Evening primrose properties

Health benefits of evening primrose (Oenothera biennis L.)

Characteristics of evening primrose

Common noun: Evening primrose, Hoary eveningprimrose, Common evening primrose, King’s-cureall

Scientific noun: Oenothera biennis L.

Family: Willow herb family – Onagraceae

Habitat: Native from North America, it was introduce in Europe in the XVII century. Now it can be found as a naturalized plant by the side of the roads, lanes…etc.



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Description of evening primrose

Biannual plant of the Onagraceae family, up to 1,2 m. Erect, hairy stems. First year leaves ovato-lanceolate,alternate, short-stalked, forming a rosette. Stem leaves growing in the second year, sessile, till 15 cm long. Yellow pale flowers, very fragrant, till 4 cm in diameter, four-petalled with 8 stamens shorter than the petals,that open at night. Fruits in capsule.

Components of evening primrose

– Acids: oleic, linoleic, alpha-linoleic, beta- linoleic, gamma-linolenic, stearic, aspartic,, palmitic (seeds) caffeic, ellagic, p-coumaric (Leaves)

– Amino acids: arginine, cystine, phenylanine, glycine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, proline, threonine, tyrosine, valine (Seeds) glutamic acid, Aspartic acid (Leaves)

– Fiber (plant, seed)

– Vitamins: (vitamin C)

– Minerals: Potassium, magnesium, manganese, ammonia, copper, boron, iron, Zinc (Seed) Calcium, Phosphorus (Seed, plant)

Traditional use of Evening primrose

In America the natives used this plant internally in infusions to treat asthma problems and externally as a vulnerary plant, to cure wounds or skin problems.

Modern uses of Evening primrose:

Its oil, extracted from the small reddish seeds by means of cold pressure, is where all the main active principles of the plant can be found and economically exploited. In fact the cultivation of this plant in America is mainly used for the extraction of oil with medicinal purposes. Since the production doesn’t cover the necessities of the demand, this component is one of the most expensive of all the supplements in the market.




Flower of Evening primrose

Evening primrose stands fundamentally out for its wealth in essential fatty acids (EFA). they are essential in the metabolism because they are considered necessary for the correct prostaglandins production, (Prostaglandins are precursors of the hormones and they able to regulate many functions of our body) They are also necessary for cells and brain to work correctly. It is a plant whose seeds contain omega-6 essential fatty fats.

Among these, we can find fundamentally between a 60 or 80% of linoleic acid and till a 15 % of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). The first one is easier to obtain since one can take it from many varied vegetable sources, as nuts which are one of the vegetable with the highest quantity. Avocado, soya or sunflower oils, almonds or peanuts…etc will be another possible sources where to obtain it from.

Gamma-linolenic acid doesn’t appear in considerable quantities in any food except in the oils of primrose, borage or blackcurrant. Primrose possesses from 7 to 10% of this kind of fatty acid, the highest amount after blackcurrant, which makes it very advisable to be be used as a source of this component.

We should not forget that the oil of evening primrose seeds contains high quantities of oleic acid whose importance in the health of the heart and of the arteries has also been proved. This kind of fatty acid can also be found in other vegetable sources as in avocados, nuts or olive oil.

Evening primrose for women’s illnesses:

It has been proved that the use of evening primrose oil is very suitable to treat a series of illnesses related with the women’s health:

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS): Gamma-linolenic acid contributes to prostaglandin E1 production, a kind of a hormone that reduces the inflammatory processes. This property is very useful in the treatment of the negative symptoms of the premenstrual syndrome, so much in what refers to its physical aspects as the psychological ones. The use of evening primrose complements helps to reduce the stomach swelling, headache or bigger sensibility in women’s breasts, general body swelling, increase of weight, pain in the back, nausea, diarrhea or constipation, urinary problems, diverse manifestations in the skin, as dryness, labial herpes or acne, etc.

– As for the psychological aspects, the complements of this plant will help to combat depression, irritability, bigger aggressiveness, anxiety, etc. The use of this oil constitutes an alternative without contraindications to the use of prostaglandin inhibitors or hormones.

(Take capsules of evening primrose oil before menstruation according to the leaflet indications. (The usual dose is about 250 mg of GAL every day, what would represent about three capsules of 1000 mg of primrose oil a day distributed in 3 doses.) (Avoid non reliable brands due to the adulteration that these oils are frequently subjected to)

Endometriosis: (Take evening primrose oil capsules before menstruation according to the patient’s leaflet) (Avoid unreliable brands, due to adulteration of the oils they usually suffer)

Infertility: the use of this oil can be useful to solve certain infertility problems related with women’s hormonal dysfunctions.

Ovary cysts: Their use can be effective in the reduction of the ovary cysts.

– Lumps in breasts: the capsules of this oil, rich in Omega-6 fatty acids, seem to reduce the mammary inflammations, avoiding or reducing the formation of benign lumps in women’s breasts (Fibrocystic mastopathy)

Evening primrose for hair fall

The use of this supplement, for its power to improve blood circulation, can be used to prevent baldness related with a a bad blood circulation in hair follicle. (Take three capsules of 1000 mg a day distributed in 3 doses.)

Evening primrose for Rheumatoid arthritis

The anti-inflammatory properties of Evening primrose oil are very useful for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. The use of this supplement in a habitual way for a period of 6 months helps to improve the illness, showing less pain and a bigger flexibility in joints.

