Last updated: August 30, 2021

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Evening primrose oil has been used medicinally for centuries. It is made from a plant known as Evening Primrose or Primula and is known to relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, soothe hot flashes associated with menopause and help treat skin conditions. What do you know about this oil? Have you ever used it? Its benefits may surprise you.

Many of evening primrose oil’s effects are backed up by scientific evidence, while others are still being studied. No longer simply a home remedy, this oil is now being used in conventional medicine, especially in dermatology.


  • Evening primrose oil is extracted from the seeds of the evening primrose, or Oenothera, plant. These seeds also provide proteins, minerals and fibre.  However, medicinally the oil is the most useful, consisting mainly of two essential omega-6 fatty acids: linoleic acid and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).
  • Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) helps to treat dermatological diseases, soothes pain related to premenstrual syndrome and reduces the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Evening primrose oil can be taken in its pure form or in capsules. It has both internal and external uses: it can be applied as a topic (when applied to external parts of the body), as well as being used to make creams, shampoos and soaps.

The best Evening Primrose Oil: Our Picks

More and more people are becoming interested in evening primrose oil in order to improve their health and wellbeing. Currently, there are a number of commercial brands selling capsules and oils, but in some cases, their quality leaves much to be desired. To help you make the best purchase, we have selected the best evening primrose oil supplements currently on the market.

Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about evening primrose oil

Evening primrose oil is known for its ability to ease the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and menopause. It also has beneficial properties for men. Although it is good for our health, it is very important not to exceed the recommended daily dosage. Why? Below, you will find the answer to this question and many more.

healthy girl

Evening Primrose Oil is an excellent tool to boost our well-being.
(Source: Subbotina: 20934468/

What exactly is evening primrose oil?

Evening primrose oil is a vegetable oil extracted from the seed of the Oenothera biennas plant, commonly known as primrose or Primula. The seeds have between 15 and 20% fats, including omega-6 fatty acids linoleic acid and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). Evening primrose oil is extracted from the seed by applying pressure.

Ideally, extraction will be conducted through cold pressing to preserve the nutritional and medicinal properties of the seed. Extraction using high temperatures or solvents can adversely affect the quality of the omega-6 fatty acids and cause the oil to lose many of its properties.

 What is gamma-linolenic acid (GLA)?

Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is an essential omega-3 fatty acid. By essential, we mean that it cannot be produced by the human body and so must be obtained from the diet, just like the celebrated omega-3 fatty acids. GLA is responsible for the majority of the medicinal benefits of evening primrose oil.

This particular omega-6 fatty acid is essential for the production of prostaglandins and leukotrienes, substances that intervene in the processes of inflammation and pain. As well as being a major component of evening primrose oil, GLA is found in borage, hemp and blackcurrant oils.

Flowering evening primrose

The evening primrose flower has many medicinal properties.
(Source: Prazis: 57408873/

Why do they say that evening primrose oil is “women’s oil”?

Evening primrose oil helps to treat many ailments related to women’s health. It also moisturises the skin and improves its appearance, both when consumed orally and used topically. Additionally, this supplement can restore nail and hair structure. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) contributes to:

  • Easing hot flashes, vaginal dryness, changes in mood and skin fragility that occur during menopause.
  • The relief of pain and fluid retention associated with premenstrual syndrome. It notably soothes mastalgia (breast pain).
  • Prevention of osteoporosis (a disease much more prevalent in women than in men). It encourages bone mineralization and reduces the incidence of bone fractures.
  • Decreased pain, stiffness and inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes destruction and loss of joint function. This condition is more frequent in women than in men at a ratio of 2-3 to 1.
  • Increased hydration and elasticity of the skin, and reduction in the appearance of wrinkles. The vitamin E which is usually added to evening primrose oil supplements also slows the skin’s signs of ageing. Evening primrose oil used with massage also reduces the appearance of stretch marks.

Why is Evening Primrose oil beneficial in relieving symptoms of premenstrual syndrome?

The GLA found in evening primrose oil is a precursor to prostaglandins E1, compounds which have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. For women suffering from severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS), taking the oil can help to reduce pain, especially breast pain (mastalgia), swelling and fluid retention.

Although evening primrose oil supplements ease symptoms of mastalgia (associated with PMS) they are not effective in treating cysts in the breasts. To treat the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, take evening primrose oil capsules during the last 2 weeks of the menstrual cycle, starting on day 15.

Dr. Josh AxeDoctor of natural medicine and clinical nutritionist
"Evening primrose oil can reduce symptoms associated with PMS, such as breast tenderness, bloating and headaches. During menopause, it can help balance hormones and improve unwanted menopause symptoms"

What are the other benefits of evening primrose oil?

Evening primrose oil can also be used to improve physical appearance by hydrating dry or older skin. Additionally, it can be used with massage to restore skin structure and reduce stretch marks following pregnancy. Further to the benefits mentioned above, evening primrose oil supplements can be taken orally to treat:

  • Eczema: Eczema is a term used to describe inflammation of the skin. Generally, cases of eczema are also characterised by dryness, itching, peeling and rashes.
  • Atopic dermatitis: this is a very common childhood disease which occurs alongside eczema. It is characterized by inflammation, redness and itching. Use of evening primrose oil supplements can reduce the dosage of antihistamines necessary to manage the symptoms of this condition.
  • Diabetic neuropathy: Diabetes can damage the nerves and affect the transmission of nerve impulses, producing numbness, pain and weakness, especially in the feet and legs. The GLA in evening primrose oil reduces these symptoms.
  • Raynaud's disease: as part of this condition, the fingers and toes are extremely sensitive to cold. Taking evening primrose oil, as well as massages using the oil can relieve pain and reduce the sensation of numbness
  • Other conditions: evening primrose oil can be beneficial for acne, scleroderma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), asthma, ulcerative colitis, benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate cancer.

What time of day should I take my evening primrose oil supplements?

There is no set time to take evening primrose oil or capsules. However, it is a good idea to take the capsules with meals, since they can leave a somewhat bitter taste in the mouth if not taken with food. The oil can be taken on an empty stomach, pure or mixed with orange juice.

A bottle of evening primrose oil with fresh evening primrose flo

Evening primrose oil is known as "the women's oil".
(Source: Madeleinesteinbach: 111028379/

What is the recommended daily dose for evening primrose oil and capsules?

For evening primrose oil capsules, dosage can vary widely depending on the concentration of each brand. Generally, manufacturers’ recommendations are to take no 1 to 3 capsules a day. The recommended daily intake of evening primrose oil is half to one teaspoon.

For cases of cyclic mastalgia, 1 teaspoon of evening primrose oil daily is recommended, whereas 1 ½ teaspoons per day is recommended for those with diabetic neuropathy. Whenever you use evening primrose oil to treat or alleviate symptoms of a medical condition, you should always consult your doctor first.

How much time does it take to see the benefits of evening primrose oil?

This can vary greatly, from 15 days to around 6 months. It depends on the dose, and also each body reacts differently. Women who are going through menopause and taking evening primrose oil to mitigate their symptoms will generally see positive effects after one month of treatment. For cases of rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, it can take up to 6 months for a noticeable improvement.

Why is it important not to take more than the recommended dosage of evening primrose oil supplements?

For good cardiovascular health, it is important to maintain a certain balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The ideal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is 5:1, meaning we should consume 5 times more omega 3 (chia, flax, fish, nuts) than omega-6 (evening primrose oil, borage, hemp, corn, sunflower, soy).

Woman using hot water bottle

Evening primrose oil is excellent for relieving stomach cramps.
(Source: Grinvalds: 1000801078/

Do you know what the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio is for most of the population? From 1:25 to 1:50. In other words, we consume a lot more omega-6 than omega-3. This has inflammatory effects which can lead to heart disease and atherosclerosis (accumulation of plaque of atheromas inside the arteries).

Do the fatty acids in evening primrose oil replace those in cod liver oil?

No, you cannot supplement these oils for one another. Cod liver oil provides mostly omega-3 fatty acids, while evening primrose oil gives those from omega-6. Both omega-3 and omega-6 are essential fatty acids for our health and cannot be produced by the human body, so must be obtained through food or supplements.

Omega-3 is highly beneficial for heart health and also lowers cholesterol. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a type of omega-6 fatty acid found in evening primrose oil has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Evening primrose oil and cod liver oil have some of the same health benefits, and some distinct advantages:

If I want... I should take...
To prevent heart disease and improve heart health Cod liver oil
To improve vision and prevent eye disease Cod liver oil
To treat rheumatoid arthritis and other joint disorders (arthritis, osteoarthritis) Evening primrose oil or cod liver oil
To improve the appearance of the skin Evening primrose oil (for best result, though cod liver oil also promotes healthy skin)
To reduce breast pain (mastalgia) and other premenstrual syndrome symptoms Evening primrose oil
To decrease blood cholesterol Cod liver oil
To mitigate the symptoms of menopause Evening primrose oil
To relieve eczema (inflammation), dryness and peeling skin Evening primrose oil
To prevent osteoporosis Evening primrose oil or cod liver oil

What restrictions are there on taking evening primrose oil?

Evening primrose oil is a perfectly safe supplement if taken in recommended doses. Taking excessive quantities can lead to diarrhoea, flatulence and abdominal bloating. Anyone who is being treated for a medical condition or taking prescription medication should consult with their doctor before starting to take these supplements.

In many cases, evening primrose oil is used as a complementary treatment for an illness. In this situation, it will be a doctor who decides what dosage the patient should take. It’s not recommended to take evening primrose oil supplements or capsules in the following circumstances:

  • When pregnant or breastfeeding
  • For children (if not under the supervision of a doctor)
  • For people taking anticoagulants, blood thinners or anti-platelets (warfarin, aspirin, clopidogrel)
  • For epileptics taking phenothiazines
  • Anyone taking anti-convulsive medication
  • Anyone about to have surgery involving anaesthetic (you must stop taking evening primrose oil supplements at least 2 weeks before surgery

Does evening primrose oil taken orally improve the skin?

Evening primrose oil can be applied topically to moisturise the skin, improve the appearance of lines and treat try skin, be all these benefits also follow from taking it orally. Additionally, gamma-linolenic acid reduces inflammation, which is why evening primrose oil is frequently used to treat eczema and dermatitis.

Prof. Harry KeenUnited Medical and Dental Schools, University of London
"Taking evening primrose oil daily for 6-12 months improves symptoms of nerve damage caused by diabetes."

What are the different types of evening primrose oil supplements?

There are two types of evening primrose oil supplements: capsules and pure oil. Capsules contain the oil and their main advantages are they are easy to swallow, have no taste and can be taken anywhere. Most evening primrose oil capsules also contain vitamin E.

Evening primrose oil can be taken on its own or mixed with other liquids. Its flavour ranges from mild to intense, depending on how it is made and stored. The composition and benefits of the pure oil are basically the same as the capsules: linoleic acid, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), some omega-3 and omega-9, and vitamin E.

Evening primrose oil Evening primrose oil capsules
Flavour Variable. From mild to intensely bitter. A bad smell may indicate the oil has gone off. Smooth, neutral
Dosage Generally recommended to drink around one teaspoon (2 to 3 grams) per day From 1 to 3 capsules daily
Storage Once opened, should be kept refrigerated. In their original container. If in a blister pack, should be stored in a dark, cool and dry place.
GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) content From 9 to 10% 100%

Shopping Criteria

Now you’re aware of the many benefits of evening primrose oil and you know how to consume them correctly, all that’s left is to look at the main shopping criteria. On the labels you will find very specific information about evening primrose oil supplements or capsules which helps you choose the right one for you.


Pure evening primrose oil can be smooth, almost neutral, or can have an intensely bitter taste. Some manufacturers add flavouring to improve the taste. Evening primrose oil mixes well with citrus juices or lemonade, and the vitamin C in citrus even enhances the effects of GLA. The capsules have a neutral taste.


Generally, one pack of capsules has a supply of around 4 or 5 months, while 150-200ml bottles of the pure oil will last for about 2 months. The capsules are cheaper than the oil and therefore the better option if you’re on a budget.


The capsules are easy to store as they usually come in sealable bottles or containers which keep them safe from contact with air or light. The oil, on the other hand, should be stored in the fridge once opened to prevent it from going off.

evening primrose oil and flowers

Evening Primrose Oil is a natural product which is increasingly recommended by gynecologists and dermatologists to treat various symptoms.
(Source: Madeleinsteinback: 88288875/

Allergens and gluten

The labels on supplements will typically have a warning which tells you whether the product may contain traces of allergens (such as soy or nuts), but if you have any allergies you should always be sure to check the ingredients list also.

For celiacs, make sure you check that the product is certified as gluten-free.

Vitamin E

The majority of evening primrose oil capsules contain vitamin E for additional antioxidant effects. This vitamin E also preserves the supplement’s organoleptic characteristics (flavour, aroma, colour) for longer. If you’re taking evening primrose oil to improve your skin, you’re best off choosing one with extra vitamin E.


Evening primrose oil is a supplement which is being increasingly recommended by gynaecologists and dermatologists to treat various symptoms and increase the well-being of their patients. It is economical, effective and safe. However, excess consumption can be harmful, and it should be noted that it does not replace the omega-3 fatty acids found in seeds and fish.

Although it’s easy to get caught up in attractive packaging, the really important information is on the back of the label. That is, the nutritional info, ingredients, allergens and manufacturer’s recommendations. Before buying any supplement, read the label thoroughly.

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(Source of featured image: Madeleinsteinbach: 96030306/