Natural Health Products

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Evening Primrose Oil

General Information

Evening primrose is a plant native to North America, but it grows in Europe and parts of the southern hemisphere as well. It has yellow flowers that bloom in the evening. Evening primrose oil contains gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).

Common Name(s)
evening primrose oil, EPO
Scientific Name(s)
Oenothera biennis
How is this product usually used?

Evening primrose oil is extractextractto get, separate, or isolate a desired active ingrediented from the seeds of the evening primrose. The oil is usually put into capsules for use.

What is this product used for?

Evening primrose oil has been used since the 1930s for eczema (a condition in which the skin becomes inflamed, itchy, or scaly because of allergies or other irritation).

More recently it has been used for other conditions involving inflammation, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Evening primrose oil is used for conditions affecting women’s health, such as breast pain associated with the menstrual cycle, menopausal symptoms, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Other conditions for which evening primrose oil is used include cancer and diabetes.

Your health care provider may have recommended this product for other conditions. Contact a health care provider if you have questions.

What else should I be aware of?

There is not enough evidence to support the use of evening primrose oil for any health condition.

According to a comprehensive 2013 evaluation of the evidence, evening primrose oil, taken orallyorallyto be taken by mouth (swallowed) (by mouth), is not helpful for relieving symptoms of eczema.

Evening primrose oil has been studied for rheumatoid arthritis and breast pain. However, study results are mixed, and most studies have been small and not well designed.

Evening primrose oil does not appear to affect menopausal symptoms.

The best-designed clinical trials of evening primrose oil for PMS found no effect.

Evening primrose oil is well tolerated by most people, when taken for short periods of time. Mild side effects include gastrointestinal upset and headache.

The safety of long-term use of evening primrose oil has not been established.

Evening primrose oil may increase bleeding in people who are taking the anticoagulant (blood thinning) medication warfarin.

Before taking any new medications, including natural health products, speak to your physician, pharmacist, or other health care provider. Tell your health care provider about any natural health products you may be taking.


National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). Herbs at a Glance. Evening Primrose Oil.

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