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9 Health and Beauty Benefits of Evening Primrose Oil

Here's what you need to know about this all-natural cure-all and how you can use it to ease pesky symptoms and freshen up in ways you never knew you could.

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Understanding evening primrose oil

Though it sounds like it might be related to the ever-romantic and regal rose we all know and love, evening primrose is actually quite different. It’s a small, yellow wildflower found in North America, Europe, and parts of Asia that’s most sought-out for its oil. In fact, generations have been using primrose oil for centuries for its beauty and health benefits—some people even use it to manage diabetes, along with these other natural remedies. “Evening primrose oil is rich in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an essential fatty acid that has been used to treat everything, including female reproductive tissues, blood channels, the respiratory passages, and the nervous system,” explains Denise Baron, wellness educator and lifestyle expert with a background in Ayurveda. These days, you can find primrose oil in a variety of beauty products, as well as in supplement form. Here are some remarkable ways primrose oil can improve your life.

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Relief from skin conditions

Evening primrose oil might help relieve symptoms of notoriously difficult-to-treat and painful skin conditions, such as psoriasis and eczema. According to Maat van Uitert, essential oil expert and founder of FrugalChicken, the high omega-6 fatty acid content of primrose oil helps ease symptoms. If you have eczema and psoriasis, van Uitert recommends applying a combination of evening primrose oil with coconut oil topically every day, though it’s important to consult your doctor to ensure it won’t interfere with any medications you might be taking.

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Help reduce wrinkles

Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which is found in evening primrose oil, is known to have a multitude of skin benefits including smoothing wrinkles. “The potent level of antioxidants in evening primrose helps to neutralize free radicals, which protect the skin from oxidation in living tissue,” explains June Jacobs, CEO of the June Jacobs Spa Collection. “The inclusion of this nourishing ingredient in skin care is known to help with smoothing roughness, too.” Baron recommends applying evening primrose oil to your face and neck regularly and even taking primrose supplements twice a day for flawless, youthful looking skin.

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Slow hair loss

Studies have indicated that using evening primrose oil topically might help with hair loss. One study, by the University of Maryland, which gave patients who’d experienced significant hair loss primrose oil to take for seven months, found that the patients had significant hair regrowth by the end. “To get even more benefit, mix evening primrose oil with rosemary essential oil, which has also shown to help with hair loss and increase hair thickness,” says van Uitert. “Combine several drops of each oil with coconut oil and apply to the area of concern daily.”

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Heal nerve damage

Since evening primrose oil is rich in omega-6 essential fatty acids—which have some surprising health benefits—and gamma-linolenic acids, researchers have begun looking more deeply into the internal benefits of the supplement. One study, published by the peer-reviewed journal, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, even linked primrose oil to helping with nerve-crush injuries. “At the end of the studies, the injured rats showed significant improvement with nerve damage, and their reflexes were nearly identical to the healthy cohort,” van Uitert explains.

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Lessen symptoms of arthritis

Inflammation leads to loads of troubles, from diabetes to autoimmune diseases—in which the immune system attacks body tissues, mistaking them for dangerous invaders. Tamping down inflammation through diet with anti-inflammatory foods like these, and using anti-inflammatory substances like evening primrose oil can help immensely. Research suggests evening primrose oil may even be conducive in relieving the side effects of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disease. Adding an evening primrose oil supplement along with fish oil—another anti-inflammatory—into the diet of those suffering from inflammation-related diseases may go a long way in reducing some of the symptoms.

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Put hormones in balance

Thanks to its high levels of omega-6 fatty acids—a healthy fat that’s in short supply from food—evening primrose oil has proven useful in helping balance hormones. “For women experiencing symptoms of menopause, evening primrose oil can be used to balance hormones, along with a diet high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids,” says van Uitert. She recommends combining a drop of evening primrose oil along with fractionated coconut oil in a gel cap. Here are 10 more natural remedies for menopause.

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Diminish acne breakouts

For teens experiencing skin blemishes, using evening primrose oil both topically and internally might help alleviate symptoms. “To use topically on acne, combine one drop of melaleuca essential oil, one drop of evening primrose oil, and one drop of patchouli oil with one tablespoon of coconut oil,” says van Uitert. “Additionally, melaleuca (tea tree) oil has proven to help reduce acne because of its strong antibacterial properties, while patchouli is great for healthy skin.” For even more benefit, she recommends mixing a drop of evening primrose oil with fish oil in a vegetable-based gel cap to use internally. Don’t miss these 13 other home remedies for acne.

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Reduce breast pain

One significant finding about evening primrose oil will make expectant mothers happy. “Evening primrose oil might help reduce breast pain in pregnant women,” says van Uitert. One study, published in the Alternative Medicine Review, found this to be a side effect of mixing evening primrose oil with vitamin E. If you want to try it at home, van Uitert suggests combining the ingredients in a green smoothie. “You can also mix with coconut oil, but be sure to consult your obstetrician first and watch how much oil you use, as too much can cause stomach pain.”

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Ease PMS

If you’re one of the 75 percent of women who suffer from PMS during their childbearing years, you might want to consider taking an evening primrose oil supplement, as it may relieve the agitation associated with this pesky period syndrome. If your PMS seems more severe than your friends, watch for these monthly emotional swings may need treatment.

Van Uitert suggests combining evening primrose oil with geranium and using it topically or diffusing and inhaling the oils to experience their benefits. “This is a really easy hack to implement, and it will help you relax after an especially difficult or trying day,” she adds.

Jenn Sinrich
Jenn Sinrich is a freelance writer and editor with a passion for health, wellness and all things beauty. She has written for Women's Health, Shape, Self, Men's Health, Glamour and Healthline. Jenn holds a degree in journalism from Northeastern University, and she currently resides outside of Boston with her husband and two children. When she's not working, you can find her exercising, trying out new healthy recipes or exploring the city with her family.