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Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis)

Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis)

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


Evening primrose is a plant native to North and South America. It also grows throughout Europe and parts of Asia. It has yellow flowers which open at sunset and close during the day. The oil from the seeds of evening primrose is used to make medicine.

Evening primrose is taken by mouth for skin disorders such as eczema (atopic dermatitis), psoriasis, acne, and dry, itchy, or thickened skin (ichthyosis). It is also used for rheumatoid arthritis, a type of arthritis that affects people with psoriasis, weak bones (osteoporosis), bone loss (osteopenia), Raynaud's syndrome, multiple sclerosis (MS), Sjogren's syndrome, dry eyes, liver cancer, hepatitis B, severe itchy skin due to biliary cirrhosis, high cholesterol, heart disease, a movement disorder in children called dyspraxia, a learning disorder characterized by reading problems (dyslexia), leg pain due to blocked blood vessels (intermittent claudication), alcoholism, a nerve condition usually caused by certain psychiatric drugs (tardive dyskinesia), Alzheimer's disease, and schizophrenia.

Some people take evening primrose by mouth for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), asthma, nerve damage related to diabetes, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and obesity. Evening primrose is also taken by mouth for stomach and intestinal disorders including ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and peptic ulcer disease.

Women take evening primrose by mouth during pregnancy for preventing high blood pressure (pre-eclampsia), shortening labor, starting labor, and preventing late deliveries. Women also use evening primrose for premenstrual syndrome (PMS), breast pain, and symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes. It is also taken by mouth for endometriosis, a condition in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus.

Evening primrose is applied to the skin for eczema (atopic dermatitis).

In foods, the oil from evening primrose is used as a source of essential fatty acids.

In manufacturing, the oil from evening primrose is used in soaps and cosmetics.

In Britain, evening primrose used to be approved for treating eczema and breast pain. However, the Medicines Control Agency (MCA), which is the British equivalent of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), withdrew the licenses for evening primrose products marketed as prescription drug products for these uses. The licenses were withdrawn because the agency concluded that there is not enough evidence that they are effective. The manufacturer disagreed, but it hasn't published studies yet to prove the effectiveness of evening primrose for these uses.

How does it work?

Evening primrose oil contains gamma-linolenic acid which is an omega-6 essential fatty acid. It is involved in regulating inflammation and the immune system.

Traditionally used for

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Ulcerative colitis.
Alzheimer's disease.
Heart disease.
Skin disorders such as eczema (atopic dermatitis), psoriasis, acne, and dry, itchy, or thickened skin (ichthyosis).


The appropriate dose of evening primrose depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for evening primrose. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

Possible Side Effects

Evening primrose is SAFE for most people when used in doses up to 6 grams daily for up to a year. When taken by mouth, it can sometimes cause mild side effects including upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea, and headache.

Special Precautions & Warnings

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Taking evening primrose by mouth is SAFE during pregnancy. Taking up to 4 grams daily for up to 10 weeks during pregnancy seems to be safe. But until this is confirmed by additional research, it is best to stay on the safe side and avoid use, Taking evening primrose during the last weeks of pregnancy might delay labor. Don't use close to the end of pregnancy.

It is SAFE to take evening primrose oil during breast-feeding, but it's best to check with your healthcare provider first.

Bleeding disorders: There is a concern that evening primrose might increase the chance of bruising and bleeding. Don't use it if you have a bleeding disorder.

Epilepsy or another seizure disorder: There is a concern that taking evening primrose might make seizures more likely in some people.

Schizophrenia: Seizures have been reported in people with schizophrenia treated with phenothiazine drugs, GLA (a chemical found in evening primrose oil), and vitamin E. Get your healthcare provider's opinion before starting evening primrose.

Surgery: Evening primrose might increase the chance of bleeding during or after surgery. Stop using it at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

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