Monday, September 8, 2008

Evening primrose oil

(Disclaimer: The following post is not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your doctor if you are not well.)

I know that I am only sweet 16. However, to be getting pimples at this age is certainly frustrating especially when I have just been kissed on the cheek by a precocious little boy.

A good friend recommended that I take Evening Primrose Oil (“EPO”). Goodness me! I have stopped taking EPO for many years. I recall vaguely that EPO is good for regulating one’s body system and one of the benefits of consuming EPO is a clear complexion. Well, when one is desperate to have flawless skin again, one will resort to ways and means to achieve it. Have you ever heard of ground pearl powder? It is reputed to aid in flawless completion. However, due to the content, I recall that it was at one stage banned. I do not know whether the ban is still in force.

Not being one to waste time on such matters, I promptly visited a GNC outlet near my office during lunchtime today. Praise be! They are having a promotion for EPO. The best words that a Singaporean loves is “buy 1, get 1 free”! No prizes for guessing how many bottles of EPO I walked out of GNC with today. Did I hear you say “50”? Goodness me! Of course not. I bought 2 bottles for the price of 1 bottle.

Lest it be said that I consume supplements without understanding what they are for, I decided to refresh my memory about EPO.

The oil in EPO is actually the seed oil from the evening primrose. Evening primrose is the common name for “Oenothera”. The evening primrose is a flowering plant, native to North America and South America. The evening primrose is a plant of the willow family whose flowers open in the evening. The plant flowers from June to mid August.

The species vary in size from small alpine plants 10 cm tall to vigorous lowland species growing to 3 m. It has beautiful blossoms. The leaves form a basal rosette at ground level and spiral up to the flowering stems; the leaves are deeply lobed.

The plant blooms all throughout the summer, but each blossom lasts only one day. It blooms as the sun sets and then withers in the sunlight, hence the name "evening primrose", and are yellow in most species but white, purple, pink or red in a few. There are four petals. One of the most distinctive features of the flower is the stigma with four branches, forming an X shape.

The seeds are about 5 cm long and are crushed to manufacture the oil that is used in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

Pollination of the evening primrose is by moths and bees. The seeds ripen from late summer to fall.

In the wild, evening primrose acts as a primary colonizer, quickly appearing wherever a patch of bare, undisturbed ground may be found. It tends to be found in poorer environments such as dunes, roadsides, railway embankments and wasteland.

The young roots of the evening primrose can be eaten like a vegetable (it has a peppery flavour), or the shoots can be eaten as a salad. The whole plant can be used to prepare an infusion with astringent and sedative properties. It is considered to be effective in healing asthmatic coughs, gastrointestinal disorders and as a sedative pain-killer. Poultices containing evening primrose were at one time used to ease bruises and speed wound healing.

Evening Primroses are very popular ornamental plants in gardens. For propagation, the seeds can be sown in situ from late spring to early summer. The plant will grow successfully in fertile soils if competing species are kept at bay. Evening primrose species can be planted in any ordinary, dry, well-drained garden soil in an open site that is sunny to partly shady. They are fairly drought-resistant.

The active ingredient in EPO is an Essential Fatty Acid called Gamma Linolenic Acid (“GLA”). Essential Fatty Acids are vital for the proper functioning of the body, but cannot be manufactured by it. They are therefore obtained solely through diet. Fatty acids are found in every cell in the body. The key Essential Fatty Acid is cis-Linoleic Acid. It is used either as a source of energy, for tissue formation and repair or (most importantly), it is converted to GLA as a precursor to prostaglandins.

The mature seeds of the evening primrose contain approximately 7% to 10% gamma-linolenic acid, a rare essential fatty acid. EPO is extracted from the seeds of the evening primrose. The oil is usually put into capsules for use. The seed oil is used to reduce the pains of premenstrual stress syndrome. EPO contains an omega-6 essential fatty acid, GLA, which is believed to be the active ingredient. EPO has been studied in a wide variety of disorders, particularly those affected by metabolic products of essential fatty acids. EPO is converted to a hormone-like substance called prostaglandin E1 which has anti-inflammatory properties and may also act as a blood thinner and blood vessel dilator. The anti-inflammatory properties may help people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.

We normally obtain GLA from our diet through eating dairy products, vegetable oils and products like soya which contain Linolenic Acid. This is broken down into GLA. Corn oil contains GLA, but due to its particular molecular structure, it cannot be utilised in the same way as EPO. Safflower and Sunflower oils contain Linolenic Acid, but not GLA.

The only other source of importance is human breast milk. However, once children who are breast fed from the neo natal stage are weaned, they often develop eczematous skin conditions. This is because their body is not able to convert from Linolenic Acid to GLA.

