Evening Primrose Oil / GLA

The history of evening primrose oil’s health benefits date back to its use by early Native Americans as an anti-inflammatory and to treat asthma. Evening primrose oil (EPO) is a source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). EPO, black currant seed oil, and borage oil all contain GLA, a fatty acid that the body converts to a hormone-like substance called prostaglandin E1 (PGE1). PGE1 has anti-inflammatory properties and may also act as a blood thinner and blood vessel dilator.

Those with PMS, diabetes, Sjogren’s syndrome, scleroderma, tardive dyskinesia, eczema and other skin conditions may have a metabolic block that interferes with the body’s ability to make GLA from Omega 6 fatty acid containing oils found in the diet. Research has indicated that supplementation with EPO has helped some people with these conditions. Researchers frequently use 3,000 to 6,000mg of EPO daily, which provides about 260 to 550mg of GLA.


Evening Primrose Oil / GLA can help with the following


Diabetes Type I

A one-year study of 111 diabetic patients with mild neuropathy was conducted. The group was divided, with half receiving 480mg per day GLA and the other half receiving placebo. After one year the change for all 16 para-meters measured was more favorable for the GLA group than the placebo group, with statistical significance for 13 of the parameters. [Diabetes Care 1993;16: pp.8-15]



Lyme Disease

This may help combat the pain and inflammation. 1000mg 2-3 times daily.


Rheumatoid Arthritis

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania reported that high doses of GLA helps in treating rheumatoid arthritis patients. An earlier study by them had shown that administration of 1100mg of GLA per day from borage seed oil reduced synovitis in six of seven patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

The anti-inflammatory properties of EPO have been studied in double-blind research with people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Some, but not all, studies have reported that EPO supplementation provides significant benefit to these people.

Nervous System  


See Neuropathy and Alpha Lipoic Acid.

Organ Health  

Diabetes Type II

It is well documented that the first step in the conversion of the essential fatty acid (EFA) linoleic acid to gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is broken in diabetics. This is caused by a production deficit of the enzyme delta-6-desaturase. In more severe cases the EFA metabolism is broken in two places, which is caused by a production defict of the delta 5-desaturase enzyme, further down the conversion chain. The result of this broken process is shortage of GLA and its metabolites; prostacyclin and prostaglandins.

A key nutrient to give is gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). If the EFA metabolism is only broken in one place, then GLA supply can resolve the prostacyclin/prostaglandin deficiency problem. GLA makes the red blood cells more deformable, regenerates veins/capillaries and in the long run encourages nerve growth. It takes 8-10 weeks for the EPO to start having an effect.


Female Hair Loss

In his book, “Solved: The Riddle of Illness,” Stephen Langer, M.D. points to the fact that symptoms of essential fatty acid insufficiency are very similar to hypothyroidism, and recommends evening primrose oil – an excellent source of essential fatty acids – as helpful for people with hypothyroidism. The usefulness of evening primrose oil, particularly in dealing with the issues of excess hair loss with hypothyroidism, was also reinforced by endocrinologist Kenneth Blanchard. According to Dr. Blanchard:

“For hair loss, I routinely recommend multiple vitamins, and especially evening primrose oil. If there’s any sex pattern to it – if a woman is losing hair in partly a male pattern – then, the problem is there is excessive conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone at the level of the hair follicle. Evening primrose oil is an inhibitor of that conversion. So almost anybody with hair loss probably will benefit from evening primrose oil.”



Please see the link between Eczema and Essential Fatty Acids.


Premenstrual Syndrome PMS C (Craving)

Treatment of women with PMS using gamma-linolenic acid to promote PGE1 synthesis shows good results in placebo-controlled studies.


Fibrocystic Breasts

In double blind research, evening primrose oil (EPO) has reduced symptoms of fibrocystic breasts. However, the amount of improvement caused by EPO appears to be slight. One group of researchers have reported that EPO normalizes blood levels of fatty acids in women with fibrocystic disease. However, even these scientists had difficulty correlating the improvement in lab work with an actual reduction in symptoms. Nonetheless, most reports continue to show at least some reduction in symptoms resulting from EPO supplementation. As a result, many nutritionally oriented doctors recommend a trial of 3 grams per day of EPO for at least six months to alleviate the symptoms of fibrocystic breasts.

EPO or fish oil was no better than corn or corn with wheat germ oil for treating chronic mastalgia. [Evening primrose oil and fish oil for severe chronic mastalgia: a randomized, double-blind, controlled trial. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2002;187: pp.1389-94.]


Possible Pregnancy-Related Issues

EPO does nothing to shorten gestation or improve labor. Instead it increases the risk of premature rupture of membranes (and increased infection risk), arrest of decent, and vacuum extraction. EPO is not recommended for use during pregnancy. [Journal of Nurse-Midwifery in May/June 1999]


May do some good
Likely to help
Highly recommended
Reasonably likely to cause problems



Reducing inflammation by acting on body mechanisms, without directly acting on the cause of inflammation, e.g., glucocorticoids, aspirin.


A lung disorder marked by attacks of breathing difficulty, wheezing, coughing, and thick mucus coming from the lungs. The episodes may be triggered by breathing foreign substances (allergens) or pollutants, infection, vigorous exercise, or emotional stress.


Gamma-linolenic Acid is a downline metabolite of linoleic acid, an Omega 6 oil.

Fatty Acids

Chemical chains of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms that are part of a fat (lipid) and are the major component of triglycerides. Depending on the number and arrangement of these atoms, fatty acids are classified as either saturated, polyunsaturated, or monounsaturated. They are nutritional substances found in nature which include cholesterol, prostaglandins, and stearic, palmitic, linoleic, linolenic, eicosapentanoic (EPA), and decohexanoic acids. Important nutritional lipids include lecithin, choline, gamma-linoleic acid, and inositol.


Any of a class of physiologically active substances present in many tissues, with effects such as vasodilation, vasoconstriction, stimulation of the smooth muscles of the bronchus or intestine, uterine stimulation; also involved in pain, inflammation, fever, allergic diarrhea, and dysmenorrhea. A potent hormone -- similar in structure to an unsaturated fatty acid -- that acts in extremely low concentrations on local target organs; first isolated from the prostate.

Premenstrual Syndrome

PMS consists of various physical and/or emotional symptoms that occur in the second half of the menstrual cycle, after ovulation. The symptoms begin about midcycle, are generally the most intense during the last seven days before menstruation and include: acne; backache; bloating; fatigue; headache; sore breasts; changes in sexual desire; depression; difficulty concentrating; difficulty handling stress; irritability; tearfulness.

Diabetes Mellitus

A disease with increased blood glucose levels due to lack or ineffectiveness of insulin. Diabetes is found in two forms; insulin-dependent diabetes (juvenile-onset) and non-insulin-dependent (adult-onset). Symptoms include increased thirst; increased urination; weight loss in spite of increased appetite; fatigue; nausea; vomiting; frequent infections including bladder, vaginal, and skin; blurred vision; impotence in men; bad breath; cessation of menses; diminished skin fullness. Other symptoms include bleeding gums; ear noise/buzzing; diarrhea; depression; confusion.


A condition characterized by spasmodic, uncoordinated, or other abnormal movements; i.e., those which result from a reaction to phenothiazines.


Swelling of the outer skin of unknown cause. In the early stage it may be itchy, red, have small blisters, and be swollen, and weeping. Later it becomes crusted, scaly, and thickened.


The chemical processes of living cells in which energy is produced in order to replace and repair tissues and maintain a healthy body. Responsible for the production of energy, biosynthesis of important substances, and degradation of various compounds.


(mg): 1/1,000 of a gram by weight.

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