Evening Primrose and its Oil in Herbal Medicine
Native to North and South America, the herbaceous biennial plant evening primrose has got popular all over the world due to rare fatty acid containing in its seed – gamma-liloleinc acid, found in very few plants.
The plant belongs to the Oenothera genus (including over 120 species), which is known for the plants with yellow flowers that only bloom for one night (hence the plant’s name). It grows up to 4-5 feet high, has erect reddish hairy stem and alternate hairy leaves with lemon-like scent. The flowers are also scented, with sweet scent, which attracts twilight insects that pollinate evening primrose. Flowers first appear in June and keep being produced up till the late autumn. The fruit ripening out of them contains a big number of reddish seeds valued as the source of evening primrose oil.
Evening primrose was naturalized in Great Britain in 16th century. It is found today all over the world, growing in dry open soils of meadows, old fields, roadsides, railway banks and graveyards. The plant grows well in acid well-drained ground with good sun exposure. If not cultivated, evening primrose will quickly spread in undisturbed areas.
The bark peel and leaves are dried for the use in herbal formulas and supplements. The root is eaten in some cultures, as well as being used as salad garnishes. The root and the flower are laso used as the component in medicines for topical applications. But the value of the plant is in its seeds and oil being produced from them.
The variety of evening primrose products include flower infusion for headaches, fevers and colds, flower tincture for insomnia, anxiety and stress, topical compresses from flowers and roots for joints, flower massage oils for migraines and insomnias. Also, aromatic properties of the plant are used in cosmetics and personal care products.
Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) in the seed oil of the evening primrose is a valuable chemical that stimulates plant’s cultivation. This essential fatty acid enhances the development and growth of cells and is a necessary dietary supplement. Together with other chemicals in the plant’s content, it also stimulates body’s hormonal balance and improves female health by helping with headaches, PMS symptoms and maintaining breast tissues. Evening primrose is known in herbal medicine as astringent, anti-inflammatory, sedative, anti-oxidant, vasodilator and anti-thrombotic.
Topical applications and compresses based on evening primrose are known to be effective in such skin conditions as eczema, rosacea and acne. Also, medical research has shown that compresses used for rheumaic joints relieve their swelling, inflammation and redness. In a conducted study, mild diabetes patients with the nerve damage connected with their condition have reported improvement of such symptoms as tingling, loss of sensation, and numbness.
Used as a component in a variety of products and as individual supplement, the oil of the plant prevents nail cracking and maintains its health. In addition, rubbed in the sculp, it prevents and helps number of hair conditions.
Due to the ability to promote cell growth and fight inflammation, the fatty acids in evening primrose provide beneficial actions for he patients with multiple sclerosis. By minimizing inflammation, the evening primrose oil stops progression of this condition.
By stimulating blood flow, fatty acids are also effective in treating impotence helping to contribute to a better penile blood circulation. Herbalists suggest combining evening primrose products with ginkgo biloba and vitamin C.
Long term consumption of evening primrose oil results in general imrovement of the blood circulation, and thus prevents vessel damage with the consequent cholesterol plaque formation.
And finally, the astringent properties of evening primrose oil make it beneficial in fighting PMS and menopausal symptoms. By interfering with the inflammatory hormone prostaglandins, GLA easens crampings, headaches, breast pain and general weakness.
No major side effects have been associated with evening primrose oil, but it should not be taken by patients with epilepsy (as well as other seizure disorders), or schizophrenia.
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