While Evening Primrose oil is considered to be suitable for all skin types, it is thought to be particularly beneficial for aging, inflamed or sensitive skin.  On the other hand, it can oxidize easily which means that it has a short shelf life.  This is quite a sticky oil, so when using it in topical applications it is recommended that it only be added to a formulation in a 10 – 30% ratio.  Products containing Evening Primrose would benefit from having a preservative added.  The article on Skin Care will give you more information on what other essential oils and carriers can be used for the different skin types.

Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis)

Family: Onagraceae

Description:  An annual or biennial, which grows to a height of 1 to 3 meters.  It has lanceolate leaves which are produced in a tight rosette the first year and then spiral out on the stem the second year.  Its yellow, hermaphrodite, flowers bloom from late spring to late summer.  The blooms burst open in the evening and only last until noon the next day.  The following evening the next circle of flowers blooms and so they progress toward the tip of the stem. The fruit is a 4 cm dry pod and contains numerous minute seed.

History Folklore: In the early 17th Century the plant was introduced into Europe, as an ornamental botanical plant.  While its possible medicinal and culinary uses may only have been discovered in Europe around a 100 years later, there is evidence that indigenous tribes in North America used the plant as a food and medicinal crop for hundreds of years.  Almost all parts of the plant are edible and medically or cosmetically applicable.

Garden cultivation:  They can grow almost anywhere.  The plant prefers sunny and arid places with loamy soil and occurs below 700 meters above sea level.  Seeds can be sown the first half of April (spring seeds), or from mid-July to mid-August (autumn seeds).

Harvest: Harvest is approximately 75 – 80 days, for the spring seeds or 100 days, for the autumn seeds, after flowering

Carrier Oil: The seed produces between 14 – 25% of oil which is rich in unsaturated fatty acids.  This makes the oil more reactive and less stable than other carrier oils.  This yellow carrier oil will oxidize on exposure to air and light. The oil is obtained through cold pressing the seeds.

Shelf Life: Short shelf life of 6 – 8 months.

Cautions:  Oral intake of the oil for long periods of time is not recommended.  According to Bartram’s it should not be given in epilepsy.

Action: Considered to have anticoagulant, nutritive, demulcent, anti-eczema properties.  It may reduce blood clotting time, which may be of value for thrombosis.

Uses:  Medicinal, Pharmaceutical, and Cosmetic: for the treatment of atopic eczema, mastalgia, premenstrual syndrome.   Used topically for dry scaly skin, dandruff conditions, and may be helpful for psoriasis and eczema.  May accelerate wound healing.  Increasingly seen in cosmetic products, including hand lotions, soaps, and shampoos.  Can be used in ant wrinkle preparations at levels of around 20%.
Health Food/Herb Tea: Capsulated seed oil products available.  Dietary supplement for the addition of essential fatty acids to the diet.
Traditional Medicine:  Whole plant infusion as an astringent, sedative, antispasmodic in asthmatic coughs, gastrointestinal disorders, whooping cough; Poultice to enhance wound healing.
Commercial Preparations: Seed oil, seed oil capsules with GLA and vitamin E.

Regulatory Status:
In the UK approved therapeutic agent for the treatment of atopic eczema.
In Canada, a dietary supplement for increased essential fatty acidy intake.
In the USA, NCCIH says: there’s not enough evidence to support the use of evening primrose oil for any health condition. According to a comprehensive 2013 evaluation of the evidence, evening primrose oil, taken orally (by mouth), is not helpful for relieving symptoms of eczema.  Most studies of evening primrose oil for PMS have not found it to be helpful.  Studies of evening primrose oil for breast pain have had conflicting results.  A small amount of evidence suggests that evening primrose oil might be helpful for diabetic neuropathy (nerve problems caused by diabetes).  They also say: Evening primrose oil is probably safe for most people when taken for short periods of time. There can be mild side effects, such as stomach upset and headache. The safety of long-term use of evening primrose oil has not been established.  Evening primrose oil may increase the risk of some complications of pregnancy. Talk with your health care provider if you’re considering using evening primrose oil during pregnancy. Evening primrose oil may increase bleeding in people who are taking the anticoagulant (blood thinning) medication warfarin (Coumadin).

You will find other Carrier oils described in the Articles Archives as well as in the Blog Carrier Archive

Bartram’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, Thomas Bartram, 1995,1998
Jan Kusmirek, Liquid Sunshine, Vegetable Oils for Aromatherapy, 2002
Leung and Foster, Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics, 1996
Susan M Parker, Power of the Seed, Your guide to oils for health & beauty, 2014
Len Price, Carrier Oils for Aromatherapy and Massage, 1999