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Evening primrose oil (EPO) is made from the seeds of evening primrose flowers, native to North America. People traditionally used it to treat conditions including bruises, hemorrhoids, and sore throats.

EPO’s healing benefits may be due to its gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) content. GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid found in plant oils.

EPO is generally taken as a supplement or applied topically. Read on to learn how EPO may help treat many common health conditions today.

What’s EPO good for?

EPO may have some potential benefits. But more research is still needed to confirm its use.

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)Trusted Source states there isn’t enough evidence to support using EPO for any health conditions. Despite that, it’s generally safe to use long-term, and some studies have highlighted areas of possible benefit. These may include:

1. It may help ease acne

Some people believe the GLA in EPO may help acne by reducing skin inflammation and the number of skin cells that cause lesions. It may also help the skin retain moisture.

According to a 2022 studyTrusted Source, EPO may help relieve specific side effects from the medication isotretinoin (Accutane).

An older 2014 study found that GLA supplementation reduced inflammatory and noninflammatory acne lesions.

But larger, longer studies are still needed to determine the safety and effectiveness of evening primrose oil.

2. It may help ease eczema

Some countries other than the United States have approved EPO to treat eczema, an inflammatory skin condition.

A 2018 studyTrusted Source in South Korea concluded that EPO improved the Eczema Area Severity Index (EASI) score in people with mild eczema compared to a placebo. The studies’ authors noted that transepidermal water loss and skin hydration were slightly improved in the EPO group.

The review didn’t look at the effectiveness of topical EPO for eczema.

3. It can help improve overall skin health

The GLA in EPO may benefit skin structure and function. Because the skin can’t produce GLA alone, taking GLA-rich EPO may help keep the skin healthy overall.

Both previously mentioned studies noted that EPO improved skin hydration in participants.

According to an older 2005 studyTrusted Source, oral supplementation of EPO may help smooth skin and improve its:

  • elasticity
  • moisture
  • firmness
  • fatigue resistance

4. It may help relieve PMS symptoms

A 2019 studyTrusted Source suggests EPO may be effective in treating premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms, such as:

  • breast swelling
  • irritability
  • bloating
  • acne

Researchers believe some people experience PMS because they’re sensitive to prolactin levels in the body. GLA converts to a substance in the body (prostaglandin E1) thought to help prevent prolactin from triggering PMS.

5. It may help minimize breast pain

Some people may use EPO to relieve cyclical breast pain. Some people believe the GLA in EPO is thought to reduce inflammation and help inhibit prostaglandins that cause cyclical breast pain.

But a 2021 review of researchTrusted Source found that EPO was only as effective as a placebo compared to topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), danazol, or vitamin E.

The authors also noted that EPO is unlikely to cause adverse side effects. So it may be safe to try.

6. It may help reduce hot flashes

Some people believe EPO may reduce the severity of hot flashes, one of the most uncomfortable side effects of menopause.

A small 2021 studyTrusted Source that used participant questionnaires found that taking EPO during menopause may result in less frequent and less severe night sweats.

But the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)Trusted Source notes that there’s not enough evidence to support the effectiveness of EPO for hot flashes or other menopause side effects.

7. It may help improve heart health

Heart disease kills more than 600,000 peopleTrusted Source in the United States each year. Hundreds of thousands more are living with the condition. Some people are using natural remedies, such as EPO, to help.

A 2020 review of researchTrusted Source suggests that EPO may have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels, though some research was inconclusive. Additional research is still needed to support the use of EPO to support heart health.

9. It can help reduce nerve pain

Peripheral neuropathy is a common side effect of diabetes and other conditions. A 2018 review of researchTrusted Source notes that animal studies have shown that fatty acids like linolenic acid may potentially help reduce neuropathy symptoms, such as:

  • hot and cold sensitivity
  • numbness
  • tingling
  • weakness

However, human clinical trials are still needed to show whether these results may extend to humans.

10. It may help ease bone pain

Bone pain is often caused by rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disorder. According to a small 2017 studyTrusted Source, the GLA in EPO can potentially reduce rheumatoid arthritis pain without causing unwanted side effects.

But larger studies are still needed to confirm this.

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