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Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis)

There are many valuable herbs that are not distilled into essential oils or hydrosols. We would like to share on-going information about some herbs that we have growing in our Aroma Apothecary botanical garden this summer and have been using medicinally for many years.

Evening primrose is a plant native to North America, but it grows in Europe and parts of the Southern hemisphere as well. It has beautiful yellow flowers that bloom in the evening.

Evening primrose oil has been used since the 1930s as a folk or traditional remedy for skin issues. More recent uses include other conditions involving inflammation, such as women’s health; such as breast pain associated with PMS, the menstrual cycle, and menopausal symptoms.

The bark and the leaves are astringent and sedative. A tea can be made from the roots to reduce weight. A finely ground powder has also been made from the flowering stems to be used in face-masks to counteract reddened skin.

Evening primrose contains protein, carbohydrates, beta carotene, calcium, potassium, and vitamin B3. Evening Primrose was formerly cultivated for its nutritious edible roots. Most recently, it has been cultivated for the oil contained in its seeds which contains high levels of gamma-linoleic acid (GLA), an Omega-6 fatty acid which is not found in many plants and is important in supporting the immune system. Essential fatty acids are required by the body for growth and development, and must be obtained from the diet.

The body converts GLAs into prostaglandins, hormone-like compounds, that help regulate many body functions. GLA is known to help prevent hardening of the arteries, heart disease, eczema, cirrhosis, rheumatoid arthritis, menopause, PMS, multiple sclerosis, and high blood pressure. It has a positive effect on sex hormone response including the hormones estrogen and testosterone, aids in lowering cholesterol levels, and is important for rebalancing the liver processes. Research has also confirmed that Evening Primrose oil helps relieve pain and inflammation.

Evening primrose oil is extracted from the seeds of the evening primrose. This oil is usually put into capsules for internal use or infused for a carrier oil to be used in topical aromatherapy blends.

Precautions for evening primrose oil:

  • Bleeding disorders.

  • Seizure disorders such as epilepsy.

  • Pregnant women should not take evening primrose oil because of the potential for birth complications.

  • Evening primrose oil may cause seizures if used with anesthesia. Make sure you tell your doctor if you are taking this before you have any surgery.

  • Those who take medication to lower blood pressure should be careful because evening primrose oil may cause a further drop in pressure.

  • Those on anti-depressant medications or other medications.


Dechen, Shanti, Clinical Aromatherapy Level 1 Text, Crestone, CO, 2017, p. 54.

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