Evening Primrose Oil
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Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.
For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.
3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:
How It Works
How to Use It
Although many people may have inadequate levels of GLA, the optimal intake for this nutrient remains unknown. Researchers often use 3,000–6,000 mg of EPO per day, which provides approximately 270–540 mg of GLA.
Where to Find It
EPO is found primarily in supplements. Its presumed active ingredient, GLA, can also be found in black currant seed oil and borage oil supplements. However, it is not known whether the effects of these three oils in the body are the same.
Those with premenstrual syndrome ,58 diabetes ,59 scleroderma,60 Sjogren’s syndrome,61 tardive dyskinesia ,62 eczema ,63 and other skin conditions64 can have a metabolic block that interferes with the body’s ability to make GLA. In preliminary research, supplementation with EPO has helped people with these conditions.65 , 66 , 67 , 68 , 69
There is evidence that alcoholics may be deficient in GLA, and a double-blind study suggested that alcohol withdrawal may be facilitated with EPO supplementation.70 Many people in Western societies may be at least partially GLA-deficient as a result of aging, glucose intolerance, high dietary fat intake, and other problems. People with deficiencies would presumably benefit from supplemental GLA intake from EPO, black currant seed oil, or borage oil.
Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds
Interactions with Medicines
As of the last update, no reported interactions between this supplement and medicines. It is possible that unknown interactions exist. If you take medication, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a new supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers’ package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
1. Jamal GA, Carmichael H. The effect of gamma-linolenic acid on human diabetic peripheral neuropathy: a double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Diabet Med 1990;7:319–23.
2. Manku MS, Horrobin DF, Morse NL, et al. Essential fatty acids in the plasma phospholipids of patients with atopic eczema. Br J Dermatol 1984;110:643–8.
3. Schalin-Karrila M, Mattila L, Jansen CT, et al. Evening primrose oil in the treatment of atopic eczema: effect on clinical status, plasma phospholipid fatty acids and circulating blood prostaglandins. Br J Dermatol 1987;117:11–9.
4. Lovell CR, Burton JL, Horrobin DF. Treatment of atopic eczema with evening primrose oil. Lancet 1981;I:278 [letter].
5. Wright S, Burton JL. Oral evening-primrose oil improves atopic eczema. Lancet 1982;ii:1120–2.
6. Skogh M. Atopic eczema unresponsive to evening primrose oil (linoleic and gamma-linolenic acids). J Am Acad Dermatol 1986;15:114–5.
7. Bamford JTM, Gibson RW, Renier CM. Atopic eczema unresponsive to evening primrose oil (linoleic and gamma-linolenic acids). J Am Acad Dermatol 1985;13:959–65.
8. Hederos CA, Berg A. Epogam evening primrose oil treatment in atopic dermatitis and asthma. Arch Dis Child 1996;75:494–7.
9. Whitaker DK, Cilliers J, de Beer C. Evening primrose oil (Epogam) in the treatment of chronic hand dermatitis: disappointing therapeutic results. Dermatology 1996;193:115–20.
10. Morse PF, Horrobin DF, Manku MS, et al. Meta-analysis of placebo-controlled studies of the efficacy of Epogam in the treatment of atopic eczema. Relationship between plasma essential fatty acid changes and clinical response. Br J Dermatol 1989;121:75–90.
11. Berth-Jones J, Graham-Brown RAC. Placebo-controlled trial of essential fatty acid supplementation in atopic dermatitis. Lancet 1993;341:1557–60.
12. Mansel RE, Pye JK, Hughes LE. Effects of Essential fatty acids on cyclical mastalgia and noncyclical breast disorders. In Omega-6 essential fatty acids: Pathophysiology and roles in clinical medicine. New York: Alan R Liss, 1990, 557–66.
13. Preece PE, Hanslip JI, Gilbert L, et al. Evening primrose oil (EFAMOL) for mastalgia. In: Clinical Uses of Essential Fatty Acids, ed. DF Horrobin, Montreal: Eden Press, 1982, 147–54.
14. Mansel RE, Harrison BJ, Melhuish J, et al. A randomized trial of dietary intervention with essential fatty acids in patients with categorized cysts. Ann NY Acad Sci 1990;586:288–94.
15. Gateley CA, Maddox PR, Pritchard GA, et al. Plasma fatty acid profiles in benign breast disorders. Br J Surg 1992;79:407–9.
16. Harding C, Harvey J, Kirkman R, Bundred N. Hormone replacement therapy-induced mastalgia responds to evening primrose oil. Br J Surg 1996;83(Suppl 1):24 [abstract # Breast 012].
17. Pye JK, Mansel RE, Hughes LE. Clinical experience of drug treatments for mastalgia. Lancet 1985;ii:373–7.
18. Van Papendorp DH, Coetzer H, Kruger MC. Biochemical profile of osteoporotic patients on essential fatty acid supplementation. Nutr Res 1995;15:325–34.
19. Kruger MC, Coetzer H, de Winter R, et al. Calcium, gamma-linolenic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid supplementation in senile osteoporosis. Aging 1998;10:385–94.
