Evening primrose is a plant found across most of North America and parts of South America, and has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years by Native Americans. Primarily used for respiratory infections, stomachaches, and hemorrhoids, evening primrose essential oil has now become popular for treating menopausal hot flashes.
The wildflower is characterized by a circle of leaves that grow at ground level. It blooms during the summer, and often has bright yellow petals, though it can come in other colors. Evening primrose remedies are usually made from its essential oil, which is extracted from the seeds.
How should you take Evening Primrose Oil for Menopause?
Evening primrose oil contains a high concentration of a fatty acid called GLA and it is this fatty acid that is largely responsible for the remarkable healing properties of the plant. In fact, evening primrose contains one of the highest concentrations known of this important substance and only a few other plants contain it at all.
This makes it an important medicinal herb, and as studies continue, the list of benefits will likely become much longer. The gamma-linoleic acid, linoleic acid and other nutrients in this oil are essential for cell structure and improve the elasticity of the skin. These fatty acids also help to regulate hormones and improve nerve function aiding problems ranging from PMS to migraine headaches. The hormone balancing effect contributes to healthy breast tissue.
How does Evening Primrose help treat Menopause?
Evening primrose oil has been part of herbal medicine for hundreds of years, recommended by practitioners for many reasons, including relief from hot flashes that arise just before and during menopause. Research into the usefulness of the oil for this purpose has had mixed results.
A study published in the December 2009 issue of “American Family Physician” reviewed a number of trials involving its use and reported inconclusive results, stating that most studies provided only preliminary findings and were generally inconclusive.
A later study published in the November 2013 issue of “Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics” included 56 menopausal subjects who took either evening primrose oil or a placebo for six weeks. Women who consumed the oil reported hot flashes of lessened severity, compared to the placebo group, leading the authors to conclude that the oil had some positive benefit.
By interfering with the production of inflammatory prostaglandins released during menstruation, the GLA in evening primrose oil can help to lessen menstrual cramps. It may also minimise premenstrual breast tenderness, irritable bowel flare-ups, and carbohydrate cravings, and help to control endometriosis-associated inflammation.
Many PMS sufferers are found to have unusually low levels of GLA in their systems, which is why supplements might help so much. In women with fibrocystic breasts, the oil’s essential fatty acids can minimise breast inflammation and promote the absorption of iodine; a mineral that can be present in abnormally low levels in women with this condition. In menopause, it is widely reported that evening primrose oil reduces hot flushes and increases feelings of well-being.