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Evening Primrose Oil

Native to eastern and central North America, evening primrose (Oenothera biennis, Onagraceae) grows in subtropical climates worldwide.1 Native Americans used the seeds from the spiky plant, which blooms only in the evening, brewing it as an infusion for wound healing.2 The light yellow oil is extracted through cold-pressing and filtering of the seeds with production occurring mainly in China.1

The oil is rich in fatty acids. It contains the saturated fatty acids, palmitic acid (6-10%) and stearic acid (2-10%), the monounsaturated fatty acid, oleic acid (5-10%), and the polyunsaturated fatty acids, linoleic acid (70-75%) and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA; 5-10%). GLA affects the body's enzyme activity.2 All body processes, such as prostaglandin production, are triggered by the actions of enzymes. Prostaglandins are the end result of a chemical chain reaction that begins with essential fatty acids. Some of their functions include inhibiting cholesterol, inflammation, and platelet aggregation and lowering blood pressure.

Evening primrose oil can be taken internally in capsule form or applied externally to the skin. Its use may help relieve eczema, psoriasis, and atopic dermatitis, improve premenstrual tension symptoms, prevent inflammation and relieve arthritis symptoms, as well as improving the condition of hair, skin, and nails.


1Sade D. The Aromatherapy Beauty Guide. Toronto: Robert Rose, Inc.; 2017.

2Battaglia S. The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy. 2nd ed. Brisbane: The International Centre of Holistic Aromatherapy; 2003.

Lori Glenn,  Managing Editor