Most people have heard of Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) oil – particularly if you’re a woman experiencing the “change of life”. The shiny golden capsules that almost appear to beam from beyond their bottle are well-known the treatment of menopause and pre-menstrual symptoms but the health benefits of evening primrose don’t end there.
Despite its lauded impacts the Evening Primrose is no diva with its humble European origins associated with the cotton trade. This delightful little sun cup still grows wild in UK ports as a reminder of its stowaway arrival, its seeds hidden in soil ballasts on board trading vessels and dumped unceremoniously upon their arrival.
Botanists first brought the plant from Virginia to Europe in 1614 as a botanical curiosity where its oil was studied and extracted for research and medicinal use.
Flowering in the evenings from late spring through late summer, the Evening Primrose is a biennial plant indigenous to North and South America. Nowadays it is widespread throughout Europe and parts of Asia and has a long history of food and medicinal uses.
With an awe-inspiring array of health benefits and naming conventions including the King’s Cure-all, the Evening Star, Tree Primrose, Sundrop, Fever Plant and Night Willow-herb, the leaves, roots and stem of the Evening Primrose plant were historically used by the native American Indians for their healing effect on bruises, skin irritations, asthma and were even brewed to make a cough medicine.
Evening Primrose Oil is extracted from the seeds of the yellow flower and is rich in omega-6 essential fatty acids (which is made up of 60-85% linoleic acid, 5-12% oleic acid and gamma-linoleic acid, 2-4% stearic acid and 4-10% palmitic acid). Given
Omega 6 fatty acids can’t be manufactured naturally in the body, daily requirements can be met by absorbing the oil through food or the skin.
Research shows that Omega-6 essential fatty acid can help regulate prostaglandins, cytokines and leukotrienes which when triggered in the immune system can create an inflammatory response. As a result, Evening Primrose Oil with its high Omega-6 essential fatty acid content has been used orally as a maintenance treatment for sufferers of chronic inflammatory conditions like ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, eczema and atopic dermatitis. In supplements that also contain gamma-linoleic acid the oil has also been found to assist inflammation in kidney disease as a result of diabetes.
When hydrogen is added to Evening Primrose Oil, this creates Hydrogenated Evening Primrose Oil which is used commonly used in cosmetics and personal care products as an emollient to soften and smooth the skin. It is also used as an emulsion stabiliser. The oil is also powerful in creating a skin barrier and is therefore particularly useful for people with dry and problem skin and atopic dermatitis. It can prevent skin inflammation and maintain hydration by reducing moisture loss.
This post appeared first in the Bee Loved Skincare blog.