Evening primrose oil is an excellent source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). This fatty acid is the most responsible for the health-promoting properties of the oil. Why is it worth choosing evening primrose oil as a source of GLA? Who needs it? What diseases does it help? Is it better to use it in capsules or in a bottle? We have the answers that you are looking for.
Evening primrose oil - origin
Evening primrose is a plant that originated in North America and then spread to other continents. It arrived in Europe in the 17th century. There are many varieties of evening primrose, but the two most common ones used for oil extraction are the biennial primrose (Oenothera biennis) and the evening primrose (Oenothera paradoxa). The plants, which are the raw material for the extraction of evening primrose oil, have single stems, grow to a height from 50 to 150 cm and have yellow flowers. They open in the evening, then close and bloom after midnight. They are traditionally called "night candles". After blooming, the flowers form seed pods, which contain around 230 seeds each. These seeds are the raw material for evening primrose oil.
Traditionally evening primrose oil has been used as a cure for bruises, wounds and skin changes, haemorrhoids, sore throats or digestive problems. The list of its potential benefits is very long and some of them are confirmed by scientific studies.
Evening primrose oil - why does it have a health-promoting effect?
Evening primrose oil has great health-promoting potential due to its unique composition among vegetable oils. More than 80% of the fatty acids in this oil are essential fatty acids (EFAs), of which 70% are linoleic acid and about 10% are gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), mainly responsible for its healing effect. Although evening primrose oil is not the source of the highest amount of GLA among oils, it contains 7-10 g of GLA in 100 g of oil, while borage oil contains 18-26 g and blackcurrant oil contains 12-20 g. However, evening primrose oil stands out for its very high bioavailability of GLA and its more effective impact on the body despite its lower concentrations. What is the reason for this? The structure of the triacylglycerol molecules that make up fat. Each triacylglycerol has 3 locations where a fatty acid can be attached. The position of the fatty acid in the molecule and the type of neighbouring fatty acids determine how efficiently they are digested and used by the body. The placement of GLA in the triacylglycerols of evening primrose oil and the low content of saturated fatty acids are preferred by pancreatic lipase, which increases its biological value. The health benefits of evening primrose oil are also influenced by the presence of antioxidant vitamin E, phytosterols and polyphenols. The use of this oil as a source of GLA is supported by both the quantity of these fatty acids and the quality of the oil.
The GLA contained in the oil belongs to the family of omega-6 fatty acids. In fact, omega-6 deficiencies in the diet do not occur and in the western diet, we even struggle with an excess of omega-6 but a very large deficiency of omega-3. Linoleic acid is common in food, from which the body produces the other omega-6 essential fatty acids. Therefore, it is commonly believed that the problem of deficiency of acids from the omega-6 family does not exist. However, this is not true. Recent decades have shown that many people show insufficient production of these acids (including GLA) by the body due to the low activity of enzymes that convert them from linoleic acid. This is why supplementation is recommended in some conditions.
Recommended products with evening primrose oil
Characteristics and effects of evening primrose oil
The health-promoting properties of evening primrose oil are attributed to its biological activity, which includes:
- involvement in the synthesis of anti-inflammatory eicosanoids,
- reducing inflammation,
- dilating blood vessels,
- reducing blood clotting,
- improving blood circulation and skin hydration.
Evening primrose oil for healthy skin
The anti-inflammatory properties of evening primrose oil are used in the prevention and treatment of skin lesions. GLA deficiencies are associated with an excessive and chronic inflammatory response in the skin and may be one of the reasons for psoriasis, eczema, atopic dermatitis, acne, excessive dryness and keratinisation of the skin.
The efficiency of oral application of GLA to the skin has been confirmed in studies on animals as well as in preclinical studies. In all these diseases, one of the causes is insufficient conversion of linoleic acid to gamma-linolenic acid or insufficient production of various precursor substances of GLA. It shows that supplementation with evening primrose oil, as a source of GLA, can have a healing and supportive effect on skin condition. GLA is an essential building block for skin cells that provides elasticity, improves hydration, firmness and eliminates signs of fatigue.
The positive characteristics of evening primrose oil for the skin are among the most well-proven studied activities.
