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Evening primrose oil

Evening primrose oil

Definition

Evening primrose oil is a dietary supplement derived from the seeds of the evening primrose plant, Oenothera biennis. Its Latin name is derived from the Greek word for wine, reflecting the folk belief that the plant could relieve the symptoms of a hangover. Other names for the plant are tree primrose and sundrop. Native Americans used the leaves and bark of evening primrose as a sedative and astringent; it was given for stomach and liver complaints as well as disorders of the female reproductive system. More recently, the discovery of antioxidant and other properties of the seed oil has focused attention on its usefulness in treating a range of diseases and disorders, including as an anti-inflammatory, and for premenstrual syndrome (PMS), rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, ulcerative colitis, menopausal problems, and heart disease.

Purpose

Evening primrose oil is given by contemporary naturopaths and other alternative practitioners to relieve the discomfort of symptoms associated with PMS, eczema, sunburn, fibrocystic breast disease, arthritis, and diabetes. It is also given to lower the risk of preeclampsia and eclampsia in pregnancy and osteoporosis in older women.

Description

Evening primrose oil is obtained from the seeds of the plant by pressing. The oil can be taken directly as a liquid or in the form of capsules.

Evening primrose oil is considered a useful dietary supplement because it is a good source of essential fatty acids (EFAs), Omega 6 predominantly. EFAs are called essential fatty acids because the human body cannot produce them; they must be obtained from the diet. EFAs maintain the function of cell membranes, regulate pain and inflammation, prevent blood clots, regulate blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and help to produce hormone-like substances known as prostaglandins. Prostaglandins function as inflammation mediators in the short-term regulation of glands and other body organs. It is thought that evening primrose oil relieves the symptoms of PMS by preferentially stimulating anti-inflammatory prostaglandins.

Under normal conditions, the body uses an EFA called linoleic acid to produce a compound called gamma linoleic acid, or GLA. Evening primrose oil contains both linoleic acid (74%) and GLA (9%), making it the most familiar and popular source of GLA. The other compounds contained in evening primrose oil are oleic acid (11%) and palmitic acid (6%).

Recommended dosage

Evening primrose oil can be obtained in health food stores in either liquid or capsule form. Consumers are advised to look for that which is organic and cold-pressed (not oxidized by heating), and to store it in the refrigerator. Standard dosage varies according to the condition being treated. The dosage for breast pain from fibrocystic disease is 3 g per day. For sunburn, patients may take up to 8 capsules daily until the symptoms subside. Dosages for eczema and rheumatoid arthritis depend on the concentration of GLA in the preparation of evening primrose oil, and should be decided in consultation with a physician, or naturopathic practitioner.

Evening primrose oil can also be used as a topical preparation to treat sunburn and eczema. One recipe for a homemade topical preparation calls for mixing one part of diced plant with four parts of heated petroleum jelly. The mixture is stored in a tightly closed container and refrigerated, as well.

All parts of the evening primrose plant are safe to eat. The roots can be boiled and eaten like parsnips. The seeds were roasted and used as a coffee substitute when food rationing was in effect during World War II.

Precautions

Evening primrose oil should not be given to patients with epilepsy, and only after a consultation with a physician should it be given to children.

Side effects

Evening primrose oil has not been reported as having toxic or severe side effects. Some patients, however, have reported nausea, headache, and softening of the stools.

Reports of side effects from using evening primrose oil in topical preparations for sunburn and other skin problems are the same as with any EFA supplement. Bruising due to damage of the blood platelet function is possible.

Interactions

Experts in pharmacology advise against using evening primrose oil with phenytoin (Dilantin) and other anticonvulsant medications, as the oil may lower the threshold for seizures . No other significant drug interactions have been reported.

Resources

BOOKS

Murray, Michael, ND, and Joseph Pizzorno, ND. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1991.

Pelletier, Kenneth R., MD. "Naturopathic Medicine." Chapter 7 in The Best Alternative Medicine. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002.

PERIODICALS

Belch, Jill, and Alexander Hill. "Evening Primrose Oil and Borage Oil in Rheumatologic Conditions." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 71 (January 2000): 352S.

Birch, A. E., and others. "Antioxidant Properties of Evening Primrose Seed Extracts." Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 49 (September 2001): 45024507.

Donohue, Maureen. "Evening Primrose Oil May Ease PMS Symptoms." OB/GYN News (April 1, 2000).

Dove, D., and P. Johnson. "Oral Evening Primrose Oil: Its Effect on Length of Pregnancy and Selected Intrapartum Outcomes in Low-Risk Nulliparous Women." Journal of Nurse-Midwifery 44 (1999): 320324.

Horowitz, S. "Combining Supplements and Prescription Drugs: What Your Patients Need to Know." Alternative Complementary Therapy 6 (April 2000): 177.

