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EPA (EICOSAPENTAENOIC ACID)

Other Names:

Acide Eicosapentaénoïque, Acide Éthyle-Eicosapentaénoïque, Acide Gras Essentiel, Acide Gras d’Huile de Poisson, Acide Gras N-3, Acide Gras Omega, Acide Gras Oméga 3, Acide Gras Polyinsaturé, Acide Gras W3, Acido Eicosapentaenoico, EPA, E-EPA, Ei...
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EPA (EICOSAPENTAENOIC ACID) Overview
EPA (EICOSAPENTAENOIC ACID) Uses
EPA (EICOSAPENTAENOIC ACID) Side Effects
EPA (EICOSAPENTAENOIC ACID) Interactions
EPA (EICOSAPENTAENOIC ACID) Dosing
EPA (EICOSAPENTAENOIC ACID) Overview Information

EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) is a fatty acid found in the flesh of coldwater fish, including mackerel, herring, tuna, halibut, salmon, cod liver, whale blubber, or seal blubber.

EPA is used for high blood pressure in high-risk pregnancies (eclampsia), age-related macular degeneration (AMD), heart disease, schizophrenia, personality disorder, cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and diabetes.

EPA is used in combination with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in fish oil preparations for a variety of conditions, including preventing and reversing heart disease, and decreasing irregular heartbeats; as well as asthma, cancer, menstrual problems, hot flashes, hay fever, lung diseases, lupus erythematosus, and kidney disease. EPA and DHA are also used in combination for migraine headache prevention in adolescents, skin infections, Behçet’s syndrome, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, psoriasis, Raynaud’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, and ulcerative colitis.

EPA is also used in combination with RNA and L-arginine after surgery to reduce infections, improve wound healing, and shorten recovery time.

Don’t confuse EPA with DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and fish oils, which contain EPA and DHA. Most available data involving EPA are from research and clinical experience with fish oil products containing variable combinations of EPA and DHA. For more information, see the separate listings for Fish Oil and DHA.

How does it work?

EPA can prevent the blood from clotting easily. These fatty acids also reduce pain and swelling.

EPA (EICOSAPENTAENOIC ACID) Uses & Effectiveness What is this?

Possibly Effective for:

  • Treating depression, when used with conventional antidepressants.
  • For healing wounds after surgery and shortening recovery time, when used with RNA and L-arginine.
  • Psoriasis.
  • Treating borderline personality disorder, a mood disorder. EPA seems to lower aggressiveness and to relieve depression somewhat in women with this disorder.
  • Reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke, and death in people with coronary artery disease (clogged heart arteries). The reduction of the risk of death is small unless high cholesterol is present in addition to coronary artery disease. In that case, taking EPA can reduce the risk of having a heart attack or other major event by up to 19%. However, taking EPA doesn’t seem to reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death, which is due to an electrical malfunction in the heart.
  • Symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes.

Possibly Ineffective for:


Insufficient Evidence for:

  • Prostate cancer. It appears that a higher level of EPA in the blood is linked with a lower risk of getting prostate cancer.
  • Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Some research shows that low blood levels of EPA and other fatty acids are linked with ADHD in children. However, it’s not known yet if taking EPA supplements can treat or prevent ADHD.
  • Schizophrenia. Studies to date show conflicting results about the effectiveness of EPA in treating schizophrenia.
  • Alzheimer’s disease. Research so far suggests that EPA doesn’t help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Menstrual disorders.
  • Lung diseases.
  • Lupus.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate EPA for these uses.


EPA (EICOSAPENTAENOIC ACID) Side Effects & Safety

EPA is LIKELY SAFE for most people when taken appropriately. It is usually well tolerated. Some people, however, can experience side effects such as nausea; diarrhea; heartburn; skin rash; itching; nosebleed; and joint, back, and muscle pain. Fish oils containing EPA can cause fishy taste, belching, nosebleeds, nausea, and loose stools. Taking EPA with meals can often decrease these side effects.

When used in amounts greater than 3 grams per day, EPA is POSSIBLY UNSAFE, and can thin the blood and increase the risk for bleeding.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about using of EPA during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Aspirin-sensitivity: If you are sensitive to aspirin, EPA might affect your breathing.

High blood pressure: EPA might lower blood pressure. In people who are already taking medications to lower their blood pressure, adding EPA might make blood pressure drop too low. If you have high blood pressure, discuss using EPA with your healthcare provider, before you start taking it.

EPA (EICOSAPENTAENOIC ACID) Interactions What is this?

Moderate Interaction Be cautious with this combination

  • Medications for high blood pressure (Antihypertensive drugs) interacts with EPA (EICOSAPENTAENOIC ACID)

    EPA can decrease blood pressure. Taking EPA along with medications for high blood pressure might cause you blood pressure to go too low.

    Some medications for high blood pressure include captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), losartan (Cozaar), valsartan (Diovan), diltiazem (Cardizem), Amlodipine (Norvasc), hydrochlorothiazide (HydroDiuril), furosemide (Lasix), and many others.

  • Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs) interacts with EPA (EICOSAPENTAENOIC ACID)

    EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) might slow blood clotting. Taking EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.

    Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others.


EPA (EICOSAPENTAENOIC ACID) Dosing

EPA is usually administered with DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) as fish oil. A wide range of doses have been used. A typical dose is 5 grams of fish oil containing 169-563 mg of EPA and 72-312 mg of DHA.

  • For depression: 1 gram EPA twice daily.
  • For borderline personality disorder: 1 gram of EPA daily (as ethyl eicosapentaenoic acid) has been used for up to 8 weeks.
  • For symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes: 500 mg ethyl-EPA three times daily has been used for up to 8 weeks.
Many fatty acid preparations such as EPA also contain small amounts of vitamin E as an antioxidant to prevent spoilage.

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Conditions of Use and Important Information: This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor or health care professional before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your health care plan or treatment and to determine what course of therapy is right for you.

This copyrighted material is provided by Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Consumer Version. Information from this source is evidence-based and objective, and without commercial influence. For professional medical information on natural medicines, see Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Professional Version. © Therapeutic Research Faculty 2009.

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