We often hear about the needs and benefits of incorporating essential fatty acids in a healthy balanced diet, which includes omega-6 fatty acids. Many of us know that omega-6 fatty acids can be obtained from consuming the oil of a little yellow flower, so what is this yellow flower and how does it gain its popularity?
What is Evening Primrose Oil?
Evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) is a plant native to North and South America. It is a plant with yellow flower that also grows throughout Europe and parts of Asia. Evening primrose plant has many uses as it can either be consumed orally or applied topically. In the earlier days, Native Americans appreciate the value of this plant by making poultices from the evening primrose plant to treat several skin conditions, such as bruises and minor wounds. The stem and leaf juices were often used as topical remedies for skin inflammation. As for oral remedies, the leaves were used to help with gastrointestinal discomforts and sore throats.
Evening primrose oil is obtained by extraction from the seeds of the evening primrose plant, and is rich in omega-6 essential fatty acids including gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). It is often used to make medicine or supplements. Omega-6 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids and are necessary for human health as part of a healthy balanced diet. However, our body cannot make them therefore we have to obtain omega-6 essential fatty acids from food.
Health Benefits of Evening Primrose Oil
Evening primrose oil carries a lot of benefit to the human body. It is sometimes known for its use in the management of chronic inflammation such as atopic dermatitis and rheumatoid arthritis, but evening primrose oil is widely known and more commonly used for several women health hormone-related conditions.
Management of Premenstrual Syndrome
Premenstrual syndrome is a group of symptoms linked to the menstrual cycle. It is associated with somatic, emotional and behavioral symptoms during the women’s menstrual cycle, such as:
- cyclical mastalgia
- irritable bowel syndrome
GLA in evening primrose oil helps to promote prostaglandin synthesis and alleviates premenstrual syndrome. In one study conducted, two groups were given either GLA or placebo and evaluate their severity and duration of premenstrual syndrome. After three cycles, the severity and duration of the symptoms and irritability improved in the GLA group compared to the placebo group. Read more on managing premenstrual syndrome.
Management of Breast Pain
Breast pain is a common discomfort and anxiety for ladies in the reproductive ages. There are two types of breast pain, which are cyclical breast pain and noncyclic breast pain. Evening primrose oil can help to manage cyclical breast pain.
Cyclical breast pain is linked to the menstrual cycle and the changing hormone levels. It is often described as dull, heavy and achy pain that usually starts in the second half of the menstrual cycle then settles during the period. It usually involves the upper outer breast area into the underarm.
Most clinical trials on women alignments have focused on the efficacy of evening primrose oil in cyclical breast pain. The deficiency in GLA or its derivatives makes the breast tissues sensitive to sex hormones, which is associated with breast pain. Studies have shown that those who have consumed evening primrose oil have been known to feel significant relief of discomforting breast pain.
Management of Menopausal Symptoms
Evening primrose oil is known to be useful in managing menopausal symptoms as well. Hot flush is one of the most commonly experienced menopausal symptoms. Evening primrose oil is often used to manage the frequency, severity and duration of hot flushes.
Generally, evening primrose oil is considered safe and a good source of omega-6 fatty acids to include in our daily diet due to the needs of our body and its vast benefit to our health.
- Mahboubi, Mohaddese. “Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) Oil in Management of Female Ailments.” Journal of menopausal medicine vol. 25,2 (2019): 74-82. doi:10.6118/jmm.18190