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The evening primrose plant – so called because it only blooms at night – is native to both Europe and North America.
Not only did the Native Americans use the seeds, leaves and roots of this wildflower for food, they also applied it topically to heal bruises, hemorrhoids, minor wounds and sore throats. The seeds of the flower were even cold pressed to make an oil which helped address gastrointestinal disorders. In fact, it’s this very same oil we use today to treat so many health conditions.
Discover the benefits that evening primrose oil can bring to you:
1. Balance Hormones
For hundreds of years, women throughout the world have been using evening primrose oil as a natural, safe and effective way to combat the symptoms associated with menstruation and menopause, thanks to its ability to achieve hormonal balance.
How does it do this? Well, evening primrose oil is an extremely rich source of an omega 6 fatty acid called Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA). Getting enough GLA is crucial to support overall hormonal function within the body. In fact, many women with Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) struggle to convert the fats they eat into GLA.
That’s why symptoms of PMS – such as breast tenderness, bloating, water retention, acne, depression and irritability – are often reported to subside after supplementing with GLA in the form of evening primrose oil.
In addition, preliminary research suggests that EPO may help alleviate some of the symptoms of menopause. In a 2013 study, 56 menopausal women who took evening primrose oil for six weeks reported a decline in the severity of hot flashes when compared to the placebo group.
Try 3 grams to 4 grams daily to combat PMS and hot flashes, although you may not notice a difference until used for several weeks or even months.
2. Improve Fertility
Evening primrose oil is a natural way for women to increase their chances of conception, because GLA increases the body’s production of cervical mucus – an important factor in successful reproduction.
The high levels of essential fatty acids in the oil can benefit fertility in another way too – they cause the contraction and relaxation of muscle tissue in the uterine wall, helping in preparation for pregnancy. However, those who are already pregnant should talk to their doctor before taking EPO, as uterine contractions may cause issues.
Evening primrose oil may actually boost male fertility too! A study carried out on animals at the Department of Animal Nutrition and Management found that dosing both male and female blue foxes with EPO during mating season resulted in an increase in litter size. Researchers believe that this is due to EPO’s effect on the male foxes, indicating the oil may improve male reproductive capabilities.
3. Treat Acne
Acne is often the result of a hormonal imbalance – in both teenagers and adults. Of course, it’s more likely to be the cause of acne in women due to their constantly fluctuating hormones, particularly related to menstruation and menopause.
If your pimples are down to imbalanced hormones, then no amount of topical treatments, facial washes or tea tree oil will help. Addressing the root cause of the problem is the only option.
The omega 6 fats in evening primrose oil can help to balance hormones, thus curing, or at least reducing, pimples and acne. These fatty acids also help to stimulate skin growth, aiding healing and regeneration; strengthen the skin barrier; reduce moisture loss; and have an anti-inflammatory effect on the swelling and redness associated with acne.
While consuming EPO offers the best chances for glowing skin, some acne suffers find applying the oil topically is a good adjunct treatment. Because it feels greasy once applied, it’s best to use the oil at night only, and to apply two or three times a week.
Alternatively, whip up a healing face mask using a half banana, a tablespoon of organic honey, a quarter teaspoon of ground coffee and a teaspoon of evening primrose oil. Leave on your skin for 30 minutes. Repeat this treatment a once a week.
4. Ease Other Skin Conditions
It’s not just acne that EPO is said to treat. Evening primrose oil can offer fantastic relief for people suffering from other skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis and atopic dermatitis.
People with eczema do not have the normal ability to process fatty acids, which may lead to low levels of GLA. Because evening primrose oil is so rich in GLA, it can be an excellent way to boost levels of this omega 6 fat in the body. There are over 30 studies which show that EPO can reduce many of the symptoms of eczema including itching, crusting, edema and redness; although in an analysis of nine trials it was shown that the oil was most effective at reducing itching of the skin in sufferers.
Psoriasis is a common, chronic condition characterized by swollen patches under the skin covered with whitish scales. Dr. Weil MD recommends taking supplemental omega 3 fatty acids along with evening primrose oil daily to treat these symptoms by balancing hormones and reducing inflammation. Here are 20 other natural ways to treat psoriasis.
Atopic dermatitis is another chronic, itchy skin condition. It commonly starts in childhood due to a defective metabolism of essential fatty acids. A 2008 study which measured the impact of 500 mg of evening primrose oil on patients with atopic dermatitis found that an incredible 96% of people showed improvement after five months of treatment.
Research featured in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science has also shown that EPO can help with age-related skin changes like redness, firmness, roughness and fatigue resistance.
The suggested adult dose for treating skin conditions is 4 grams to 8 grams daily, divided into two doses.
5. Prevent Hair Loss
Hair loss in men can be caused by a hormone called DHT which can cause hair follicles to shrink and have a shorter lifespan. High levels of DHT may also result in a decrease in hair re-growth.
In women, hair loss is often down to issues with the thyroid hormones or high levels of stress hormones.
Once you begin supplementing with EPO, and your hormones begin to regulate, you should see results within six to eight weeks. The ideal dosage is around 500 mg, taken twice daily.
Because essential oils have been found in at least one study to combat hair loss, why not double your chances of re-growth by massaging your scalp with a combination of evening primrose oil, rosemary, thyme, lavender and cedarwood oils? Don’t forget to use one tablespoon of a carrier oil like jojoba or sweet almond for every six drops of essential oil used.
6. Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory, auto-immune condition that typically affects the small joints in the hands and feet. RA is caused by a combination of genetic, environmental and hormonal factors.
Some research shows that evening primrose oil, when taken alongside conventional therapy for RA, can improve certain symptoms of the condition. Arthritis Research UK cites two clinical trials in which evening primrose oil was used on rheumatoid arthritis sufferers.
In the first, 94% of participants who took EPO reported a significant improvement in disease-related symptoms, including pain and morning stiffness, compared to only 30% of the placebo group. The second trial found that those given EPO also had a significant improvement in terms of morning stiffness, but not pain.
For a natural way to supplement your RA therapy, the Arthritis Foundation recommends taking between 540 mg and 2.8 grams daily in divided doses. They also advise that the evening primrose oil may take up to six months to work.
More than 10 million Americans have osteoporosis – a disease of the bones – with around 50% of women aged 50 or more suffering from at least one osteoporosis-related fracture. Shockingly, osteoporosis kills more women than all gynecological cancers combined.
The major cause of osteoporosis is low levels of the sex hormones, namely estrogen in women (and testosterone in men). The parathyroid hormone and growth hormone also play a role as they regulate how your bones use calcium. As we already know, evening primrose oil is a great way to naturally balance hormones!
Research suggests that evening primrose oil, when taken with fish oil, may improve calcium absorption and promote bone formation.
In a controlled trial, post-menopausal female participants were given either 6 grams of a combination of EPO and fish oil, or a matching placebo, plus 600 mg of calcium per day for three years. The EPO/fish oil group experienced no spinal bone loss in the first 18 months and a 3.1% increase in spinal bone mineral density during the last 18 months.
Why not check out these other natural ways to preserve your bone health and prevent osteoporosis?
While evening primrose oil is generally safe when used in recommended dosages, there are some reported side effects such as nausea, stomach pain and headache – although these are rare. If you are suffering stomach pain and loose stools, it can indicate that the dose is too high.
Do not use evening primrose oil if you suffer from:
- Epilepsy or another seizure disorder
- Bleeding problems or a blood disorder
If you take any medications, are about to undergo general anesthetic, have other medical conditions, or are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should consult your doctor before taking EPO.
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