The Collison Newsletter November 2012


                       EVENING  PRIMROSE  OIL*  

Evening primrose is a wild flower native to north and south America. Oenothera is a genus of about 125 species of annual, biennial and perennial herbaceous flowering plants. It is the type genus of the family Onagraceae, the Evening Primrose Family. Common names include evening-primrose, suncups, and sundrops.


Young roots of evening primrose can be eaten like a vegetable, or the shoots can be eaten as a salad. Poultices have been used to ease bruises and speed wound healing. One of the common names for Oenothera, "Kings cureall", reflects the wide range of healing powers ascribed to this plant.

Medicinal Uses and Indications of Evening Primrose Oil 

Evening primrose oil (EPO) has only recently been used as medicine. The oil is found in the plant's seeds and contains high levels of the essential fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). The mature seeds contain approximately 7-10% GLA. The oil also contains around 70% linoleic acid (LA). Both GLA and LA are omega-6 essential fatty acids.


Essential fatty acids such as omega-6, found in EPO, and omega-3, found in fish oil, are used as building blocks for a number of molecules in the body. The body needs a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for good health.


Eczema symptoms include redness, scaling and itching. There have been many studies carried out that report the benefits of EPO in the management of eczema and dermatitis. One study of 1,207 patients found that EPO helped relieve symptoms from skin conditions, including itching, crusting, oedema (fluid and swelling), and redness. EPO can be used in children as well as adults.


EPO is widely recommended and used to reduce the symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), even though there is very little real scientific evidence of its efficacy in the condition. Many studies are poorly designed, and in two that were well designed, no benefit was brought about by taking EPO.


The following other conditions are possible indications for the use of EPO. Again, there is very little scientific evidence to support the use of EPO in these conditions.

       Rheumatoid arthritis

       Raynaud's phenomenon

       Diabetic peripheral neuropathy

       Breast pain

       Menopausal symptoms.

Preparations and Dosage of EPO 

EPO is available as an oil, or generally as capsules. EPO products, especially as oil, should be kept in the refrigerator and out of direct sunlight to prevent the oil from becoming rancid.


EPO should be standardised to contain 8% GLA.


The recommended dosage of EPO is 2 to 8 grams daily for adults.

Side Effects and Precautions 

EPO is safe when taken at the recommended dosage. Reported side effects are rare and generally mild, and include nausea, stomach pains and headache. Stomach pain and loose stools suggest that the dose is too high.


EPO may raise the risk of bleeding, especially if you are taking medicines to 'thin' the blood, such aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), and clopidogrel (Plavix).


EPO may lower blood pressure in some people. Care should be exercised if you are being treated for hypertension.


EPO may interact with some antidepressants including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as escitalopram (Lexapro) and fluoxetine (Prozac).


EPO for eczema and other dermatological conditions is a definite indication.


A course of EPO in the other conditions listed above may be worth undertaking. Well conducted studies need to be carried out to confirm or otherwise the therapeutic benefit of EPO in these indications. At this stage, anecdotal evidence is the only guideline.


Evening Primrose Oil is an excellent source of the omega-6 essential fatty acids. However it should be noted that, in general, the typical Western diet has excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids and insufficient omega-3 fatty acids, with a ratio as high as 30:1. Ideally, the ratio for health should be much lower, as close to 1:1 as possible.


EPO is also the abbreviation for ERYTHROPOIETIN. Erythropoietin is a protein hormone produced by the kidney which, when released into the bloodstream, binds with receptors in the bone marrow, and thus stimulates the production of red blood cells (erythrocytes) and hence increases the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood. This “EPO” first appeared on the market as a therapeutic drug. In the late 1980’s, the sports community discovered that erythropoietin (EPO) heightens athletic performance significantly. For this reason, it is a banned substance in the sporting community.


*Copyright 2012: The Huntly Centre.

Disclaimer: All material in the website is provided for informational or educational purposes only. Consult a health professional regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations expressed herein, with respect to your symptoms or medical condition.


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