-inflammatory properties that act as both a blood thinner and blood vessel dilator.
Meet the legend
Evening primrose is a wildflower that grows throughout North America. The evening primrose plant gets its name from the flowers on it that bloom after sunset or extremely overcast days in the months of June through September. In North America, the use of Evening Primrose goes back to early Native Americans who used the seeds for food and made poultices from the whole plant to speed healing in wounds and bruises. European settlers took the root back to England and Germany and used it as a food plant. Evening primrose oil is extracted from the seeds of the evening primrose plant and EPO is an excellent source of the essential fatty acid, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).
EPO as a medicine
At one time EPO was even an approved medicine used to treat eczema and breast pain. Wouldn’t you know that being a natural and un-patentable “drug” it didn’t last long before the Medicines Control Agency withdrew the licenses for using evening primrose oil products as prescriptions for medical treatments.
In a controlled study at the Center for Rheumatic Diseases, patients received 540 mg of EPO daily which brought less inflammation and significant improvement over 12 months compared to no improvement in the placebo group. By 12 months the patients receiving EPO and EPO/fish oil had significantly reduced or stopped their NSAID pain relievers while measures of disease activity did not worsen. Once the patients went off the EPO they all relapsed.
EPO has been studied for treating eczema, reducing symptoms of diabetic neuropathy, reducing symptoms from Raynaud’s phenomenon and it has been found to improve blood flow and nerve function by lowering blood lipid risk factors.
EPO available forms
The peppery young roots of evening primrose can be eaten like a vegetable or the shoots can be eaten as a salad. Evening primrose oil is extracted from the seeds of the plant which contain up to 25 percent essential fatty acids belonging to the omega-6 family of fatty acids. Most North Americans get too much omega-6 fatty acids in their diet and the body needs a balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish oil) to stay healthy.
Taking EPO is a wise supplement choice. EPO is available in a liquid or in capsule form and should be kept refrigerated and out of direct sunlight to prevent rancidity. The higher- quality oil will be certified organic, bottled in light-resistant containers, refrigerated, and marked with a freshness date. The better EPO is standardized to contain 8 percent gamma-linolenic acid.