Evening primrose oil has become an indispensable part of naturopathy. The oil is no longer used exclusively in creams for external application, but also as a dietary supplement in the form of capsules and tablets for internal treatment.
Evening primrose or Oenothera is a genus of plants with about 120 representatives, which originates from America. Predominantly, the oil is obtained from the seeds of the common evening primrose (Oenothera biennis). According to its name, the yellow flowers have the shape of a candle. Only at dusk they open within a few minutes and exude an intense fragrance. This attracts moths in particular. The plant continues to bloom until noon the following day. As soon as the evening primrose has died, the seed chambers open and distribute hundreds of tiny seeds from which the valuable oil is extracted.
To produce evening primrose oil, the seeds are dried, as they must not have more than 9% water content. Then they are cold pressed without the addition of heat. For reasons of time and cost, processes with the addition of heat and various chemicals are also currently used, but valuable active ingredients are lost in the process. Evening primrose oil quickly becomes rancid after a bottle is opened and should be consumed within 3 months, while a sealed container can still be used for 1 year. In capsule form, storage is greatly simplified.
Evening primrose oil is rich in unsaturated fatty acids, which make up about 80% of the substance. The human body depends on these substances, but cannot produce them itself, but obtains them from food, in which the concentration is far from being so high. Linoleic acid is one of the most important unsaturated fatty acids in oil. It forms gamma-linolenic acid through chemical processes in the body, which is already present in evening primrose oil in a converted form. It helps the body produce prostaglandin E1, a hormone-like substance involved in a variety of metabolic processes. For example, the tissue hormone lowers cholesterol levels, activates T lymphocytes, which are essential for immune defense, supports hormonal balance and has a healing effect on skin inflammations. If the conversion process of linoleic acid to gamma-linolenic acid is disturbed in the body due to smoking, alcohol, stress or lack of exercise, the door is opened to skin inflammations, which, however, respond well to therapy with evening primrose oil.
The oil can be applied in two ways: External application as an oil or as a component of a cream helps primarily with skin irritations and inflammations. A broader range of applications results from the use of evening primrose oil as a dietary supplement, in the form of tablets or capsules. Since 10 to 20% of people cannot form delta-6-desaturase, an enzyme needed in the conversion of linoleic acid into gamma-linolenic acid, this deficiency can be remedied by the internal supply of evening primrose oil. Diseases such as neurodermatitis and psoriasis are alleviated. In doing so, evening primrose oil actively combats the cause, not just the symptoms of the disease. The internal application with capsules and tablets treats likewise the rheumatism disease pictures polyarthritis and Morbus Bechterew. Preventive therapies with evening primrose oil capsules against pollen allergies and premenstrual syndrome are usual in naturopathic practices for a long time. The application takes place highly dosed over a period of at least 8 weeks, since the effect sets in only gradually.
In addition, from the oil of evening primrose, conjugated linoleic acid is obtained. Therefore, its extracts are in demand in the field of food supplements and cosmetics.