In a world where there always seems to be a new supplement du jour, it’s hard to keep track of exactly which powders, oils, or pills we should have on our radar. Detoxifying, energy-boosting, age-defying… yep, there’s something for everyone. Don’t know where to start? It’s time to nourish yourself from the inside out — with evening primrose oil.
What is Evening Primrose Oil?
Evening Primrose Oil (or EPO) is made from the seeds of the common evening-primrose, a plant native to North America. Traditionally, EPO has been used for everything from improving skin’s elasticity and firmness to battling hemorrhoids and treating sore throats. A new study even suggests that EPO may reduce the severity of hot flashes during menopause. Yep, it’s basically the wunderkind of all supplements. But what do you really need to know about this seemingly do-it-all oil?
How Does it Work
Evening primrose oil’s superpowers can be attributed to it being a source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), explains dermatologist Janelle Vega, M.D. and co-founder of BIA Life. “[GLA is] an omega-3 fatty acid, which is anti-inflammatory," she says. "It’s also an important part of the skin barrier, which helps to improve and maintain hydration in the skin.” Since the skin can’t actually produce GLA on its own, many researchers believe that taking EPO is an easy way to keep skin looking and feeling healthy. It’s especially beneficial for anyone suffering from sensitive skin, anyone that has issues with irritation, or anyone with eczema.
EPO can be taken orally ($12.96, Amazon) or topically ($9.90, Amazon), depending on which results you’re looking to achieve. When used on the skin, it instantly boots hydration in the area applied. Most studies, however, have shown that evening primrose oil actually has the most benefit when taken in pill form. “[When] the active ingredients are absorbed through the GI tract that leads to cellular improvements in the skin barrier over time, you will have a more widespread effect due to improvement of skin quality,” says Dr. Vega.
Although there’s no known optimal dosage to keep your skin super-hydrated and glowing, small studies have shown that 160mg a day may be all you need.
Oh, and that 2013 study that found EPO may reduce the severity of hot flashes during menopause? Well, according to the article in the Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics, when 56 menopausal women between the ages of 45-59 years old took just 500mg of EPO daily for six weeks, they reported experiencing less frequent, less severe and shorter hot flashes. Amazing, right? Keep in mind that other literature reviews claim that there’s not enough evidence to support, so talk to your doctor before taking EPO for this particular use.
Do Your Research
You shouldn’t take EPO if you’re pregnant, if you have any hormone-sensitive cancers, or if you’re taking blood thinners. And though EPO is considered safe for short-term use, long-term use hasn’t really been studied in great depth yet.
The good news? Reported side effects are generally mild, according to Healthline, and may include upset stomach and headaches. But before you head to your local health food store to buy out their entire stock-list, it’s important to investigate the sources of the supplement that you want to take. Remember: Supplements aren’t monitored by the FDA, so it's good to do a bit of research ahead of time. “A lot of consumers may not realize that the extraction process and purification process may vary greatly by manufacturers,” warns Dr. Vega. “Choose a reputable brand to avoid contaminants.”