In her book- Psoriasis healing from inside out– Heather J Ferris has mentioned that she includes evening primrose oil in her daily list of dietary supplements. In this post, I would try to consolidate various possible benefits of evening primrose oil for psoriasis.
Evening primrose oil (EPO) is an essential oil, extracted from the seeds of the evening primrose plant. This plant is native to North America and now, it is found in parts of Asia and Europe as well. This plant is named so because its yellow colored flowers would bloom in the evening and get died by the next morning.
In earlier times, EPO was approved as a medicine to treat eczema and breast pain in Britain. But, due to insufficient clinical evidences, the Medicines Control Agency withdrew this approval. Even after that, various alternative health experts recommend EPO as a powerful essential oil to treat many diseases.
Use of evening primrose oil is more frequent in below disorders:
- Menstrual pain
- Premenstrual syndrome
- Hot flashes during menopause
- Breast pain
- To start and/or shorten the Labor pain during delivery
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Composition of Evening Primrose oil
EPO is rich in omega 6 essential fatty acids- Linolenic acid (LA) and Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).
Approximate composition of EPO:
- 72% Linolenic acid
- 9% Gamma-linolenic acid
- Rest includes a wide range of minerals (potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc and others), vitamin C, Fiber, stearic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid
Most of the benefits of EPO are mainly because of GLA (gamma-linolenic acid). Hence, it would be unfair if we don’t discuss about GLA in detail before jumping onto the benefits of EPO for psoriasis.
What is Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA)
It is an essential fatty acid. There are two types of essential fatty acids that is required by your body and your body can’t synthesize them by its own. Hence, you have to depend upon external dietary sources to make up for them.
These essential fatty acids are needed for:
- Optimum brain function
- Optimum hormone balance
- Proper growth of skin, hairs and nails
- Smooth body metabolism and overall growth and development
- Maintenance of reproductive system
- These fats provide building blocks for cell membranes
The ideal ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fats in human body ranges from 1:1 to 1: 4. But, these days, due to unhealthy diet and lifestyle, this ratio goes as high as 1:20 to 1:25. Such a disturbed ratio can play a lead role in developing various disorders like auto-immune diseases, heart problems, arthritis, obesity and even cancer.
Omega 3 fatty acids
There are 3 types of omega 3 fats- ALA, EPA and DHA. ALA is the simplest one, found in flaxseeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and other plant foods. Around 10-15% of ALA is further converted into EPA and DHA. But, this much amount of EPA and DHA is not enough. Hence, you need to rely on animal sources, mainly fish oils to get adequate amount of EPA and DHA. EPA and DHA have superior health benefits than ALA.
Omega 3 fats reduce skin inflammation and joint pain, helps in the repair of leaky gut and helps in weight loss. Omega 3 fats, particularly EPA and DHA are one of the most important dietary supplements to heal psoriasis and psoriasis arthritis.
Read more: Omega 3 fatty acids for Psoriasis
Omega 6 fatty acids
Linolenic acid (LA) is found in various vegetable (cooking) oils and processed foods. Vegetable oils include soybean oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, sesame oil.
Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is obtained from the conversion of LA. Also, it can be directly obtained from :
- Plant oils such as evening primrose oil, borage oil and black currant oil.
- Food sources such as Spirulina and breast milk.
DGLA (dihomogamma-linolenic acid) is an intermediate fatty acid.
Arachidonic acid (AA) is obtained by conversion of GLA (via DGLA) and it can be directly obtained by foods such as meat, eggs, dairy and poultry. When in excess, AA is pro-inflammatory and worsen auto-immune diseases. At the same time, it can cause the problem of blood clotting and trigger various heart problems.
The conversion of LA into GLA involves an enzymatic reaction. Sometimes, due to old age and/or compromised body metabolism (as in case of psoriasis), this enzymatic reaction gets affected and the conversion rate gets slow down. It results in accumulation of LA (and deficiency of GLA) in your body which can result in inflammatory responses.
At the same time, when you eat a lot of meat, dairy and eggs- you are infusing a lot of arachidonic acid (AA) into your system. AA is pro-inflammatory in nature. This increased level of AA would also suppress the conversion rate of LA into GLA.
Hence, when a person suffers from psoriasis (and eczema), there are high chances that his body would have more of LA and AA (both are pro-inflammatory when in excess) and less of GLA (anti-inflammatory). This is because of their natural inability to convert LA into GLA.
Research studies reveal that women suffering from Eczema and psoriasis have low level of GLA in their breast milk than non suffering ladies.
When you take a dietary supplement such as evening primrose oil, you are infusing the healthy GLA directly into your system. This GLA would eventually produce more of anti-inflammatory compounds to compete with AA and reduce the overall inflammatory responses in your body.
Various health benefits of GLA are:
- Reduction in inflammation
- Prevent high blood pressure
- Reduces the problem of blood clotting to prevent heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases
- GLA boosts body metabolism to promote fat burning. It helps in weight loss in a natural way.
