Benefits And Side Effects Of Evening Primrose Supplements

Evening primrose oil is used for a variety of medical conditions, and is one of the safest and most versatile natural supplements.

Evening primrose oil was once valued by Native Americans and early American settlers as a remedy for a variety of ailments. Today, people are rediscovering the supplement, and finding that it can be an effective and relatively safe treatment for several medical conditions.

The effectiveness of evening primrose oil stems from an ingredient called gamma-linolenic acid, or GLA, an essential fatty acid thought to have anti-inflammatory and other healing properties. Many foods contain GLA, but evening primrose oil has highly concentrated amounts, with the substance making up 7 percent to 10 percent of its fatty acids. It is also thought to be one of the safest sources of GLA, with few known side effects. When ingested, GLA is converted to prostaglandins, compounds that help regulate several bodily functions and can either control or contribute to inflammation.

Evening primrose oil is perhaps best known for its ability to ease symptoms of several female problems, including pre-menstrual syndrome, endometriosis and fibrocystic breasts. During menstruation, the body releases the inflammatory kind of prostaglandins. But by interfering with the production of these prostaglandins, the GLA in evening primrose oil may help alleviate menstrual cramps. Because some women with PMS have trouble converting linoleic acid into GLA, they may benefit from the added GLA in evening primrose oil. Sufferers of PMS have been found to have decreased levels of GLA, and this may explain the effectiveness of evening primrose oil in treating PMS symptoms. The supplement may also lessen pre-menstrual breast tenderness, and the fatty acids contained in evening primrose oil are believed to reduce breast inflammation for women suffering from fibrocystic breasts. It is also thought to aid in the absorption of iodine, which is often decreased in women suffering from this condition.


People with eczema may also find relief from evening primrose oil supplements. Eczema develops from a variety of causes, sometimes due to problems metabolizing fatty acids. Because these sufferers cannot convert dietary fats into GLA, they may benefit from evening primrose oil supplementation to help provide the GLA they lack. The supplement may alleviate the many symptoms of eczema, including itching, dryness, inflammation, oozing and flaking. For this condition, evening primrose oil can be taken orally or applied as a topical cream.

Evening primrose oil has garnered widespread attention as a treatment for both acne and rosacea. Its essential fatty acids help to dilute sebum, a thick, oily substance secreted by the skin, excessively so by some acne sufferers. Because of this, it may reduce the likelihood of clogged pores and lesions on the skin. The essential fatty acids can also help rosacea sufferers, because they reduce inflammation, control how cells utilize nutrients and encourage the production of the beneficial kind of prostaglandins, which promote the contraction of blood vessels.

Evening primrose oil has also been shown to prevent and even reverse symptoms of diabetic neuropathy, a debilitating form of nerve damage suffered by many diabetics. The supplement appears to reduce the numbness, tingling and loss of feeling suffered by patients with this condition.

Dementia and Alzheimer's patients may also benefit from taking evening primrose oil. The supplement is thought to aid and strengthen nerve impulses, thereby repairing some of the memory loss associated with these disorders.

It may also be valuable for people suffering from alcoholism, especially in alleviating withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking. The GLA in evening primrose oil promotes the production of prostaglandin E, which protects the liver and nervous system and can prevent withdrawal symptoms like depression and seizures. It may also lessen the damage caused by alcoholism and help alcoholics during their recovery period. Evening primrose oil appears to help repair both the memory and motor-visual coordination, counteracting some of the effects alcohol has on the brain.

Evening primrose oil has also shown promise as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, a condition that is chronic, painful and in severe cases disfiguring. It can inhibit movement and cause the joints and hands to become misshapen, but evening primrose oil may relieve some of the symptoms. The oil has been found to reduce the joint pain and swelling associated with this condition, and seems to help control inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis patients.

Evening primrose oil has few known side effects, aside from possible bloating or gastrointestinal upset. The only severe side effect is a possible increased risk of temporal lobe epilepsy in schizophrenia patients taking a type of medication called phenothiazine epileptogenic drugs. It also should not be used by patients suffering mania, because it is speculated that evening primrose oil may make their symptoms worse. It is generally recommended that pregnant women do not take evening primrose oil, because it may alter the composition of breast milk.

Evening primrose oil is thought to be useful for a variety of medical conditions, and as new research is carried out, that list continues to grow. Because it is one of the safest supplements, most people can take it without fear of serious side effects, making it a valuable and versatile natural treatment. The best results are found when the supplement is taken for at least six months, and if given time to work, evening primrose oil may provide long-awaited relief for many patients.When trying evening primrose oil for the first time, be careful to follow the manufacturer's instructions, and report any unexpected changes in your health to your physician.

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