What is it?
Evening primrose oil is the oil from the seed of the evening primrose plant. Evening primrose oil is used for skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne. It is also used for rheumatoid arthritis, weak bones (osteoporosis), Raynaud’s syndrome, multiple sclerosis (MS), Sjogren’s syndrome, cancer, high cholesterol, heart disease, a movement disorder in children called dyspraxia, leg pain due to blocked blood vessels (intermittent claudication), alcoholism, Alzheimer’s disease, and schizophrenia.
Some people use evening primrose oil for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS); asthma; nerve damage related to diabetes; an itching disorder called neurodermatitis; hyperactivity in children and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); obesity and weight loss; whooping cough; and gastrointestinal disorders including ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and peptic ulcer disease.
Women use evening primrose oil in pregnancy for preventing high blood pressure (pre-eclampsia), shortening labor, starting labor, and preventing late deliveries. Women also use evening primrose oil for premenstrual syndrome (PMS), breast pain, endometriosis, and symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes.
In foods, evening primrose oil is used as a dietary source of essential fatty acids.
In manufacturing, evening primrose oil is used in soaps and cosmetics.
In Britain, evening primrose oil used to be approved for treating eczema and breast pain. However, the Medicines Control Agency (MCA), the British equivalent of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), withdrew the licenses for evening primrose oil products marketed as prescription drug products for these uses. The licenses were withdrawn because the agency concluded that there is not enough evidence that they are effective. The manufacturer disagrees, but it hasn’t published studies yet to prove the effectiveness of evening primrose for these uses.
How effective is it?
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
The effectiveness ratings for EVENING PRIMROSE OIL are as follows:
Possibly effective for...
- Breast pain (mastalgia). It may not be effective for long-term severe breast pain, though.
- Osteoporosis, when used in combination with calcium and fish oils.
Possibly ineffective for...
- Symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
- Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Reducing symptoms of a kind of skin disorder called atopic dermatitis (eczema).
- Hot flashes and night sweats due to menopause.
Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). There is some early evidence that a specific combination of evening primrose oil and fish oils (Efamarine) might reduce the symptoms of CFS. However, study results have not been consistent.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Some studies show evening primrose oil reduces pain in RA. But some other studies show no benefit.
- Complications of pregnancy. Research to date suggests that taking evening primrose oil doesn’t seem to shorten labor, prevent high blood pressure (pre-eclampsia), or prevent late deliveries in pregnant women.
- Sjogren’s syndrome (an autoimmune disorder in which certain body cells attack and destroy the glands that produce tears and saliva). There is some evidence that taking evening primrose oil doesn’t improve symptoms.
- Multiple sclerosis (MS).
- Rheumatoid arthritis.
- Heart disease.
- High cholesterol.
- Alzheimer’s disease.
- Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate evening primrose oil for these uses.
Evening primrose oil contains “fatty acids.” Some women with breast pain might not have high enough levels of certain ”fatty acids.” Fatty acids also seem to help decrease inflammation related to conditions such as arthritis and eczema.
Evening primrose oil is LIKELY SAFE for most people. It can sometimes cause mild side effects including upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea, and headache.
Special precautions & warnings:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Taking evening primrose oil is POSSIBLY UNSAFE during pregnancy. It might increase the chance of having complications. Don’t use it if you are pregnant.
It is POSSIBLY SAFE to take evening primrose oil during breast-feeding, but it’s best to check with your healthcare provider first.
Bleeding disorders: There is a concern that evening primrose oil might increase the chance of bruising and bleeding. Don’t use it if you have a bleeding disorder.
Epilepsy or another seizure disorder: There is a concern that taking evening primrose oil might make seizures more likely in some people. If you have a history of seizure, avoid using it.
Schizophrenia: Seizures have been reported in people with schizophrenia treated with phenothiazine drugs, GLA (a chemical found in evening primrose oil), and vitamin E. Get your healthcare provider’s opinion before starting evening primrose oil.
Surgery: Evening primrose oil might increase the chance of bleeding during or after surgery. Stop using it at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Do not take this combination.
Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs)
Evening primrose oil contains GLA (gamma-linolenic acid), which might slow blood clotting. Taking evening primrose oil along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.
Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others.
Be cautious with this combination.
Medications used during surgery (Anesthesia)
Evening primrose oil might interact with medications used during surgery. One person who was taking evening primrose oil and other medications had a seizure during surgery. But there isn't enough information to know if evening primrose oil or the other medications caused the seizure. Be sure to tell your doctor what natural products you are taking before having surgery. To be on the safe side, you should stop taking evening primrose oil at least 2 weeks before surgery.
Taking evening primrose oil with phenothiazines might increase the risk of having a seizure in some people.
Some phenothiazines include chlorpromazine (Thorazine), fluphenazine (Prolixin), trifluoperazine (Stelazine), thioridazine (Mellaril), and others.
Herbs and supplements that might slow blood clotting
Using evening primrose oil along with herbs that can slow blood clotting could increase the risk of bleeding in some people. These herbs include angelica, clove, danshen, garlic, ginger, ginkgo, red clover, turmeric, and others.
There are no known interactions with foods.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For breast pain: 3-4 grams daily.
Aceite de Onagra, Acide Cis-linoléique, Cis-Linoleic Acid, EPO, Evening Primrose, Evening Primrose Seed Oil, Fever Plant, Herbe-aux-ânes, Huile de Graines d’Onagre, Huile D'Onagre, Huile de Primerose, Huile de Primevère Vespérale, Jambon de Jardinier, Jambon du Paysan, King's Cureall, Mâche Rouge, Night Willow-Herb, Oenothera biennis, Oenothera muricata, Oenothera purpurata, Oenothera rubricaulis, Oenothera suaveolens, Œnothère, Oil of Evening Primrose, Onagra biennis, Onagraire, Onagre Bisannuelle, Onagre Commune, Primevère du Soir, Primrose, Primrose Oil, Scabish, Sun Drop.
To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.methodology (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/methodology.html).
To see all references for the Evening primrose oil page, please go to http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/1006.html.
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Last reviewed - 02/27/2013
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