Wednesday, July 12, 2017


EVENING PRIMROSE –Oenothera Biennis, Oenothera Caespitosa, Oenothera Glazioviana, Oenothera Parviflora, oenothera Lamarckiana, Oenothera Tanacetifolia, Oenothera Subacaulis, etc.

Also known as: Sundrops, fever plant, scurvish, night willow-herb, suncups, scabish, kings-cure-all, tee primrose, evening star, etc.

Parts used: root, leaves, flowers, seeds

Systems/organs affected: liver, kidney, skin, reproductive, cardiovascular, structural

Properties: yin tonic, anti-inflammatory, pro-inflammatory, emollient, antioxidant, antithrombotic, vasodilator, antiproliferative (stops bad cells from reproducing)
EVENING PRIMROSE is a member of the Onagraceae family. It is a tall plant-getting as high as six feet or more and is native to North America although it has been naturalized in Europe, South America and other places.  Evening primrose is a biennial which means it takes 2 years to come full circle. The stem has a circle of leaves at its base the first year that continue up the stem in an alternate fashion the second year.  The leaves are between 3-6 inches long (depending on the variety) and have a somewhat lemony scent.  The flowers tend to be yellow for the most part but can also be white or pink in color.  There are 4 petals, 4 sepals and 8 stamens and are 2-4 inches around.  They also give off a strong, sweet aroma.  The ‘fruit’ is an inch long, pod shaped vessel that contains a host of red looking seeds.  The flowers bloom from June to September (depending on the region) and are thought to bloom only at night but have been found blooming during daylight hours as well.  It can be found growing in dry, sandy soil, rocky outcroppings and ridges, plains, etc.  There are approximately 200 species of primrose growing today.  The root should be dug in its first year for use, after that use the above ground portions only. 

Evening primrose is a plant of much controversy.  Modern medicine would tell you it has little value while alternative medicine tells entirely another story.  Apparently this is a plant that one needs to experience for themselves in order to make an informed choice.  However, there have been SOME studies conducted on the plant which are included herein for your benefit.

Evening primrose (EP) contains gamma linolenic acid as well as linoleic acid, two very important essential fatty acids in the omega family.  (Omega 6)  Both are items that compose the myelin sheath which is the protective coating around the nerve cells and fibers.  While many believe that our diets are heavy in omega 6 fatty acids, some illnesses that have come to the forefront lately may dispute that.

There have been more than 120 studies done on primrose’s use for PMS, with conflicting results.  A double blind study done in Australia found that there was no difference between a placebo and evening primrose in those who supplemented with it for 3 months.  A different double blind study found that EPO (evening primrose oil) it reduced breast pain and tenderness, irritability and mood swings.  Other clinical trials found that it worked to relieve breast tenderness better than conventional drugs.  Anecdotal evidence suggests it is useful for fluid retention and depression associated with PMS and menopause as well. 

In a Canadian study on cholesterol it was found that those supplementing with EPO for 3 months had a 31.5% drop in their cholesterol as compared to those in a placebo group.

The Lancet published a study in 1982 in regards to EPO and eczema.  In a double blind study, 99 people were given various amounts of EPO.  Forty three percent of patients given the highest dosage saw improvement in their condition.  At least 9 trials have found it to be effective for itching associated with skin conditions.  Studies published by the International Journal of Cosmetic Science found that EPO was beneficial for many age-related skin issues such as roughness, redness, lack of tone, etc.  A study published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology found that 96% of those suffering from atopic dermatitis improved after 5 months of EPO supplementation.

One study done in Britain on 49 people with rheumatoid arthritis found that 94% of them had significant improvement in their conditions while taking EPO.

EPO may help with labor and fertility as well.  Omega fatty acids are important for proper hormone function, mainly the production of prostaglandins which are hormone-like substances that appear where injuries or problems in the body occur.  When the body is damaged or impaired, prostaglandins respond by producing reactions that spark the healing process to occur.  In women these hormone like substances also help to regulate the reproductive system.  For instance, gamma linolenic acid has been found to increase cervical mucus which helps the sperm to move more freely through the cervix.  This helps to increase fertility and the chances of becoming pregnant.  Likewise, a pregnant woman getting ready to give birth can supplement with EPO in the final weeks of pregnancy to prepare the cervix for delivery.  The Department of Animal Nutrition and Management did a study on blue foxes given EPO during mating season to gauge its effects on reproduction.  What they found was an increase in litter size which they attributed to the male foxes having better sperm quality and motility via the supplementation.  (It appears that EPO works on both sexes).