Hudson, Tori. "Evening Primrose Oil." Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients (January 2001): 7.

Miller, Lucinda G. "Herbal Medicinals." Archives of Internal Medicine 158 (1998).

Yoon, S., J. Lee, and S. Lee. "The Therapeutic Effect of Evening Primrose Oil in Atopic Dermatitis Patients with Dry Scaly Skin Lesions is Associated with the Normalization of Serum Gamma-Interferon Levels." Skin Pharmacology and Applied Skin Physiology 15 (January-February 2002).

Rebecca J. Frey, Ph.D.

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Evening Primrose Oil

Evening primrose oil

Description

Evening primrose (Oenothera biennis ) is a tall, hardy, native biennial of the Onagraceae family. Its Latin name is derived from the Greek word oinos for wine and thera for hunt and reflects the folk belief that the herb

could minimize the ill effect of over-indulgence in wine following a hunt.

The plant thrives in dry, sunny meadows, and is abundant in many parts of the world. The leaves of the first-year plant form a bright-green, basal rosette. In the second year, the coarse, erect stalk reaches up to 4 ft (1.2 m) with hairy, alternate, lanceolate leaves with a distinctive mid rib. Leaves grow from 36 in (7.615.2 cm) long. The blossoms are pale yellow with a slight lemon scent and a cup-like shape. They grow in clusters along the flower stalk, and bloom from June to September, opening at dusk to attract pollinating insects and night-flying moths. These phosphorescent blossoms inspired a common name for the herb: evening star. The seeds grow within an oblong, hairy capsule. The root is large and fleshy.

General use

The medicinal components of evening primrose are found in the seed-extracted oil, which contains essential fatty acids including gamma linoleic acid (GLA). GLA is often deficient in the Western diet and is needed to encourage the production of prostraglandins. Low levels of essential fatty acids may increase the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), diabetes, etc. Evening primrose oil has been used to treat PMS and menopausal symptoms, asthma , and has been shown to reduce high blood cholesterol levels.

Research conducted in Great Britain has indicated that evening primrose oil can also be medicinally useful in the treatment of nerve disorders, such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis . The essential oil does appear to be of some benefit in cases of alcohol poisoning and in alleviating hangovers, and to ease symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. The oil can also help relieve dry eyes, brittle nails, and acne when combined with zinc . When taken as a supplement, evening primrose has helped to promote weight loss.

Traditionally, Native Americans valued evening primrose as a treatment for bruises and cuts. The Flambeau Ojibwe tribe soaked the whole plant in warm water to make a poultice for healing bruises and to overcome skin problems. The mucilaginous juice in the stem and leaf can be applied externally to soothe skin irritations, or may be eaten to relieve digestive discomfort and for its stimulating effect on the liver and spleen. The astringent properties of the plant are helpful to soothe inflamed tissue. The plant has sedative properties and has been used to decrease hyperactivity in children.

The entire plant is edible. The root from the first-year growth is a nutritious pot herb. Boiled roots taste somewhat like parsnips.

Evening primrose oil is valued for its antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are substances that counteract the damaging effects of oxidation in living tissue. A team of Canadian researchers has recently identified the specific antioxidant compounds in evening primrose oil; one of them, a yellow substance known as catechin, appears to inhibit the growth of cancerous tumors and to lower the risk of heart disease .

Preparations

Evening primrose oil is prepared commercially and widely available in health food stores. The extract should be stored in a cool, dry place in order to avoid spoilage. Capsules are also available. Correct dosage should be decided in consultation with a practitioner.

An ointment can be prepared by mixing one part of the diced plant with four parts of heated petroleum jelly. Stored in a tightly closed container and refrigerated, the preparation will maintain its effectiveness. Apply as needed to soothe the skin.

Precautions

Use by persons with epilepsy is discouraged because evening primrose oil appears to lower the effectiveness of medications used to treat epilepsy. Physicians should be consulted before using evening primrose oil on children.

Side effects

There have been some reports of headache, nausea , loose stools, and skin rash after using evening primrose preparations.

Resources

BOOKS

Lust, John. The Herb Book. New York: Batam Books, 1974.

Mabey, Richard. The New Age Herbalist. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988.

McVicar, Jekka. Herbs for the Home. New York: Viking StudioBooks, 1995.

Phillips, Roger and Nicky Foy. The Random House Book of Herbs. New York: Random House, 1990.

PERIODICALS

Wettasinghe, M., F. Shahidi, and R. Amarowicz. "Identification and Quantification of Low Molecular Weight Phenolic Antioxidants in Seeds of Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis L. )." Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 50 (February 27, 2002): 1267-1271.

Clare Hanrahan

Rebecca J. Frey, PhD

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Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

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"Evening Primrose Oil." Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Evening Primrose Oil." Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/evening-primrose-oil

"Evening Primrose Oil." Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. . Retrieved May 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/evening-primrose-oil