Evening primrose is a plant that's native to Europe and North America. It has a long history of medicinal uses. Native Americans, for example, used its leaves, roots, and seedpods in preparations for hemorrhoids, bruises, wounds, and skin problems.
Evening primrose oil contains an omega-6 essential fatty acid that is necessary for good health. However, there is limited evidence that taking evening primrose oil supplements will provide any health benefits.
Gymnema is a shrub that grows in India and Africa. People in India have been using gymnema leaves for thousands of years to try to treat diabetes. The Hindu word for gymnema -- gurmar -- means "sugar destroyer."
Reviews of the available scientific evidence have found no reason to recommend evening primrose oil to help the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome or breast pain.
There is some good research showing that evening primrose oil may be helpful in eczema or atopic dermatitis. And some studies suggest that supplements that contain gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), including evening primrose oil, may be of some benefit to people with rheumatoid arthritis. But more research is needed on the use of evening primrose oil for both of these conditions.
Evening primrose oil has also been used as a complementary treatment for some cancers. Again, there is not enough evidence to support such use.
Can you get evening primrose oil naturally from foods?
GLA, thought to be the active ingredient in evening primrose oil, can be found in small amounts in a variety of food sources. However, it is most concentrated in plant oils such as evening primrose oil and borage oil.
What are the risks of taking evening primrose oil?
Most people will tolerate evening primrose oil without complications. But keep in mind that there have been reports of side effects such as: