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Evening Primrose: Oenothera Biennis, King's-cure-all, Tree Primrose, Sun Drop, Night Willow, Fever Plant

Botany: 

The Evening Primrose grows best in well-drained soil and full sun.  It is very resistant to drought and heat, and requires very little maintenance.  It is sometimes considered a weed because it can grow wild and comes back each year.  The plant blooms from June-September and grows 2-5 feet tall, with yellow flowers.  The flowers only bloom in the evening and close in the morning the next day.  Red seeds are located at the top of each plant.

Chemistry: 

The active agent is gamma-linolenic acid, which is an essential fatty acid.  The gamma-linolenic acid is converted into prostaglandin in the body.  Prostaglandin’s serve many different functions in the body, including modulation of blood pressure, contraction and relaxation of smooth muscle, dilation and constriction of blood vessels, and modulation of inflammation.

Fun Fact: 

During World War II, the seeds of the evening primrose were roasted and used as a coffee substitute because of food rationing. 

History: 

Evening Primrose was first used by Native Americans as a poultice to speed wound healing and as an infusion for its astringent and sedative properties.  Cherokee Indians heated the plant’s root and applied it to hemorrhoids, while the Iroquois used it as a salve for skin problems.  It was then introduced to Europeans in the 17th century.  Europeans used it for a wide array of ailments, including asthma, psoriasis, eczema, whooping cough, premenstrual syndrome, Raynaud’s Disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and mastalgia.

 

Uses/Pharmacology:

Evening Primrose is a very popular herbal supplement and it has been sold commercially since the 1970’s.  All parts of the plant are safe to consume, however people with epilepsy or who are prone to seizures should not use Evening Primrose.  Evening Primrose Oil is obtained from the red seeds of the plant and in its most common form, but it is also sold as capsules and tablets.  Today the use of Evening Primrose is similar to the historical uses of the plant.  It is currently being used for arthritis, skin disorders, allergies, asthma, premenstrual syndrome, multiple sclerosis, and depression.  There is even new research out that the plants can help recovering alcoholics.  Evening Primrose Oil can also help normal liver function resume quicker and also lessen withdrawal symptoms. 

Dosing/Recipes: 

For sunburns and eczema, a topical lotion can be made with one part the diced plant to four parts of heated petroleum jelly.  Another recipe for the seeds is similar to cooking pumpkin seeds.  The Evening Primrose seeds can be roasted for 15-20 min. at 350 degrees and then used in bread, on a salad, or sprinkled like pepper over many dishes. 

Contraindications/Interactions/Adverse Reactions:

References Cited:

DerMarderosian, Ara. Guide to Popular Natural Products. Facts and Comparisons 1999; St.

Louis, Missouri.

Duke, James. Dr. Duke’s Essential Herbs. Rodal Inc. 1999. Page 97.

Ferrow, CW. Professionals Handbook of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 3rd Ed.

Lippincott Williams and Wilkin 2004; Philadelphia. Page 672.

Pierce, Andrea. The American Pharmaceutical Association Practical Guide to Natural Medicines. Stonesong Press Inc. 1999; New York.

Researched By: Liz Meyers