Evening Primrose oil for Psoriasis
Psoriasis is characterized by skin dryness, itching and inflammation. When the intestinal walls of your digestive tract become porous and allow the passage of toxins (undigested food particles, body wastes and parasites) into the blood stream. Then these body toxins would circulate throughout the body and accumulate in body cells. Then the liver and kidney would overwork to get rid of these toxins. If this process lasts for a long time, then eventually, the liver (and kidney) would get impaired and give up. At this alarming situation, your skin, the biggest body organ would come to rescue. These accumulated toxins would get out of your body through the skin in the form of psoriasis lesions.
Read more: Body toxins and Psoriasis
Hence, Psoriasis healing should always be from Inside-out, healing the internal body matters. Only taking care of external skin lesions would not solve the issue in the long term.
As explained earlier, people with psoriasis are found to be deficient in GLA. GLA deficiency not only causes inflammation, but it restricts the production of prostaglandins also. These prostaglandins regulate the body hormones and their deficiency cause hormones imbalance.
Evening primrose oil provides GLA directly into your system to benefit your body in below ways:
Read more: Obesity, inflammation and Psoriasis
Going beyond Psoriasis
- Rheumatoid arthritis– Just like Psoriasis, Rheumatoid arthritis is also an auto-immune disorder. A study conducted by Arthritis Research UK to check the efficacy of evening primrose oil on rheumatoid arthritis states that- 94% of the patients found significant improvement in pain and morning stiffness. They were administered 6 grams (6000 mgs) of evening primrose oil for a period of 12 months.
- Osteoporosis– Evening primrose oil when taken with fish oil (omega 3 fatty acid) and calcium- it can help to increase bone density and treat osteoporosis.
- Problems related to hormones imbalance– Various problems related to hormones imbalance- acne, pre-menstrual syndrome, hot flashes during menopause, infertility- can be relieved by taking evening primrose oil supplements. Recommended dosage is at least 1000 mg per day for 8-10 weeks. Sometimes, hair loss is also stimulated by hormones imbalance. Evening primrose oil can help in hair re-growth in such cases.
- Skin problems such as eczema and atopic dermatitis– Apart from psoriasis, evening primrose oil can help in reducing the redness, itching and irritation related to eczema and atopic dermatitis, when applied externally. Due to hydrating effect (moisture retention property) of omega 6 fats, external use of evening primrose oil can reduce the problem of dry skin.
The best way to consume evening primrose oil is to consume soft-gel capsules. The oil should be extracted from the seeds by the cold pressing method. Cold pressing method involves no external heat and hence, all the intrinsic health properties remain intact.
It is always better to consume evening primrose oil along with a fish oil supplement. This combination would provide you all the three essential fats which have maximum health benefits- EPA, DHA and GLA.
- EPA and DHA from fish oil
- GLA from evening primrose oil
Recommended dosage is :
EPA + DHA = around 600-700 mg per day
Primrose oil= around 1000-1100 mg per day (it would provide around 90-100 mg of GLA)
Consume it continuously for at least 3 months to get significant results.
Note- Never go beyond 3000 mg of evening primrose oil per day. Such a high dosage would increase inflammation in your body instead of reducing it.
Possible side effects
In general, side effects of evening primrose oil are mild and rare which includes nausea, stomach pain, headache, diarrhea and vomiting. Most of the times, you can overcome these symptoms by reducing the dosage for a while and then increase the dosage gradually to the optimum level.
Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) in Evening primrose oil provides a blood-thinning effect to counter the blood clotting effect of Arachidonic acid (AA). This is a good news because it reduces the chances of heart attack. But, in case, you are taking medicines for blood thinning or high blood pressure such as – warfarin, aspirin, clopidogrel- then, you should not take evening primrose oil otherwise it can cause bleeding.
Also, if you are dealing with any mental illness- epilepsy, seizure disorders- you should not consume this oil.
The bottom line is- pregnant ladies, breastfeeding mothers, people suffering from heart conditions and people dealing with mental illness- should consult their physician before taking evening primrose oil supplements.
From where to buy
Always buy dietary supplements of renowned and trusted brands. It is the most convenient way to ensure good and consistent quality. You can buy Evening primrose oil from an herbal store near to you. Otherwise, you can buy them easily from Amazon
If you are from USA, click here to check
If you are from India, click here to check
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After all this discussion, the ultimate question is- whether to try it or not. Unfortunately, there are not enough scientific evidences to bank upon. But, evening primrose oil enjoys a good reputation among various alternative health experts.
I would say- take 1000 mg of evening primrose oil along with 700 mg of (EPA+DHA) together for 3 months and observe the results. It is a very good combo of both- omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids. If you feel improvement, then continue it. Otherwise, carry on with Omega 3 fats alone.
Undoubtedly, you can’t think of eliminating fish oil (omega 3) from your daily diet until you feel significant healing of psoriasis.