Evening primrose (Oenothera biennis), sometimes called “the night willow herb,” is a flowering plant. It’s also a night owl, blooming at sunset instead of sunrise. The oil pressed from its seeds, aka evening primrose oil (EPO for short), is a gentle carrier oil.
It can be ingested, applied as a topical balm, or blended with other carrier oils in skin care formulations. Evening primrose is an indigenous plant to North America. The flowers have a strong, sweet scent, and only bloom at night during the months of June through October. Evening primrose has been used for hundreds of years to treat various ailments of the skin and muscular system. Several Native American tribes discovered that the entire plant is edible, and could be used as a painkiller in addition to everyday consumption. In Europe it is a proven treatment for PMS. The bark and leaves of evening primrose are said to have astringent and sedative properties. It has been proven to be effective treatment in regards to gastro-intestinal disorders, asthma and chronic or whooping coughs.
Evening primrose is rich in amino acids and essential amino acids such as omega 6. Essential fatty acids magnetize oxygen as well as produce electrical currents. Once in the body amino acids and essential amino acids are transformed into hormone-like substances called prostaglandins, which condense allergic response and inflammation.
Existence without essential fatty acids is impossible because they are vital to the electrical reactions of cells. Essential fatty acids carry vitamins, enhance metabolism and transport oxygen to the tissues. They are indispensable to the adrenal glands, brain cells, retinas, sensory organs, synapses and testes. Essential fatty acids act as solvents to eliminate hardened fat inside the human body. They are also involved in generating the electric currents that maintain regular heartbeats, regulating chromosome stability and will even help with weight loss.
Here is a list of major constituents found in evening primrose: Alanine (0.5%), arginine (1.5%), aspartic acid (1.2%), beta-sitosterol (1.2-2.5%), calcium (1.3-1.8%), cellulose (27%), gamma-linolenic acid (0.5-10%), glutamic acid (2.7%), glycine (1%), fat (15-32%), fiber (43%), histidine (0.4%), isoleucine (0.5%), leucine (1%), lignin (16%), linoleic acid (12-22%), lysine (0.3%), methionine (0.6%), phenylalanine (0.7%), proline (0.6%), protein (15-17%), serine (0.9%) threonine (0.4%), tryptophan (up to 1.6%), tyrosine (0.4%), valine (up to 0.8%) and other lesser constituents.
Gamma linolenic acid is a polyunsaturated fatty acid. Gamma linolenic acid (or GLA) aids the body to manufacture energy, and it also helps to form parts of the structural fats that encompass bone marrow, the brain, cell membranes and muscles. Gamma linolenic acid is transformed by the body into prostaglandins. Prostaglandins help the body because of their anti-inflammatory properties. Prostaglandins can also act like a blood thinner and blood vessel dilator. They are hormone-like substances produced in the body’s tissues.
Prostaglandin deficiency can result in disruption of the nerve impulse transmission, increase blood clotting time, inflammation and weaken immune response. Evening primrose oil with a high concentration of gamma linolenic acid is favorable for ailments related to essential fatty acid deficiency and the inability to metabolize essential fatty acids.
Evening primrose oil is beneficial in the treatment of arteriosclerosis, lowering blood cholesterol levels, asthma, allergies, PMS, headaches, rheumatoid arthritis, skin irritation, rashes, anxiety, water retention, breast soreness, depression, coughs, irritability, and the prevention of benign prostatic hypertrophy. It can also act as a stimulant for the digestive system, liver and spleen.
Evening primrose oil has also been indispensable in the treatment of acne, brittle nails, eczema, hyperactivity, multiple sclerosis, peripheral neuropathy and alcohol related liver damage. There are other conditions where evening primrose is currently being tested for effectiveness, including breast cancer, heart disease, high cholesterol, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, stomach ulcers and inflammatory bowel disease.
Some of it’s great noted benefits are:
- Acne skin support
- Easing symptoms of eczema
- Improve overall skin health
- Promote hair growth
- Help to relieve PMS symptoms
- Help to reduce hot flashes during Menopause
- Help to reduce high blood pressure
- Heart health support.
Scientists have said that the studies on evening primrose have been promising, however there is not enough conclusive data available at this time. People with seizure disorders should only use omega-6 supplements of any kind, under the care and supervision of a licensed medical doctor, because omega-6 including gamma linolenic acid has had reports of inducing seizures in seizure-vulnerable persons.
When purchasing evening primrose oil it is important that the company states the percentages of gamma linolenic acid as well as the percentage of linoleic acid. Most quality oils will have between 7-10% GLA and 40-75% LA (the higher the percentages the better). If the company you are ordering the evening primrose oil does not list the GLA or LA content with their product it is advised to call them and get the percentage information on the 2 major constituent levels in their evening primrose oil.
The best evening primrose contains 10.3% gamma linolenic acid and 75% linoleic acid, available as carrier oil. Evening primrose can be used all over the body. Use it as a base to blend a therapeutic mix of essential oils for your specific ailment or as facial and body treatment to combat acne, dry, scared, mature, discolored and irritated skin. Of course it can also be used alone to produce beneficial therapeutic action. Evening primrose is a beautiful flowering plant, and an invaluable therapeutic emollient for general well being.