By: Nutrition expert- Vidula Kozarekar, Mumbai.
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Evening primrose (O biennis), a biennial plant, is a member of the Onagraceae family that is native to North America. Its lesser-known names are common evening primrose, fever plant, great evening primrose, King’s cure-all, night willow-herb, scabish, scurvish, and tree primrose (1).
In the United States, evening primrose plants are found from the Atlantic Ocean to the Rocky Mountains. These plants have also been naturalized around the world. The plant is in bloom from June to September, with the yellow flowers opening at sunset and closing up during the day. The flowers have a strong, sweet scent, which attracts moths for pollination. It is the oil from the tiny seeds that is primarily used in herbal preparations, although the entire plant is edible.
According to Blumenthal, the oil is obtained from the seeds by cold expression or solvent extraction. The golden, yellow oil is generally marketed as capsules for use (2).
Evening primrose oil has two types of omega-6-fatty acid including linoleic acid (60%–80%) and γ-linoleic acid (8%–14%). Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are considered as essential compounds for body health, especially among women. EFAs are generally necessary for stimulating skin and hair growth, maintaining bone health, regulating metabolism, and maintaining reproductive capability. EFAs cannot be manufactured endogenously; therefore, they must be obtained exogenously from food sources (3).
Efficacy of Evening Primrose Oil:
- Management of premenstrual syndrome (PMS):(4)
PMS is a condition, which is associated with somatic, emotional and behavioural symptoms during the women menstruation. Anxiety, depression, acne, fatigue, and headache are common symptoms of PMS. Low level of prostaglandin E1, as the result of a deficiency in essential fatty acids causes high sensitivity to prolactin, which produces at ovulation time and increases the high level during the luteal phases. Linoleic acid promotes prostaglandin synthesis and alleviates PMS.
- Management of mastalgia: (5), (6)
The women of 70% complain of breast pain at some stages of their life. Breast pain or mastalgia is a common distressing ailment among ladies in reproductive ages. Cyclical breast pain is as the result of changing in hormone during the menstrual cycle, while noncyclical breast pains are not linked to menstrual cycle. The deficiency in γ-linolenic acid or its derivatives makes the breast tissues sensitive to sex hormones, which is associated with breast pain.
- Management of hot flash: (7), (8)
Evening primrose oil is the most popular treatment as complementary and alternative medicine among 1,296 menopausal women in Sydney. Women of 66.3% found it as an effective treatment in menopause symptoms. The most commonly experienced symptom of menopause is hot flash.
- Management of gestational diabetes: (9)
Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy. The high blood sugar in gestational periods of pregnant women can effect on pregnancy and baby’s health. After delivery, gestational pregnancy returns to normal level soon.
In a randomized double-blind placebo controlled clinical trial, the efficacy of 1 g evening primrose oil and 1,000 IU vitamin D supplements (n = 30) in comparison with placebo for 6 weeks on women with gestational diabetes was evaluated on biochemical variables at baseline and after treatment. The results showed supplement with evening primrose oil and vitamin D caused a significant reduction in serum high sensitivity C-reactive protein level and malondialdehyde, while the increase in plasma nitric oxide and total antioxidant capacity level was observed in evening primrose oil plus vitamin D compared with placebo. Therefore, women with gestational diabetes can benefit from the antioxidant activities of evening primrose oil during their pregnancy.
- Management of cervical ripening and dilatation: (10), (11)
Midwives used evening primrose oil as a cervical ripening agent for shortening the labor and reducing the incidence of postdates pregnancies. Evening primrose oil with prostaglandins E1 and E2 precursors has relaxant activity on smooth muscle, which changes cervical vascular tone and consistency. The cervical dilation and effacement affected by prostaglandins. Various studies have shown that; the use of intra-vaginal evening primrose oil has cervical ripening effects in women and can be used prior to hysteroscopy or childbirth.
Possible Side Effects and Safety: (12)
No recommended safe doses have been found for the use in musculoskeletal conditions, but trials have used doses of 6 g (540 mg GLA) a day. If taken in the correct dose, EPO has no major safety problems.
Common side-effects include:
If you have epilepsy or seizure disorder you shouldn’t take EPO because it can cause seizures.
Interactions haven’t been well studied, but you should be cautious about using EPO if you take anti-inflammatory drugs (for example cortisone) and anticoagulants because interactions are possible.
If you are considering the use of Evening Primrose Oil for the treatment or prevention of Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) or Menopause, consult your health care provider before starting your supplement regime.
- Blumenthal M. The American Botanical Council Clinical Guide to Herbs. New York: Thieme; 2003.