There have been many more studies on EPO regarding auto-immune disorders, osteoporosis, alcoholism, ADHD, MS, baldness, high blood pressure, acne, scleroderma, raynaud’s, diabetic neuropathey and more.  All of these studies have been considered ineffective or too small or don’t have enough data to confirm their results, etc. by the AMA.  So when in doubt-go back to its roots.  The Native Americans used the plant for food.  The root was boiled twice and then consumed and the rest of the plant was eaten too.  The leaves were cooked much like we use our greens and the flowers and seeds were added to salads and breads (seeds).  They also used the plant medicinally.  The plant was applied topically for hemorrhoids, boils, bruises and small wounds.  The seeds were cold pressed and the oil used for gastrointestinal complaints.  The roots and shoot tips were made into syrups and teas and used for asthma, pain, sore throats, coughing and as a sedative for spasms.  Some tribes even used it to combat obesity and laziness (didn’t know there was an herb for THAT..LOL)  Mrs. Grieve (A Modern Herbal-1931) talks of using it in tea form to helps with whooping cough, asthma and gastrointestinal complaints.

         While its uses are varied and somewhat controversial, this herb deserves a look.  I have seen it work well for some people and not as well for others so you really need to try it for yourself to see whether or not it works for you.   A word of caution however, according to big Pharma and WebMD this plant should not be taken by pregnant or nursing women, those on blood thinners or clotters, those on blood pressure meds, antidepressants, seizure meds, immune-suppressants, phenothizines (for schizophrenia), ceftazidime (antibiotic), those on chemotherapy drugs or NSAIDS.  EP can cause headaches, nausea and stomach pain and if taking too much (over 5000 mg for some people) it may cause loose stools and/or seizures but those are rare.  It should also not be given to someone with a high fever.  As always, consult a qualified physician before beginning any kind of herbal regimen or program.

         As is customary with my posts I am including some links below for your perusal. Stay strong and healthy!


ASHWAGANDHA –Withania Somnifera, Withania Obtusifolia, Withania Coagulans, etc.

Also known as:  Indian Ginseng, Winter Cherry, Poison Gooseberry, etc.

Parts used: roots, berries, leaves, flowers, seeds, bark

Systems/organs affected: brain, muscular, eyes, blood, skin, nervous, cardiac, reproductive, structural, glandular, liver, kidneys, gastrointestinal, immune, lungs

 Properties:  adaptogen, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, heart tonic, anti-stress, sedative, cognitive, antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-parasitic, anti-carcinogenic, anti-tumor, neuroprotective, antidiabetic, analgesic, emmenogogue, immune enhancing, vulnerary, detoxifying, antispasmodic, antivenomous, aphrodisiac, narcotic, diuretic, astringent, stimulant, etc.
Ashwagandha is a member of the Solanaceae family more commonly known as the Nightshades.  There are around 3000 species in this family found throughout the globe, some of which are: potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, belladonna, mandrake, petunia, henbane and tobacco.  People who suffer from arthritis are commonly advised to avoid this family as it is believed they aggravate the condition.  Ashwagandha  is a bush-like plant with five petaled yellow flowers and alternating leaves.  The flowers are followed by small, cherry-like fruit that are encased in a paper lantern type cocoon.  It is native to India, the Middle East and North Africa.  It prefers well drained soil but seems to be tolerant of other soil conditions as well. 

In India this plant is referred to as the ‘Queen of Ayurveda’ and aptly so.  It is also commonly called Indian Ginseng and is similarly to how the Chinese use ginseng for any number of conditions.  In Sanskrit Ashwagandha means the ‘smell of the horse’ because the root does have a sweaty horse aroma.  In Ayurvedic terms it is called Rasayana (to lengthen or rejuvenate) and is believed to increase longevity and health.  Ashwagandha is also an adaptogen which means that it can help to normalize functions in the body that may be brought on by stress.

This plant has a history dating back thousands of years-beginning in India and Asia although it is used throughout Africa and the Mediterranean as well.  There have been close to 400 studies done on this plant and it still has yet to become popular in the western world.  The root has been used here in the usa but in other countries they use the entire plant more often than not.  These studies have covered everything from neurological issues to immune problems to adrenal fatigue and cancer.  The outcome of these studies are nothing short of amazing and makes me realize how much of a threat this plant could be to big pharma.  (Perhaps that is why it isn’t actually used more in this country..)

