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.
Could supplements really boost your heart health? They might.
Research shows that some supplements -- in addition to lifestyle changes and medical treatment if you need it -- may help lower cholesterol, improve blood pressure, and reduce other risk factors for heart disease. It's unclear if supplements actually help prevent heart disease.
Eczema or atopic dermatitis and other skin conditions
Breast pain during menstruation
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:
Evening primrose oil may raise the risk of bleeding among people who take anticoagulant and antiplatelet medications. It may also raise the risk of seizures as well as serious nausea and vomiting for people taking a class of drugs known as phenothiazines. These drugs are used to treat schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.