20. Horrobin DF, Manku MS, Brush M, et al. Abnormalities in plasma essential fatty acid levels in women with premenstrual syndrome and with nonmalignant breast disease. J Nutr Med 1991;2:259–64.
21. Puolakka J, Makarainen L, Viinikka L, Ylikorkola O. Biochemical and clinical effects of treating the premenstrual syndrome with prostaglandin synthesis precursors. J Reprod Med 1985;30:149–53.
22. Ockerman PA, Bachrack I, Glans S, Rassner S. Evening primrose oil as a treatment of the premenstrual syndrome. Rec Adv Clin Nutr 1986;2:404–5.
23. Massil H, O’Brien PMS, Brush MG. A double blind trial of Efamol evening primrose oil in premenstrual syndrome. 2nd International Symposium on PMS, Kiawah Island, Sep 1987.
24. Casper R. A double blind trial of evening primrose oil in premenstrual syndrome. 2nd International Symposium on PMS, Kiawah Island, Sep 1987.
25. Khoo SK, Munro C, Battisutta D. Evening primrose oil and treatment of premenstrual syndrome. Med J Aust 1990;153:189–92.
26. Collins A, Cerin A, Coleman G, Landgren B-M. Essential fatty acids in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome. Obstet Gynecol 1993;81:93–8.
27. McFayden IJ, Forrest AP, Chetty U, Raab G. Cyclical breast pain - some observations and the difficulties in treatment. Br J Clin Pract 1992; 46:161–4.
28. Pullman-Mooar S, Laposata M, Lem D, et al. Alteration of the cellular fatty acid profile and the production of eicosanoids in human monocytes by gamma-linolenic acid. Arthritis Rheum 1990;33:1526–33.
29. Leventhal LJ, Boyce EG, Zurier RB. Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis with gammalinolenic acid. Ann Intern Med 1993;119:867–73.
30. Zurier RB, Rossetti RG, Jacobson EW, et al. Gamma-linolenic acid treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. A randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Arthritis Rheum 1996;39:1808–17.
31. Leventahn LJ, Boyce EG, Zuerier RB. Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis with black currant seed oil. Br J Rheumatol 1994;33:847–52.
32. Brzeski M, Madhok R, Capell HA. Evening primrose oil in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and sideeffects of nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs. Brit J Rheumatol 1991;30:370–2.
33. Jantti J, Seppala E, Vapaatalo H, Isomaki H. Evening primrose oil and olive oil in treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Clin Rheumatol 1989;8:238–44.
34. Belch JJ, Ansell D, Madhok R, et al. Effects of altering dietary essential fatty acids on requirements for nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a double blind placebo controlled study. Ann Rheum Dis 1988;47:96–104.
35. Simpson LO, Hand BI, Olds RJ. Large leg ulcers, Efamol and hyperbaric oxygen. N Z Med J 1986;99:552 [abstract].
36. Horrobin DF. Essential fatty acids, prostaglandins, and alcoholism: an overview. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 1987;11:2–9.
37. Glen I, Skinner F, Glen E, MacDonell L. The role of essential fatty acids in alcohol dependence and tissue damage. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 1987;11:37–41.
38. Boberg M, Vessby B, Selinus I. Effects of dietary supplementation with n-6 and n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids on serum lipoproteins and platelet function in hypertriglcyeridaemic patients. Acta Med Scand 1986;220:153–60.
39. Horrobin DF, Manku MS. How do polyunsaturated fatty acids lower plasma cholesterol levels? Lipids 1983;558–62.
40. Morrison LM, Branwood AW, Ershoff BH, et al. The prevention of coronary arteriosclerotic heart disease with chondroitin sulfate A: Preliminary report. Exp Med Surg 1969;27:278–89.
41. Morrison LM, Enrick NL. Coronary heart disease: Reduction of death rate by chondroitin sulfate A. Angiology 1973;24:269–82.
42. Mitchell EA, Aman MG, Turbott SH, Manku M. Clinical characteristics and serum essential fatty acid levels in hyperactive children. Clin Pediatr 1987;26:406–11.
43. Stevens LJ, Zentall SS, Deck JL, et al. Essential fatty acid metabolism in boys with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Am J Clin Nutr 1995;62:761–8.
44. Aman MG, Mitchell EA, Turbott SH. The effects of essential fatty acid supplementation by Efamol in hyperactive children. J Abnorm Child Psychol 1987;15:75–90.
45. Richardson AJ, Puri BK. A randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of the effects of supplementation with highly unsaturated fatty acids on ADHD-related symptoms in children with specific learning difficulties. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry 2002;26:233–9.
46. Joshi K, Lad S, Kale M, et al. Supplementation with flax oil and vitamin C improves the outcome of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 2006;74:17–21.
47. Shahar E, Folsom AR, Melnick SL, et al. Dietary n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and smoking-related chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study Investigators. N Engl J Med 1994;331:228–33.
