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Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) is a yellow wildflower native to North America. It’s not actually related to the primrose family, although the flowers appear similar. The root and leaf were traditionally used by Native Americans as both food and medicine. Oil extracted from the seeds of Evening Primrose for dietary supplement manufacture is a rich source of fatty acids, including some Omega 6 linoleic acid (LA) and high concentrations of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).

How does GLA relate to Essential Fatty Acids?

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are compounds our body requires from dietary sources for optimum health because it can’t synthesise them. The two main categories of EFAs are Omega 3 and Omega 6, which we need in an optimum ratio of between 1:1 and 1:4. The Omega 6 EFA linoleic acid (LA) is converted in the body to gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), however, an inefficient conversion process can cause a GLA deficiency. While this is more likely with ageing, poor diet, nutrient deficiency, and certain disease states, many activities common to our modern lifestyle compromise our internal GLA production. In such cases, GLA supplementation would be beneficial for wellbeing.  GLA is also found in spirulina and the oils extracted from borage, hemp, blackcurrant, and flaxseeds.

What is the function of GLA in the body?

Our body converts GLA into hormone-like substances called prostaglandins. These play a role in energy production, hormonal balance, immune response, circulation, joint function and skin health. These prostaglandins also help to balance inflammation and support healthy blood flow. GLA is important in counteracting the inflammatory action of other excess fatty acids. GLA and other EFAs contribute to cellular membrane integrity and form the myelin sheath around nerve cells that ensures the transmission of information to vital organs.

Why would I take Evening Primrose Oil supplementation?

Based on established clinical research EPO supplementation might help support:

  • the normal response of the immune system
  • normal health of bones
  • Balanced states of mood
  • hormonal balance in both men and women throughout their reproductive lives healthy skin
  • normal brain activity including memory and cognition

While Evening Primrose oil provides a rich source of GLA, taking it in combination with an Omega 3 supplement may be the best option, if your diet is low in Omega 3. In addition to taking an Evening Primrose supplement internally, it can be applied topically to localised areas of dry or scaly skin.

What is the recommended daily dosage?

Most EPO supplements come in 1000 mg capsules. It is recommended to take the supplement according to instructions on the label. Being a fatty acid, it is best taken with meals to enhance digestion and absorption.

Can it be taken during pregnancy and breastfeeding?

EPO can be taken during the preconception stage to support healthy cervical mucus, which can assist the survival rate of sperm thereby aiding conception. Resume EPO supplementation near the end of a pregnancy (from the 36th week) can help the healthy condition of the cervix for delivery. During breastfeeding EPO can be taken, as breast milk also contains linoleic acid and gamma-linolenic acid.

For more information check out the Nutrient Needs for Pregnancy and Breastfeeding health article and with your health practitioner. EPO should be avoided for people with epilepsy. Anyone taking blood-thinning drugs should not take EPO If you take any type of medical drug it’s important to consult your health practitioner about possible drug interactions before supplementing with EPO.

Importance of sustainable harvesting and pollution free sources

About 90% of the world’s supply of Evening Primrose Oil is produced in China. Evening primrose oil supplements made from organic sources using a cold pressed oil extraction method to provide the purest form of supplementation. Some EPO supplements contain a small proportion of vitamin E to enhance the stability of the fatty acids, which tend to oxidise quickly. It’s important to store these supplements in a cool, dry place to maintain their efficacy.