To touch on some of the things it has been used for I have included a few of the studies below as an overview of its potential.
1)    In 2000, a study was published on its effects for anxiety and depression.  Patients were given an oral supplement for 5 days of ashwagandha.  The results found that this herb worked just as well as Lorazepam (anti-anxiety) and Imipramine (antidepressant). (Phytomedicine, 2000 Dec; 7(6):463-9)
2)   In the case of chronic stress, brains of sacrificed animals were found to show significant signs of degeneration due to stress (up to 85% of brain cells were damaged).  When chronically stressed animals had been given ashwagandha before being sacrificed, their brain degeneration was reduced by eighty percent! (Phytotherapy Research, 2001 Sept; 15(6):544-8)
3)   The Institute of Natural Medicine at the Toyama Medical and Pharmaceutical                            University in Japan has been studying its effects on nerve pathways for years.  Scientists found that ashwagandha assisted in the regeneration of axons and dendrites as well as the reconstruction of synapses.  This study concluded that ashwagandha helps the body to reconstruct nervous system networks making it a potential for neurodegenerative diseases. (British Journal of Pharmacology, 2005 Apr; 144(7):961-71)
4)   Scientists in India found that ashwagandha can inhibit cancers reproduction.  It was found to be effective against colon, breast, stomach, skin, brain, ovarian and lung cancer cells.  A recent analysis found it worked as well as doxorubicin (a drug commonly used for chemotherapy). In fact, it was MORE effective at inhibiting breast and colon cancer than doxorubicin. (Alternative Medicine Review, 2004 June; 9(2):211-14) (Life Science, 2003 Nov. 21; 74(1):125-32)

5)   Some studies found ashwagandha to be a powerful antibacterial agent working against such things as Salmonella, Stapholococcus Aureus (MRSA), E. Coli, Pseudomonas Aeruginosa and Bacillus Subtilis. (Phytomedicine, 2005 Mar; 12(3):229-35)
6)   A study done on menopausal women found that those who supplemented with ashwagandha had significantly less symptoms associated with the change of life than those not using the herb. (Ayu Journal, 2012 Oct; 33(4):511-6)
7)   The Kama Sutra, an ancient text regarding human sexuality, speaks of ashwagandha being a powerful aphrodisiac.  Research has found it works for both sexes.  In a study conducted on 75 infertile men, those taking ashwagandha had an increase in sperm count, testosterone and motility.  (Fertility and Sterility, 2010 Aug; 94(3):989-96) Researchers also found that men with high stress experienced less fertility.  When supplemented with ashwagandha for 3 months, 14% of their partners became pregnant. ( Ashwagandha was one of a combination of herbs used in a study for women with PCOS that was found to give substantial relief from the disorder.  Long term treatment was also found to help control the growth of uterine fibroids.  It was also found to be effective for amenorrhea (the lack of menstruation).  In some women it can increase the hirsutism however, so that is something to consider when supplementing.
8)   In many studies this amazing plant was found to lower blood sugar levels.  Human studies have found it can lower blood sugar in both healthy AND diabetic individuals.  (Indian Journal of Experimental Biology 2000 June; 38(6):607-9) (Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine 2012 July; 3(3):111-4) A test tube study found it to increase the secretion of insulin as well as improve insulin sensitivity in muscle cells. (Phytochemistry 2015 Aug; 116:283-9)
9)   Ashwagandha was also found to increase muscle mass and decrease body fat.  (Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition 2015 Nov; 12:43)
10)  Studies conducted on rats found it to be effective at lowering cholesterol and triglycerides by as much as fifty percent.  (Phytomedicine 2007 Feb; 14(2-3):136-42)
So many things that it has been proven beneficial for-it’s a wonder it isn’t used as a first response in any malady.  Some other items it has been beneficial for are inflammation, infections (viral, fungal and bacterial), parasites, schizophrenia, ADHD, fevers, pain, autoimmune disorders, bone health, thyroid issues, liver problems, gastrointestinal complaints, bronchitis, kidney damage, adrenal fatigue, seizures, debilitating illnesses, cataracts, heavy metal poisoning, venomous snake and/or scorpion stings and bites and the list goes on.

Ashwagandha contains several beneficial components, some of which are called withanolides.  There are a few (35) different kinds of withanolides, two of which are found to be especially effective within ashwagandha.  These are withanolide A and withanolide D.  A lot of this plants efficacy is believed to be attributed to these two components.  Each part of the plant has specific value although it is the root that is used the most.  The root is used as a tonic, diuretic, stimulant, narcotic, astringent, aphrodisiac, antiparasitic and more.  The leaves are used for pain, inflammation and fevers.  The seeds are antiparasitic and the flowers are aphrodisiac, astringent, diuretic and depurative.  The berries are used topically for ulcers, tumors, glandular growths and carbuncles.  However, the whole plant seems to be utilized for every malady known to man.
Ashwagandha is also used to balance kapha and vata doshas.  It is contraindicative to a pitta.  There are others who should avoid ashwagandha as well.  According to WebMD, it should not be used by pregnant or nursing women, diabetics, those with stomach ulcers, blood pressure issues, thyroid problems or auto-immune disorders.  It should also not be used by those scheduled for surgical procedures.  Consult a qualified physician before starting any herbal regimen.

As is common with my posts I am including some links herein for your benefit.  Stay strong and healthy!