Health benefits of a ‘weedy’ yellow flower – evening primrose oil for women’s health

Magdalena Marvell, our resident nutritionist, discusses the many health benefits of primrose oil.
Although this flower can be mistaken for a common weed and is often found around rubbish tips, meadows and nearby railway tracks, this winter annual is actually known for its promising health benefits! The oil extracted from its seeds is commonly used in complementary and alternative therapy and contains a rich source of essential fatty acids called gamma linoleic acid.

Although the health benefits from primrose oil requires further evaluation, there is enough evidence to show that the therapeutic advantages of gamma linoleic acid may be effective in women’s health and the management of PMS. Oil extracted from the seeds of the yellow flowers has two types of omega-6-fatty acid including linoleic acid (60%–80%) and γ-linoleic acid (8%–14%), essential fatty acids, which are not synthesised in the body.

85% of menstruating women are affected by PMS symptoms. PMS can be identified by over 150 clinical symptoms (physical, behavioural, and psychological). The most common symptoms include breast pain, headaches, back pain, irritability, depression, and food carving during the luteal phase of menstrual cycle.

Deficiency in essential fatty acids can result in low levels of prostaglandin (active lipid compounds controlling the inflammation level) which in result promote a high sensitivity to prolactin (hormone made by pituitary gland which helps to regulate menstrual cycle).

Studies suggest that gamma linoleic acid promotes better prostaglandin synthesis and therefore helps to alleviate PMS such as breast tenderness and irritability (1). For the management of mastalgia (breast tenderness) the recommended safe dose is 2.6 to 5.2 g/d. For lactation treatment it is recommended to take four capsules 500 mg, twice daily every 12 hours (2).

A small study on 56 women also concluded that consuming 500 mg of evening primrose oil in capsule form daily helped to reduce the severity of hot flashes and night sweats in menopausal women (3). Another randomised clinical trial revealed that evening primrose oil can help to decrease physiological symptoms in menopausal women (4).

Cold pressed evening primrose oil is recommended to be consumed within a few months from its opening to preserve the nutritional values. It should be stored in a fridge and kept away from the sunlight to prevent oxidation. The best way to keep the oil fresh for longer is to consume it in capsule form which can then be squeezed directly into food or drink as needed.

Evening primrose oil may interact with anticoagulant drugs (blood thinning medications) and therefore its dosage should always be discussed with a doctor or medical professional. There are also no immediate results observed from taking evening primrose oil, it should be supplemented for at least 4 months before its effects can be noticed.
If you are looking to optimise your hormonal health and considering a more holistic approach, please ensure that you consult with your GP or contact a registered nutritional therapist for advice.

Magdalena Marvell is a Nutritional Practitioner and Founder of the Persea Clinic which helps support clients who want to optimise their health in areas such as gut health, hormonal balance, skin conditions, weight management, family nutrition. To find out more about her work please visit www.persea.clinic.

References:

  1. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8721802
  2. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6718646
  3. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33942584
  4. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34463069