48. Broekhuizen R, Wouters EFM, Creutzberg EC, et al. Polyunsaturated fatty acids improve exercise capacity in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Thorax 2005;60:376–82.
49. Törnwall ME, Virtamo J, Haukka JK, et al. The effect of alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene supplementation on symptoms and progression of intermittent claudication in a controlled trial. Atherosclerosis 1999;147:193–7.
50. Cotterell CJ, Lee AJ, Hunter JO. Double-blind cross-over trial of evening primrose oil in women with menstrually-related irritable bowel syndrome. In Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids: Pathophysiology and roles in clinical medicine, Alan R Liss, New York, 1990, 421–6.
51. Werbach M. Nutritional Influences on Illness. Tarzana, CA: Third Line Press, 1996, 434 [review].
52. Dworkin RH, Bates D, Millar JH, Paty DW. Linoleic acid and multiple sclerosis: a reanalysis of three double-blind trials. Neurology 1984;34:1441–5 [review].
53. Belch JJF, Shaw B, O’Dowd A, et al. Evening primrose oil (Efamol) in the treatment of Raynaud’s phenomenon: A double-blind study. Throm Haemost 1985;54(2):490–4.
54. Vaddadi KS. Essential fatty acids and neuroleptic drug-associated tardive dyskinesia: preliminary clinical observations. IRCS Med Sci 1984;12:678.
55. Vaddadi KS, Courtney P, Gilleard CJ, et al. A double-blind trial of essential fatty acid supplementation in patients with tardive dyskinesia. Psychiatr Res 1989;27:313–23.
56. Jamal GA, Carmichael H. The effect of gamma-linolenic acid on human diabetic peripheral neuropathy: a double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Diabet Med 1990;7:319–23.
57. Dyer O. GMC reprimands doctor for research fraud. BMJ 2003;326:730.
58. Horrobin DF, Manku M, Brush M, et al. Abnormalities in plasma essential fatty acid levels in women with pre-menstrual syndrome and with non-malignant breast disease. J Nutr Med 1991;2:259–64.
59. Keen H, Payan J, Allawi J, et al. Treatment of diabetic neuropathy with gamma-linolenic acid. Diabetes Care 1993;16:8–15.
60. Horrobin DF. Essential fatty acid metabolism in diseases of connective tissue with special reference to scleroderma and to Sjogren’s syndrome. Med Hypotheses 1984;14:233–47.
61. Horrobin DF, Campbell A. Sjogren’s syndrome and the sicca syndrome: the role of prostaglandin E1 deficiency. Treatment with essential fatty acids and vitamin C. Med Hypotheses 1980;6:225–32.
62. Vaddadi KS, Gilleard CJ. Essential fatty acids, tardive dyskinesia, and schizophrenia. In Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids: Pathophysiology and Roles in Clinical Medicine, ed. DF Horrobin. New York: Alan R Liss, 1990, 333–43.
63. Manku MS, Horrobin, DF, Morse NL, et al. Essential fatty acids in the plasma phospholipids of patients with atopic eczema. Br J Derm 1984;110:643.
64. Horrobin DF. Essential fatty acids in clinical dermatology. J Am Acad Dermatol 1989;20:1045–53.
65. Mansel RE, Pye JK, Hughes LE. Effects of essential fatty acids on cyclical mastalgia and noncyclical breast disorders. In Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids: Pathophysiology and Roles in Clinical Medicine, ed. DF Horrobin. New York: Alan R Liss, 1990, 557–66.
66. Keen H, Payan J, Allawi J, et al. Treatment of diabetic neuropathy with gamma-linolenic acid. Diabetes Care 1993;16:8–15.
67. Horrobin DF. Essential fatty acid metabolism in diseases of connective tissue with special reference to scleroderma and to Sjogren’s syndrome. Med Hypotheses 1984;14:233–47.
68. Vaddadi KS, Gilleard CJ. Essential fatty acids, tardive dyskinesia, and schizophrenia. In Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids: Pathophysiology and Roles in Clinical Medicine. Horrobin DF (ed). New York: Alan R Liss, 1990, 333–43.
69. Schalin-Karrila M, Mattila L, Jansen CT, et al. Evening primrose oil in the treatment of atopic eczema: effect on clinical status, plasma phospholipid fatty acids and circulating blood prostaglandins. Br J Dermatol 1987;117:11–9.
70. Glen AIM, Glen EMT, MacDonnell LEF, et al. Essential fatty acids in the management of withdrawal symptoms and tissue damage in alcoholics, presented at the 2nd International Congress on Essential Fatty Acids, Prostaglandins and Leukotrienes, London, Zoological Society. March 24–7, 1985, [abstract 53].
71. Vaddadi KS. The use of gamma-linolenic acid and linoleic acid to differentiate between temporal lobe epilepsy and schizophrenia. Prostaglandins Med 1981;6:375–9.
72. Holman CP, Bell AFJ. A trial of evening primrose oil in the treatment of chronic schizophrenia. J Orthomol Psychiatr 1983;12:302–4.
Last Review: 11-07-2012
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