Evening primrose oil and the cardiovascular system
Research on the effects of evening primrose oil supplementation on cardiovascular health has produced controversial results. Currently, the available evidence is officially considered insufficient to conclude that the properties of evening primrose oil are strong enough to reduce blood pressure or to lower the risk of atherosclerosis.
The most promising reports suggest that intake of evening primrose oil lowers blood levels of LDL cholesterol as well as total cholesterol and reduces the amount of atherosclerotic plaque by stimulating the increased breakdown of LDL. However, research on this topic has produced mixed results and further studies are needed.
Evening primrose oil - potential health promoting properties
There are numerous properties attributed to evening primrose oil that alleviate so-called female complaints, such as premenstrual breast pain, premenstrual pressure syndrome and hot flashes during menopause. Currently available scientific evidence is too weak to confirm these claims, but at the same time it does not rule them out. Consequently, it is worth trying evening primrose oil and testing its properties on yourself. The oil will certainly not do any harm and may help in areas where conventional medicine fails. Evening primrose seed oil has been a traditional "women's remedy" in traditional medicine for centuries.
Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, evening primrose seed oil shows potential in the prevention and treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. However, further research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of the therapy. A similar position is taken by scientists regarding its efficiency in reducing neuralgia, bone pain, as well as improving bone mineralisation and dry eye.
Evening primrose oil in capsules or in a bottle?
It is available in several forms:
- as a food product sold in so-called health food shops, BIO shops and large supermarkets, in bottles made of dark glass,
- as an oil available in pharmacies, sold in smaller bottles, often with a pipette for easier dosing,
- as a food supplement in capsules.
Which evening primrose oil should I choose? It depends on your preferred form of use. If you want to use evening primrose oil as a dietary ingredient - add it to salads or cereals - it is best to buy extra virgin, cold-pressed and unrefined oil for food. Remember that such oil cannot be used for frying, it must be used cold and stored in a fridge after opening. Its shelf life is short because the fatty acids in evening primrose oil quickly oxidize (go rancid) when exposed to oxygen, light and temperature.
What about evening primrose oil in capsules? The oil is often not cold-pressed and unrefined. Capsuled oils are refined (purified) to increase their shelf life without the need of storing them in the fridge. For most oils, refining is not a good treatment as it removes some of the vitamins and antioxidants. However, the atmosphere in which the oil is put in capsules minimises its rancidity. In the case of honest manufacturers, we can be sure that the evening primrose oil in tablets is fresh and nutritious until the expiry date. Evening primrose oil capsules also make it easier to dose and are simply more convenient for daily use.
Which to choose? Oil in capsules or a bottle? If you want the comfort of use and long expiry date, choose capsules. If you're confident that you'll use up bottled evening primrose oil in a few weeks and store it properly, choose the liquid one. Even refined oil in capsules will have a better quality than poorly stored bottled extra virgin oil.
Remember! If you buy capsules, check the oil content and the price. Frequently you can encounter diet supplements, which cost even 50-60 PLN for 60 capsules containing 250 mg of evening primrose oil. This is definitely an overpriced product. In this case, it is more reasonable to buy the oil in a bottle. On the other hand, there are also preparations containing 500 mg of evening primrose oil per capsule, which cost about 20 zł for 120 capsules. The price, and especially the relation between the value and quality becomes an advantage of the supplement.
Evening primrose oil - dosage and contraindications
How to use the evening primrose oil? The intake of it, no matter if it is consumed in capsules or liquids, comes down to adopting similar doses in grams, as capsules contain evening primrose oil sealed in them under proper conditions, not extracts or isolated active substances. The dosage of evening primrose oil is not officially approved by health and drug authorities, so the guidelines are based on dosages that have proven to be effective in scientific studies. The recommended dose of evening primrose oil is from 1 to 6 g daily.
Evening primrose oil is safe. Large doses can cause digestive problems related to the oil's heaviness - stomach pains, nausea and diarrhoea. However, they are very uncommon.
Contraindications of using evening primrose oil include:
- taking medications for blood clotting,
- poor blood clotting, susceptibility to bleeding and petechiae - evening primrose oil may intensify them,
- period before surgery due to the possible increase in bleeding, epilepsy.