Evening Primrose Oil – A Positive Effect on the Skin
The evening primrose often grows in this country at the edges of the road, in gardens or along railway tracks. Their seeds provide the evening primrose oil. This contains quite large amounts of the unsaturated fatty acids linoleic acid and gamma-linolenic acid. This makes the oil one of the few sources of these fatty acids. In the case of skin diseases, taking these fatty acids can have positive effects. Especially in atopic dermatitis, capsules containing evening primrose oil are used to relieve itching and soothe the dry skin. You will learn everything about the medicinal plant, the oil extracted from its seeds and the effect of evening primrose oil on the skin here.
Natural Occurrence of the Evening Primrose
The common evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) belongs to the family of evening primroses (Oenothera). They first made their way to Europe as ornamental plants in the 17th century. Over time, the plant was also planted more and more frequently in kitchen gardens. All parts of the plant are edible, from the root to the leaves and flowers to the seeds. The evening primrose roots and leaves used to be part of the diet for many people. Originally, however, the plant is native to North America. In this country, therefore, it actually represents a neophyte, i.e. a newly naturalised, originally non-native plant. However, it is now so common that it is often thought to be a native species.
Oenothera biennis prefers to grow in a sunny location on dry, nutrient-poor and chalky soils. It is, therefore, one of the so-called ruderal plants that thrive on gravel, along railway lines, at rubble sites or at road edges.
Appearance of the Evening Primrose
The common evening primrose is a biennial plant. This is also indicated by the species name "biennis" (Latin for biennial). In the first year it forms a flat leaf rosette and sends a long tap root underground up to 1.5 metres deep into the soil. In the second year, a stem with leaves up to 20 centimetres long grows from the rosette. In the second year of growth, the plant reaches heights of one to two metres, depending on the location.
The flowering period in this country extends from the beginning of June to September. The flowers are bright yellow and about four centimetres tall. The evening primrose takes its name from the flowers that open in the evening and attract moths for pollination. After flowering, numerous capsule fruits form on the plant. Each capsule contains up to 200 small seeds, from which the evening primrose oil that is used medically is extracted.
Active Ingredients of Evening Primrose Oil
Evening primrose oil contains large amounts of unsaturated fatty acids. These play an important role in the body. They are components of each cell. Some fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory effect, while others are precursors of hormones or are important for cell division. That is why every person needs essential fatty acids every day. The body cannot form these itself. They must be supplied from the outside.
The reason for the use of evening primrose oil capsules is their high content of a very special fatty acid, gamma-linolenic acid (in brief: GLA). It is one of the series of omega-6 fatty acids and has a range of positive effects on the skin. In the human body, gamma-linolenic acid can also be formed from the essential unsaturated fatty acid linoleic acid. Evening primrose oil contains up to 75 percent linoleic acid and 12 percent GLA. This makes evening primrose oil, along with borage oil, one of the few sources of gamma-linolenic acid. In addition to the omega-6- fatty acids, the oil also contains vitamin E, which has an antioxidant effect and can trap free radicals.
Application and Areas of Use of Evening Primrose Oil
Evening primrose oil can be applied both externally and internally. Externally, it is added to cosmetics, make-up or creams, which are recommended particularly for dry skin. Internally, the pure oil is taken in the form of a capsule. When taken as a capsule, it should be used daily over a longer period of time until the effect on the skin ceases.
Evening Primrose Oil for Atopic Dermatitis
These fatty acids play a special role in diseases such as atopic dermatitis (neurodermatitis). Here, linoleic acid may be converted to GLA insufficiently. Researchers suspect that this may be one of the reasons for the symptoms of atopic dermatitis. Symptoms such as dry, itchy and flaky skin could be caused or exacerbated by the lack of gamma-linolenic acid.
Medically, however, the benefits of evening primrose oil capsules have not yet been proven conclusively. Nevertheless, its application is medically recognised. It is based primarily on the positive experience reports of patients with atopic dermatitis. Evening primrose oil is supposed to relieve itching, make the skin more supple and relieve discomfort caused by skin that is too dry. The effect could be based on the fact that the skin can store more moisture with a sufficient supply of gamma linoleic acid.
Please note: Even purely herbal medicines can have unwanted side effects. Please read the package insert and talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you require further information.