Studies carried out in United States applied doses of 2,5 g of gamma-linolenic acid every day during a period of 6 months. In these experiments it was demonstrated that the patients presented less pain and their joints were less inflamed. (The habitual doses usually applied in in this case are about 350 daily mg of GLA, distributed in two or three takings during meals)

Multiple sclerosis: High doses of this supplement (up to 8 g everyday) are used for the treatment of multiple sclerosis with very promising results.

Evening primrose for circulatory system diseases

Circulatory system diseases: The use of this oil reduces the levels of ” bad ” cholesterol (LDL). Besides to its capacity to reduce cholesterol, it is necessary to say that it possesses anticoagulant properties for blood, it also favors dilation and flexibility of the arteries and it impedes their inflammation. In general, it improves blood circulation and it prevents many illnesses of the circulatory system as the inflammations of the arteries (phlebitis), hemorrhoids, varices or hypertension. (The usual dose is about 250 mg of GLA a day)

Other uses of Evening primrose

– Diabetes: It has been useful as a complementary medicine in the treatment of the diabetes. On one hand, this oil helps to maintain the levels of insulin stable, on the other hand, it prevents the secondary effects that this illness provides in the nervous system of some patients, such as the usual tingling sensation or the numbness of the members.

Its use in laboratory with mice has demonstrated that it was able to avoid such problems as diabetic retinopathy or diabetic atherosclerosis, two illnesses that take place by the excess of sugar in blood.

Urticaria: Evening primrose has got antihistamine properties that could be used in the treatment of urticaria, helping reduce the appearance of the characteristic “wheals” and reducing the itching.

Digestive tract diseases : Evening primrose oil protects the mucous tissue of the digestive tract so that it can be considered a good ally to protect the stomach. It is specially useful in the treatment of drunkenness, especially in what refers to the negative symptoms that hangover produces the following day after drinking.

It also seems to exercise a positive function in the treatment of alcoholism because it alleviates the negative effects of the syndrome of abstinence from this drug. On the other hand it has been proved that its use protects our liver against the negative effects of alcohol. It has been proved very effective in the treatment of hepatitis.

Allergies:Using it prevents the appearance of the respiratory allergies and reduces its negative symptoms, as sneezing, lacrimation, etc.

– Regulator of tearing and salivation: It is appropriate to control the excess of production of saliva or tears (Treatments must be applied during 2 to 4 months.)

– Nail fungus: Primrose oil can also be used to treat nail fungus. (The usual intake is 3,000 mg / day split into 3 doses)

Alzheimer disease: It is suspected that the lack of fatty acids could be one of the triggers of Alzheimer’s. Analysis in patients with this disease show low levels of fatty acids. Supplement intake of essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6 could improve the evolution of the disease (Take it according to the patient’s leaflet).

Macular degeneration: Essential fatty acids prevent macular degeneration and help in the formation of vitamin A from carotenes. (Take it according to the patient’s leaflet).

Alcoholism: It is particularly useful in the treatment of binge drinking, especially in regard to the negative symptoms that produce a hangover the next day. It also seems that it exerts a positive role in alleviating the negative effects of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. On the other hand, it has been shown that its use protects the liver against the negative effects of alcohol.


Eczemas: In external use, this oil is used for the treatment of eczemas, especially the atopic eczema, a chronic illness related with allergy problems that attacks the skin providing it a leather-like texture. Its application during 3 or 4 months is very positive to reduce itching, dryness and to prevent skin desquamation. It is an alternative treatment to the use of corticoids or topical inmunomodulators.

Acne: its topical application reduces blackheads, pustules and skin inflammations. This property takes place because the power of its oil in diluting the accumulation of fat in the pores of the skin, what impedes that these may become blocked which would produce the skin flaws of acne.

– Torn and strained muscles: By rubbing the strain or torn muscles with this oil, we will diminish muscle pain. (Empty the content of a capsule on the fingertips to massage the affected area)

– Raynaud’s syndrome: For the treatment of Raynaud’s disease, characterized fundamentally by circulatory problems in the fingers of the hands and of the feet, as well as in the ears and nose. The frictions with this oil will improve blood circulation in these areas avoiding redness or numbness and reducing pain. (Empty the content of a capsule on fingertips to massage the affected area)

Evening primrose as edible plant

Plant of North American origin that was introduced in Europe in the XVII century as forage for animals, especially for pigs. In America it was already used previously to feed the livestock and also for human feeding.

The roots were boiled or caramelized. The first winter roots, cooked before bloom, are eatable. They have a very strong flavor so that they should be boiled a couple of times. The flowers can be used to perfume salads.

Gardening Evening primrose

This plant is used in ornamental gardening because its beautiful yellow flowers to decorate parterres and slopes. Its resistance and adaptation to dryness and pollution makes it ideal for its use on the edge of highways. On the other hand, its thick roots and rosettes are useful to fix unstable soils during the first two years. In fact, this plant was initially imported and planted with this purpose, until the medicinal properties of its oil was discovered.

Contraindications and toxicity

Avoid using it with epilepsy.

There is a possibility to suffer adverse reactions such as nausea or uneasiness. It is better to take this supplement together with food to minimize to the maximum its possible secondary effects in the stomach. It sometimes produces headache.

It is preferable to take this supplement together with small doses of vitamin E to avoid its degradation and to absorb it better.

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Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

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Botanical-online is an informative page that describes, among other topics, the traditional uses of plants from a therapeutic point of view. Their descriptions do not replace professional advice. Botanical-online is not responsible for self-medication and recommends consulting with the physician.