Evening Primrose Oil For Hormone Balance


Evening primrose oil is one of the most popular food supplements, taken to improve skin quality and to treat eczema, premenstrual breast pain, menopause hot flushes and hair loss. Up to 10 per cent of its essential fatty acid content is in the form of gamma linolenic acid (GLA). This is one of the few omega-6 fatty acids which has an anti-inflammatory action, similar to that of omega-3s, when intakes are sufficiently high.

Some GLA is incorporated into cell membranes, making them more fluid and flexible. This produces a noticeable improvement in skin softness and hydration within a few days. Some GLA is also converted into hormone-like substances, known as series 1 prostaglandins, which relax blood vessels to improve blood flow to the skin, decrease inflammation to reduce redness, and improve nerve function to reduce itching and discomfort. These effects can also improve hormone imbalances.

Natural essential fatty acid production

Although your cells produce small amounts of GLA, this process is easily blocked by factors such as increasing age, smoking, pollution, lack of vitamins and minerals and excessive intakes of saturated fat, sugar or alcohol. As a result, deficiency is common and is associated with skin that is itchy, feels rough and dry, and which can become prematurely wrinkled. Although dry, skin also becomes more prone to spots as oil gland ducts become distorted to trap grease.

Evening primrose oil health benefits

Taking evening primrose oil (EPO) capsules helps to stabilise the skin barrier and maintain hydration so skin appears softer and more luminous. Research has shown that taking evening primrose oil supplements can provide many skin benefits. It is one supplement that I would not do without – if I stop taking it, I soon notice my skin feels more dry and itchy. As a bonus, evening primrose oil may even reduce the formation of wrinkles, too!

evening primroseEvening primrose oil and dry, itching skin

A review of nine studies found that evening primrose oil frequently reduced the symptoms of dry itchy skin after several months use, with the greatest improvement seen in itching.

Evening primrose oil and eczema

Atopic dermatitis has been related to a deficiency of an enzyme, delta-6-desaturase, which is needed to convert dietary linoleic acid to gamma-linolenic acid. In people with eczema, evening primrose oil supplements were 25% more effective at reducing skin scaling, dryness, redness and itching than placebo.

You can also apply evening primrose oil directly to the skin for intensive treatment of dry patches. Snip open a capsule to apply the oil, or use a liquid evening primrose oil skin product with a dropper for easy application.

Evening primrose oil and wrinkles

Evening primrose oil helps skin take on a more youthful appearance. In one trial involving women in their forties, those taking 3g evening primrose oil for 12 weeks experienced a twenty per cent improvement in skin moisture, smoothness, elasticity and firmness within three months, compared with those taking placebo.]

You can also apply evening primrose oil directly to the skin, where it sinks in to provide moisture and soothe dryness and fine lines.

Evening primrose oil and skin luminosity

Evening primrose oil helps to reduce over-production of the pigment, melanin, which is associated with mottling and so-called age spots in older skin. It appears to work by reducing the activity of an enzyme (tyrosinase) involved in melanin synthesis. As a result, evening primrose oil is included in some cosmetic products used to lighten skin tone.  

Evening primrose oil and acne

People who are prescribed isotretinoin to treat acne tend to develop skin dryness, especially around the mouth. In a study involving 40 people, those who took evening primrose oil supplements with their acne medication showed significant improvements within  eight weeks treatment compared to those who did not take evening primrose oil.

Evening primrose oil and hair loss

Although little research has been carried out in this area, the anti-inflammatory benefits of evening primrose oil, and its effects on skin, can improve hair quality. Many people give their pets veterinary evening primrose oil supplements to improve hair/fur quality and gloss. It may offer similar benefits for human hair, too. If you hair is thinning, caffeine containing hair products (shampoo, conditioner and scalp tonic) will help, too.

Evening primrose oil and dry eyes

Evening primrose oil helps to reduce dry eyes, especially in contact lens wearers. A study involving 76 women who took either EPO or placebo (olive oil) for 6 months, found those taking EPO showed significant improvements in dryness and overall lens comfort. The viscosity of tears was also increased.

Too_HotEvening primrose oil and menopause

Hot flushes can cause significant problems around the menopause for some women. A study involving 56 women found that taking evening primrose oil (1 gram daily) for 6 weeks significantly reduced the severity of hot flushes compared with placebo. 

Evening primrose oil and pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS)

Evening primrose oil provides building blocks for making sex hormones, and some women find it improves symptoms of premenstrual syndrome such as  bloating, breast tenderness, irritability, mood swings and anxiety. Research findings are conflicting, however, and the only way to know if it will help you personally is to take it for three months to assess the benefits. 

Evening primrose oil and stretch marks

I took evening primrose oil every day during my pregnancy with twins and, despite my waist expanding to almost 60 inches, I don’t have a single stretch mark. Although this is anecdotal evidence, I’m convinced that the way evening primrose oil improves skin suppleness also improves elasticity so that it can expand and contract without developing stretch marks. Check with your doctor before taking evening primrose oil – or any supplements – during pregnancy, however. There is some evidence that evening primrose oil may be associated with increased risk of prolonged rupture of membranes during labour.

Evening primrose oil dose

The usual recommended dose is 1g evening primrose oil, taken one to three times per day.

Vitamins C, B6, B3 (niacin), zinc and magnesium are also needed for the metabolism and action of evening primrose oil, so it’s important to ensure  your intake of these is adequate. A multivitamin and mineral supplement may be a good idea.

Which are the best evening primrose oil supplements?

As one of the most popular food supplements, numerous brands are available. The following are the ones I usually recommend as they are made to pharmaceutical standards to ensure purity and consistency.

Solgar’s Evening Primrose Oil 1300mg capsules are a best seller, with each 1300mg capsules supplying an impressive 117mg GLA. 

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Efamol Evening Primrose Oil is the brand on which much of the research has been carried out. Each 1000mg capsule supplies 115mg GLA.

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 Natures Aid Organic Evening Primrose Oil is certified organic by the Soil Association. 

Available as capsules providing 500mg or 1000mg evening primrose oil.

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Safety

Do not take evening primrose oil if you have a rare nervous system disorder known as temporal lobe epilepsy.

Some doctors recommend avoiding it if you have schizophrenia or a bleeding disorder.

Check with your doctor before taking evening primrose oil during pregnancy. 

Image credit: takazart/pixabay




About Dr Sarah Brewer

Dr Sarah Brewer qualified from Cambridge University with degrees in Natural Sciences, Medicine and Surgery. After working in general practice, she gained a master's degree in nutritional medicine from the University of Surrey. Sarah is a licensed Medical Doctor, a Registered Nutritionist and a Registered Nutritional Therapist. She is an award winning author of over 60 popular self-help books and set up this site to showcase all that is good in the world of self-help.


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2 thoughts on “Evening Primrose Oil For Hormone Balance

  • David

    I’m looking for an all natural alternative for itchy skin and I’m wondering if primrose oil might help. I’m currently using a prescription cream (clotrimazole/betamethasone) a few areas around my ankles that get dry and itch like crazy. I’ve scratched them until I bled. I do get relief from the cream but it’s for fungus infection which I don’t have so I’d like to try something else.

    • Dr Sarah Brewer Post author

      Hi David, Lack of essential fatty acids commonly causes itching and dryness on the shins and evening primrose oil usually helps – it may take a week or two to notice a significant benefit. If your itchy skin remains bad do see your doctor again as you may need a different treatment, including a rich moisturising lotion.