Evening Primrose Oil Supplement Review

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Evening Primrose Oil
  Evaluated for:
Effectiveness Rating Effectiveness Rating
Menopause symptoms
+1 (Slight Evidence)
Fibrocystic breast disease
+1 (Slight Evidence)
+1 (Slight Evidence)
Rheumatoid arthritis
+1 (Slight Evidence)
+1 (Slight Evidence)


  • Evening primrose oil, composed of 7% to 10% gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), is an anti-inflammatory fatty acid found in many plant extracts. Very little gamma-linolenic acid is found in the diet. Borage and evening primrose oils are the most common sources used in studies.
  • Evening primrose oil has been used to treat menopause, fibrocystic breast disease, eczema, rheumatoid arthritis, and mastalgia (breast pain). Studies show some benefit in reducing inflammation and pain of rheumatoid arthritis and fibrocystic breast disease, but the benefit is not greater than placebo.
  • Topical GLA is a safe alternative to steroid creams for eczema.
  • GLA is generally regarded as safe.


  • Strong scientific evidence does not exist to support the use of evening primrose oil for breast pain or atopic dermatitis (skin inflammation from allergies).
  • The effects of its use for more than one year are unknown.

Safety data are lacking on the use of evening primrose oil by pregnant or nursing women. Evening primrose oil may have the potential to lower the seizure threshold in certain patients, thereby increasing the likelihood of seizure. It also has the potential for interaction with warfarin, a common blood thinner. Therefore, pregnant women and all patients on antidepressants, seizure medications, or warfarin should avoid evening primrose oil.

DOSAGE:The typical daily dosage to treat breast pain or eczema is 2-4 grams daily. For eczema, evening primrose oil capsules containing 360 milligrams of linoleic acid and 45 milligrams of GLA were taken twice daily, in a dose of 1-6 capsules, for up to 12 weeks. For breast pain, 1 gram of evening primrose oil was taken three times daily.

CONCLUSION:We conclude that evening primrose oil is a safe and effective adjunct product for treating rheumatoid arthritis, eczema, and fibrocystic breast disease. Unfortunately, the full anti-inflammatory effect may take up to 6 months to become apparent.

“Evening Primrose Oil.” ConsumerLab.com. ConsumerLab.com LLC, 2013. 3 August 2013
“Evening Primrose Oil.” Natural Standard –The Authority on Integrative Medicine. Natural Standard, 2013.
“Evening Primrose Oil.” Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Therapeutic Research Faculty, 2013. 8 November 2013.
Pruthi, S. et al. Vitamin E and Evening Primrose Oil for Management of Cyclical Mastalgia: A Randomized Pilot Study. Alternative Medicine Review LLC (2010) 15(1): 59-67
Philip, H. A. et al. Hot Flashes – A Review of the Literature on Alternative and Complementary Treatment Approaches. Thorne Research Inc (2003) 8(3): 284-302

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