Gamma-Linolenic Acid

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Gamma-Linolenic Acid
  Evaluated for:
Effectiveness Rating Effectiveness Rating
Rheumatoid arthritis
+1 (Slight Evidence)
Atopic dermatitis
+1 (Slight Evidence)


  • Gamma-linolenic acid is a dietary fatty acid found in many plant oil extracts. A form of omega-6 fatty acid, it is a significant component of borage oil and evening primrose oil.
  • A small amount of gamma-linolenic acid is found in human breast milk, cold-water fish, and organ meats such as liver. Gamma-linolenic acid has been used to treat menopause symptoms, rheumatoid arthritis, eczema, and fibrocystic breasts. Small studies have shown some benefit in reducing inflammation and pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis, breast discomfort, and eczema (atopic dermatitis).
  • Borage oil is the richest source of gamma-linolenic acid (17-25%), followed by black currant oil (15-20%) and evening primrose oil (7-10%). Most research is conducted with borage or evening primrose oil.
  • Generally regarded as safe, gamma-linolenic acid supplements are usually sold as capsules or oil. Topical gamma-linolenic acid is a safe alternative to steroid creams for treating eczema.


  • Gamma-linolenic acid may cause abdominal discomfort, nausea, or loose stools, and should be taken with food.
  • At low concentrations, gamma-linolenic acid may stimulate growth of breast cancer cells, but it may have an inhibitory effect at higher concentrations.
  • There have been reports of seizures in patients who added gamma-linolenic acid to a regimen that included psychotropic medications such as chlorpromazine, thioridazine, trifluoperazine, or fluphenazine.
  • Evening primrose oil should not be taken with anticonvulsants, antidepressants, or central nervous system stimulants.

Gamma-linolenic acid should not be used by patients on anti-seizure medications or blood thinners, such as warfarin. As with all supplements, if you decide to use gamma-linolenic acid, make sure to discuss it beforehand with your health care provider.

DOSAGE:The typical dosage of gamma-linolenic acid for eczema and breast discomfort is 200-400 mg daily, corresponding to 2-4 g evening primrose oil or 1-2 g borage oil. Rheumatoid arthritis was treated with doses up to 3000 mg, obtainable only from purified gamma-linolenic acid.

CONCLUSION:We conclude that while gamma-linolenic acid shows early promise for treating eczema, rheumatoid arthritis, and breast discomfort, further research is required for a stronger recommendation. If you do elect to try it, discuss your decision with your doctor, and observe carefully for changes to your health.

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