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The oil extracted from the seed of the evening primrose or Oenothera biennis is rich in an essential fatty acid called linoleic acids. It also contains gamma-linolenic acid, or GLA which has been found to have a number of health benefits including relief from the discomforts caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
Evening primrose is a biennial plant native to North America, it is also being cultivated in temperate countries. Native Americans used the boiled root, and leaf poultices of the evening primrose plant for treating bruises and hemorrhoids. Today, the oil extracted from evening primrose is commercially available as an oil or capsule. It widely used as a dietary supplement and claims to provide the body with essential fatty acids which play a role in many bodily functions.
Effect of Evening Primrose Oil on Rheumatoid Arthritis
The seeds of evening primrose contain up to 25% essential fatty acids including linoleic acid (LA) and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). Essential fatty acids carry out many important roles, GLA is a precursor of prostaglandin E1 which help inhibit or reduce inflammation, platelet aggregation, thrombosis, cholesterol synthesis, blood vessel tone, and the formation of abnormal cells.
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Research Evidence on Evening Primrose Oil
Several studies suggest that evening primrose helps relieve joint pain, tenderness, and swelling that may occur with rheumatoid arthritis. One of these was a study done by scientists from the University of Pensylvania in which 37 patients took part. The participants were given either GLA or placebo. After 6 months of treatment, the GLA group reported 36% fewer tender joints, they also had 45% less joint pain. The placebo group, on the other hand did not experience improvement of symptoms.
In one British study, 40 people were given either evening primrose oil or placebo as an addition to their routine drug regimen. After 6 months the people who were given evening primrose oil reported significant improvement of symptoms, while the placebo group had no change in their symptoms.
How to Use Evening Primrose Oil
Evening primrose oil must be taken by mouth as directed. Check all directions on the product package. In case you're uncertain of any information, ask your doctor or a pharmacist. The usual adult dose for EPO capsule which is standardized to contain 8%GLA is 2 - 8 grams daily. Some patients may need higher dosages, ask your health care provider for the appropriate dose for your condition.
Evening primrose oil is generally well tolerated when taken in recommended dosages. Incidence of side effects is low.
The reported side effects that occur with evening primrose oil use include:
- stomach pain
- soft stools
- Stomach discomfort and loose stools may be indications that the dosage is too high. If any of the side effects persist or worsen, contact your health care provider immediately.
If you develop signs of an allergic reaction such as hives, difficulty breathing, swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat, you should stop taking evening primrose and seek emergency care.
Evening primrose oil should not be taken by patients who have allergies to its components. If any of the conditions below applies to you, do not take evening primrose without the advice of a doctor:
- epilepsy or a seizure disorder
- bleeding problems or blood-clotting disorder
- plans to have any type of surgery
Talk to your health care provider if you are pregnant or plan to get pregnant during the treatment. It is not known whether evening primrose could pass into breast milk or if it is harmful for a nursing baby. If you are breastfeeding, ask your doctor before using evening primrose.
Evening primrose oil may alter the effects of some medications. If you are taking any of the following medications, you should not use evening primrose oil without first consulting with your doctor:
- medicines used for psychiatric disorders, such as chlorpromazine (Thorazine), perphenazine (Trilafon), fluphenazine (Permitil, Prolixin), prochlorperazine (Compazine, Compro), promethazine (Pentazine, Phenergan, Phenadoz, Promethegan), thioridazine (Mellaril), or trifluoperazine (Stelazine). Using these drugs with evening primrose oil may increase the risk of seizures.
- Blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin)
- Anti platelet drugs* such clopidogrel (Plavix);
- Herbs with known blood thinning properties;
- Aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID's)
You should inform your doctor about all your prescription and over-the-counter medications.
In addition, evening primrose oil is used as a natural treatment for many health conditions including:
- skin conditions such as dermatitis and eczema
- pre-menstrual syndrome
- breast pain
- diabetic neuropathy
- menopausal symptoms
Quick access patient information on conditions, herbs & supplements By Integrative Medicine Communications
Medicinal natural products: a biosynthetic approach By Paul M. Dewick
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