Evening primrose oil (EPO)

Evening primrose is a wildflower that grows throughout the United States. Although Native Americans used the seeds for food and made poultices from the whole plant to heal bruises, evening primrose oil (EPO) has only recently been used as medicine. European settlers took the root back to England and Germany where it was eaten as food.

EPO is found in the plant's seeds, and is high in the essential fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). Essential fatty acids, such as omega-6s found in EPO and omega-3s found in fish oil, are used as building blocks for a number of molecules in the body. Your body needs a balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids for good health. GLA is also found in borage oil and black currant oil.

Today, EPO is used to relieve PMS symptoms and some arthritis-related conditions, although scientific evidence to support these uses is lacking. The strongest evidence for EPO use is for treating eczema.

This article focuses on the seed from which EPO is extracted.

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Review Date: 6/22/2015  

Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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