Introduction To Evening Primrose Oil
When it comes to natural remedies for skin conditions like eczema and atopic dermatitis, nothing can come close to the wonders of evening primrose oil. In fact, a lot of studies have attested to its effectiveness in inhibiting the activities of pro-inflammatory substances like thromboxanes and interleukins as well as cyclooxygenases. Its phytosterols have also been studied in the control of adenocarcinomatous cellular proliferation. Its primary indication, however, is in the management of inflammatory processes.
Evening primrose oil is extracted from the essence of one of the most beautiful blooms you can ever find, the evening primrose, known in the scientific world as Oenothera biennis. The plant is endemic to regions with temperate and subtropical climate.
However, evening primrose is primarily abundant in the eastern and central portions of North America which can include from as far as Newfoundland going west towards Alberta and from Florida to Texas. The distinct yellow bloom that only opens in the evening, hence the name, naturally attracts pollen carriers which have been used in the management of certain allergic conditions as a form of desensitization therapy.
The health properties of evening primrose oil is closely associated with its main components primarily gamma linolenic acid as well as phytosterols.
• Antiallergic – helps desensitize individuals to allergens
• Antiasthmatic – helps reduce the inflammatory changes in the airways to allow for easier breathing
• Anticancer – the phytosterols in evening primrose oil may help in arresting the proliferation of certain colon cancer cells
• Antihypercholesterolemia – may help lower cholesterol levels
• Anti-inflammatory – inhibits the action of pro-inflammatory substances like thromboxanes, interleukins, and cyclooxygenases
• Antirheumatic – helps relieve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
• Antithrombotic – may play a role in the more efficient prevention of blood clots
There are quite a number of health benefits of evening primrose oil. However, these are closely related to its ability to inhibit inflammatory processes.
• Helps promote smoother and healthier skin – Evening primrose oil has been carefully studied in its effects on eczema and atopic dermatitis as well as other inflammatory skin conditions. This can lead to smoother and healthier skin.
• Reduce and/or manage inflammatory processes – Other inflammatory processes such as premenstrual syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, menopausal syndrome, and asthma may be effectively controlled to bring about the desired comfort.
• Help protect against certain cancers – The phytosterols of evening primrose oil may help protect against the development or proliferation of adenocarcinoma in the colon.
One of the most common use of evening primrose oil is in the management of skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis. In the 2014 study of Simon et al, they found out evening primrose oil can greatly improve the symptoms of atopic dermatitis by increasing the circulating levels of gamma linoleic acid (GLA). It has been postulated that atopic dermatitis is caused by a deficiency in delta-6-desaturase which is needed to convert linoleic acid into gamma linolenic acid. It is thus believed that a deficiency in GLA is what causes the symptoms of atopic dermatitis. Evening primrose was also excellent in the management of eczema, a chronic type of inflammatory skin condition which can develop as early as childhood and affect the child’s quality of life. The skin anti-inflammatory ability of evening primrose oil was also highlighted in the pilot study conducted by Park and his colleagues in Korea in 2014.
Evening primrose is also indicated in a variety of inflammatory processes including asthma, breast tenderness, menopausal syndrome, premenstrual syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and eczema. The 2014 study of de la Paz et al confirmed the anti-inflammatory properties of evening primrose oil especially in the inhibition of thromboxane 2 and phospholipase A-2. Evening primrose oil has also been shown to reduce the gene expression of cyclooxygenase-2 enzymes and the secretion of tumor necrosis factor and interleukin 1ß. These cytokines are largely responsible for the different inflammatory processes in the body. This was a follow up to their earlier study of the same nature. Their 2012 study focused on sterols found in evening primrose oil as having a protective effect against nitric oxide, tumor necrosis factor, thromboxane B2, and interleukin 1ß.
The effects of evening primrose oil on menopausal hot flashes have been extensively studied by Farzaneh and her colleagues in 2013. The study showed evening primrose oil as particularly effective in controlling the intensity of hot flashes as well as help improve the scores on the hot flash-related daily interference scale.
Another particularly beneficial use of evening primrose oil is in the suppression of the proliferation of human colon adenocarcinoma cells. The study of De la Paz in 2015 showed that the campesterol and ß-sitosterol found in evening primrose oil significantly affected the growth and proliferation of the adenocarcinoma cell in human colon. This has resulted in cancer cell death because of the phytosterol stimulatory effect on increased apoptosis and necrosis on tumor cells.