Some people seem to have an inability of convert Essential Fatty Acids to GLA as successfully as others. Certain factors can also block the conversion process such as:-
(a) too much saturated fat in the diet
(b) high levels of cholesterol
(c) excess alcohol
(d) stress
(e) diabetes
(f) ageing
(g) atopy (an inherited susceptibility of certain diseases)

When the conversion process of Fatty Acids to GLA does not occur, prostaglandins are not produces. One of several medical conditions may then occur. Supplementing the diet with EPO provides the body directly with biologically active GLA and ensures a supply of cis-Linolenic acid.

There are several studies of EPO taken by mouth for eczema. EPO is approved for skin disorders in some countries. EPO has been used since the 1930s for eczema (a condition in which the skin becomes inflamed, itchy, or scaly because of allergies or other irritation). EPO may have modest benefits for eczema.

Research has shown that EPO may help alleviate conditions affecting women's health, such as breast pain associated with the menstrual cycle, bloating, depression, cramps, menopausal symptoms and premenstrual syndrome, although some studies have shown that EPO does not appear to affect menopausal symptoms. There have been instances where women have seen these symptoms lessen or disappear altogether after they started supplementation with EPO.

EPO is believed to lower cholesterol, helps to alleviate premenstrual syndrome and aids in the production of fertile quality cervical fluid. EPO is also believed to helps the body to produce more fertile quality cervical fluid also known as "egg white cervical mucus." Fertile cervical fluid is thin, watery, clear and "stretchy" and easily aids the sperm to swim through the uterus and into the fallopian tube, and to the egg. If there is a lack in this type of cervical fluid, it can impede and/or prevent fertilization. Some women are very dry, and have problems in producing an adequate amount of fertile quality cervical fluid. Drinking a lot of water and taking the EPO may help in the production of fertile cervical fluid. Also, this type of fluid helps the sperm to stay alive for up to five days inside the fallopian tube, thus enabling conception to happen even if the couple does not have intercourse again by the time ovulation occurs. EPO should only be taken from menstruation to ovulation because EPO may cause uterine contractions in pregnancy. The dosage taken should be 1500mg to 3000mg per day.

More recently, EPO has been used for other conditions involving inflammation, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Other conditions for which EPO is used include cancer and diabetes.

Research also indicates that EPO could benefit sufferers of chronic fatigue syndrome, but little is understood about chronic fatigue syndrome and further studies are needed.

EPO is taken in relatively small doses and few adverse effects have been reported from taking the supplement. EPO is well tolerated by most people. It is not likely to have negative consequences on a person’s health, but it also may not be the best choice of herbal supplements for people. Mild side effects like gastrointestinal upset, headache, indigestion, nausea, soft stools. stomach pain and diarrhoea are generally transient. If a person taking EPO experiences these beyond the third day of taking the supplement, they should stop taking it and consult with a physician.

Some people should not take EPO. No studies exist as to its safety among pregnant or nursing women. Information from callers to the Epilepsy Helpline suggests that taking EPO may make people with epilepsy more likely to experience seizures. EPO contains gamma-linolenic acid, a fatty acid which is thought to stimulate the production of a hormone-like compound called prostaglandin. Prostaglandin can lower a person's epileptic seizure threshold, making them more likely to have seizure. A number of people have contacted Epilepsy Action to report that their seizures have increased or returned after taking EPO. Further, EPO is contraindicated for those who take medications to treat schizophrenia. EPO should also be used with caution in people taking phenothiazines (antipsychotic drugs) because the combination of the two could trigger seizures, even in someone without a past history of epilepsy.

EPO is also commonly available in preparations such as bath lotion and hand cream. Because the amount of EPO in these products is too small to have an effect on the brain, they should not be a problem for people with epilepsy.

The body becomes depleted of GLA as we age, and also as we consume excessive amounts of trans-fatty acids, saturated fats and food additives. Supplementing with GLA can help restore the youthfulness of skin and hair as well as help improve general well-being.

(1) Wikipedia
(3) The Fertility Shop
(4) National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
(5) Epilepsy Helpline
(9) Wisegeek
(10) Natural herbs guide


wesirelander said...

ONLY SWEET SIXTEEN?!!! DENIAL!!!! Hey Auntie! Wakey wakey!! Anyway, you took quite awhile to get the EPO, you actually wasted quite a bit of time.

I think pearl powder is still allowed? Need to check though. I don't need it so never bothered to check *shows off clear skin*

Maybe taking bird's nest will may wanna consider 1 tablespoon in the morning & 1 tablespoon at night before bed.

Verytiki said...

I've just completed my EP. Will get a few bottles for Jo & myself :) I did ask ET to try taking EP for improving his dry and problem skin but he refused reason being "it's for women" :P

Doesn't know that EP helps in fertilization. I'll ask my colleague to swallow a bottle a day cos she is trying hard for baby haha..

April said...

I have been using a primrose oil supplement which I bought from Goldshield and It brings me a lot of relief during my premenstrual cycle.

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