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!