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Should I be taking evening primrose oil for menopause?

Should I be taking evening primrose oil for menopause

Native to North America and Europe, the yellow evening primrose flower has long been recognised for its therapeutic properties. This biennial plant was widely used to treat sore throats and minor wounds. In recent years, evening primrose oil — the oil extracted from evening primrose seeds — has demonstrated promise in reducing symptoms of the menopause, alongside improving acne, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and dry skin conditions.


What are the benefits of taking evening primrose oil capsules?

Evening primrose oil is well-known for its health benefits, thanks to its unusually rich omega-6 fatty acid content of gamma-linolenic acid and linolenic acid. The body uses gamma-linolenic acid to produce hormone-like compounds called prostaglandins, purported to decrease inflammation (1). By increasing the production of prostaglandins, evening primrose oil may support the reduction of the hormonal changes associated with menopause.

Emerging evidence suggests evening primrose oil may offer relief from a range of menopausal symptoms, including hot flushes, night sweats, breast pain, joint discomfort, and mood changes.

Researchers have reported that women taking 500mg of evening primrose oil for six weeks reduced the severity, the frequency and the duration of hot flushes (2). The participants of the study also noticed an improvement in their overall sense of wellbeing.

Also, evening primrose oil is often recommended for cyclical and non-cyclical breast pain, which can commonly arise throughout the menopausal transition. Data suggests that supplementing with evening primrose oil may improve non-cyclical breast pain severity by 38 per cent (3).

There is some evidence that primrose oil may improve morning stiffness (4). In addition, it is thought that it may regulate inflammation and pain, which is promising for menopausal women complaining of joint pain — though research for the effectiveness of evening primrose oil in reducing joint pain in arthritis patients remains inconclusive.


Can evening primrose oil increase oestrogen?

Though more research is certainly required in this area, researchers think that gamma-linolenic acid may have oestrogen-like effects in the body (5). In this, evening primrose oil may help manage some of the menopausal symptoms, like hot flushes and breast pain, by countering low oestrogen levels.

Aside from its oestrogenic role in the body, gamma-linolenic acid is also critically important for fighting inflammation. When gamma-linolenic acid is converted into prostaglandins, it helps to mitigate joint inflammation and maintain joint structure and function, which may explain why it’s believed to ease menopausal joint discomfort (6).


How much evening primrose oil should I take for menopause?

While there’s no official upper dosage limit of evening primrose oil, most nutritionists suggest 500mg-1,000mg daily, with a guarantee of around 9-10 per cent of gamma-linolenic acid, to support your overall health in menopause. It should be noted that evening primrose oil is also best taken in capsules.


Are there any possible side effects of taking evening primrose oil?

Though evening primrose oil is generally considered safe, some people experience side effects, such as flatulence, belching, diarrhoea, and soft stools, particularly when first taking the herbal preparation. But these symptoms are mild and improve as the body adapts to the treatment.


Does evening primrose oil interact with other medications?

Taking evening primrose oil with medication for bipolar disorder or schizophrenia may cause spontaneous seizures. The gamma-linolenic acid present in evening primrose oil may also slow blood clotting and even exacerbate the effects of blood thinners, like warfarin, causing bleeding and bruising.

To minimise the risk of any dangerous interactions, always consult your GP before supplementing your diet with evening primrose oil.

Although more evidence is needed into the exact mechanism of evening primrose oil in the body, existing data is certainly encouraging for women and may prove a useful addition to your health during the menopausal transition.

To learn more about managing your wellbeing in menopause, please browse the rest of our dedicated Menopause hub.



References:

  1. , , Prostaglandins and inflammation. Arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and vascular biology. ;31(5):986-100.

  2. , The effect of oral evening primrose oil on menopausal hot flashes: a randomized clinical trial. Arch Gynecol Obstet. ;288(5):1075-1079.

  3. , , ); Efamast Study Group. A randomized multicenter study of gamolenic acid (Efamast) with and without antioxidant vitamins and minerals in the management of mastalgia. Breast J. ;11:41-47.

  4. Versus Arthritis. 2020. Evening Primrose Oil. Available online: https://www.versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/complementary-and-alternative-treatments/types-of-complementary-treatments/evening-primrose-oil/

  5. , Use and perceived efficacy of complementary and alternative medicines after discontinuation of hormone therapy: a nested United Kingdom Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening cohort study. Menopause (New York, N.Y.). ;22(4):384-390. Available online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18441173

  6. Versus Arthritis. 2020. Evening Primrose Oil. Available online: https://www.versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/complementary-and-alternative-treatments/types-of-complementary-treatments/evening-primrose-oil/


Disclaimer: The information presented by Nature's Best is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications.

 




 

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Our Author - Olivia Salter

Olivia

Olivia Salter has always been an avid health nut. After graduating from the University of Bristol, she began working for a nutritional consultancy where she discovered her passion for all things wellness-related. There, she executed much of the company’s content marketing strategy and found her niche in health writing, publishing articles in Women’s Health, Mind Body Green, Thrive and Psychologies.

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