Animal studies on evening primrose oil also revealed that it is capable of reduce the levels of circulating cholesterol as well as improve overall platelet deaggregation. Gresha and his colleagues experimented on hypercholesterolemic rats in 2014 and found that evening primrose oil may have a cardioprotective function if applied in humans. Unfortunately, more research are needed to validate these claims on human subjects.
The following are the uses of evening primrose oil:
• Atopic dermatitis and eczema – The anti-inflammatory properties of evening primrose oil can greatly improve the symptoms associated with atopic dermatitis ad eczema as well as other inflammatory skin conditions.
• Menopausal and premenstrual hot flashes – One of the most common complaints among women with premenstrual syndrome or menopausal syndrome is the occurrence of mastitis or breast tenderness. The application of evening primrose oil has been shown to be particularly effective.
• Rheumatoid arthritis – The effects of evening primrose oil on the secretion of proinflammatory cytokines such as thromboxanes, cyclooxygenase, and interleukins, have been shown to help improve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis particularly pain and swelling of the joint capsule.
• Diabetic neuropathy – Although some of the studies conducted on the effects of evening primrose oil on diabetic neuropathy, experts agree that it may be beneficial only to mild forms of diabetic neuropathy. In some cases, it may serve as an adjunct to more empirical treatments.
Evening primrose oil is primarily composed of omega-6 fatty acids such as linolenic acid, which constitutes about 2-thirds to 4-fifths of the total fatty acid content, and gamma linolenic acid. Also included are oleic acid, palmitic acid, alpha-linolenic acid, and stearic acid. This is in addition to the sterols campesterol and beta-sitosterol cited for its supposed antiproliferative effects.
When used on a short term basis, evening primrose oil should be generally safe. However, prolonged continuous use of more than a year can increase the risk of developing immunosuppression, thrombosis, and inflammation.
1. De la Paz, S. M., Arche, A, F., Martin, M. A., and Gimenez, M. D. (2012). The sterols isolated from evening primrose oil modulate the release of proinflammatory mediators. Phytomedicine, 19(12): 1072-1076.
2. De la Paz, S. M., Gimenez, M. D. G., Martin, M. A., Aguilar, F. M., and Arche, A., F. (2013). Dietary supplementation evening primrose oil improve symptoms of fibromyalgia syndrome. Journal of Functional foods. 5(30: 1279-1287.
3. De la Paz, S. M., Gimenez, M. D. G., Martin, M. M. A., Camino, M. C. P., and Arche, A. F. (2014). Long chain fatty alcohols from evening primrose oil inhibit the inflammatory response in murine peritoneal macrophages. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 151(1): 131-136.
4. De la Paz, S., M., Arche, M. A. F., Bermudez, B., and Gimenez, M. D. G. (2015). The sterols isolated from evening primrose oil inhibit human colon adenocarcinoma cell proliferation and induce cell cycle arrest through upregulation of LXR. Journal of Functional Foods. 12: 64-69.
5. Edwards, S. E., Rocha, I. D., Williamson, E. M., and Heinrich, M. (2015). Evening primrose oil in Phytopharmacy: an evidence-based guide to herbal medicinal products (1e). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
6. Farzaneh, F., Fatehi, S., Sohrabi, M. R., and Alizadeh, K. (2013). The effect of oral evening primrose oil on menopausal hot flashes: a randomized clinical trial. Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics. 288: 1075-1079.
7. Gresha, N. M. A., Aziz, E. Z., A., and Greish, S. M. (2014). Evening primrose oil ameliorates platelet aggregation and improves cardiac recovery in myocardial infarct hypercholesterolemic rats. International Journal of Physiology, Pathophysiology, and Pharmacology. 6(1): 23-26.
8. Maford, J. T. M., Ray, S., Musekiwa, A., Van Gool, C., and Humphreys, R., et al (2013). Oral evening primrose oil and borage oil for eczema. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 4(CD004416).
9. Park, K. Y., Ko, E. J., Kim, I. S., Li, K., and Kim, B. J., et al (2014). The effect of evening primrose oil for the prevention of xerotic cheilitis in acne patients being treated with isotretinoin: a pilot study. Annals of Dermatology. 26(6): 706-712.
10. Simon, D., Eng, P. A., Borelli, S., Kagi, R., and Zimmermann, C., et al (2014). Gamma linolenic acid levels correlate with clinical efficicacy of evening primrose oil in patients with atopic dermatitis. Advances in Therapy. 31(2): 180-188.