Evening primrose is a small, yellow flower that grows wild throughout North America, Europe, and some parts of Asia. It produces an oil used for centuries for its health and beauty benefits, thanks to high levels of an essential fatty acid called gamma-linolenic acid. Nowadays, evening primrose oil is often an ingredient in cosmetics. It is also available as a dietary supplement.
Experts do not completely understand how evening primrose oil treats skin conditions. However, research shows the substance can effectively address inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema. In some countries, doctors even prescribe evening primrose oil for this purpose, thanks to its ability to reduce skin itching, redness, and crusting.
Researchers believe the high GLA content of evening primrose oil regulates the production of prostaglandins, helping reduce the inflammation that can result from hormonal changes during menstruation. Women with conditions such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) often have low GLA levels, and it is common for women to experience unwanted symptoms around the time of their monthly period, including cramps, breast tenderness, and irritability. Some women find evening primrose supplements help relieve these symptoms.
Some physicians recommend evening primrose oil to help promote optimal fertility in women. The GLA in the oil can increase the amount of cervical mucus a woman produces and make it thinner and more slippery. This improves sperm mobility inside the woman's body and may increase the likelihood of conception. Although evening primrose oil may help female fertility, it should not be used during pregnancy because it can cause uterine contractions and lead to preterm labor.
Some women use evening primrose oil to relieve breast pain or mastalgia, particularly the cyclical variety that occurs during the menstrual cycle. Many women who experience mastalgia are deficient in omega-6 fatty acids. Taking regular evening primrose oil supplements can help restore normal levels of this essential compound and reduce breast pain. Although the research is not conclusive, it appears that combining evening primrose oil with additional vitamin E can reduce breast pain when subjects consume the supplements for at least four months.
Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage due to diabetes that causes various unpleasant symptoms including tingling or burning sensations, muscle weakness, and trouble with balance. Some people with diabetes are more likely to develop a GLA deficiency than others. Evening primrose oil supplements can help restore normal GLA levels in people with diabetes, preventing or even reversing nerve damage.
The GLA in evening primrose oil helps regulate prostaglandin in the body, which is vital for healthy brain function. Prostaglandins are responsible for carrying chemical messages in the brain and helping support normal impulse control and concentration. For this reason, experts believe evening primrose supplements could help people with conditions such as ADHD, depression, and schizophrenia.
The high GLA levels in evening primrose oil can treat the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. A 2011 report analyzed the results of trials surrounding the effects of GLA-containing supplements on people with arthritis and found that GLA-containing supplements can reduce the intensity of rheumatoid arthritis pain and the level of disability the condition causes.
Many women experience menopause symptoms such as anxiety, mood changes, hot flashes, and joint pain. Evening primrose oil is one of the most common supplements for treating these symptoms. While research into the effectiveness of evening primrose oil in treating menopausal symptoms has mixed results, many women report relief. It's thought that the high GLA content of evening primrose oil may ease some of the hormonal changes taking place at this time by increasing production of prostaglandins. A 2013 study found that evening primrose oil better reduces the severity of hot flashes in comparison to placebos.
Research suggests applying evening primrose oil topically may help prevent or even reverse hair loss. One can rub a few drops of the oil within a carrier such as coconut oil into the scalp regularly. In a study by the University of Maryland, test subjects applied evening primrose oil for seven months. At the end of the study, many participants had significant hair re-growth.
Evening primrose oil may help reduce the inflammation associated with acne, whether individuals apply the diluted oil topically or take oral supplements. It is also possible to buy skincare products containing evening primrose oil. Researchers think the oil helps treat acne by lowering sebum production and preventing blocked or clogged pores.
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