Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis)
Evening Primrose is an attractive leafy plant that grows 4 feet or more in height. The leaves have a light lemon scent. The plant is topped by creamy yellow flowers that bloom at night, attracting moths with their sweet perfume. Found all over the world, it grows happily along roads, fields and dry areas. The entire plant is edible and provides omega-6 fatty acids. The oil from the plant, for which it is best known, is pressed from the seeds. For some time this plant has also been known as the "King's Cure-all".
Key Medicinal Uses
Internally Evening primrose oil has been used to reduce the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure by lowering cholesterol and providing omega-6 fatty acids to the body. It has been used to treat PMS symptoms and to soften the cervix prior to labor for pregnant women. It has also been used to treat cystic breast disease. There are some preliminary studies that show it may be helpful with Reynaud's syndrome. The bark and leaves can be used to treat gastrointestinal disorders, whooping cough and asthma.
Externally Several studies have been done on the effects of evening primrose oil on eczema. While some showed improvement after a few weeks, others did not fully prove its efficacy without some doubts for this ailment.
Whole plant Seeds are pressed for the oil. Leaves, flowers, roots and seedpods can be eaten. All but the flowers are usually cooked. The whole plant can be harvested in the fall of the second year and dried. The bark of the flower stems and leaves are astringent and sedative.
Side effects may include indigestion, headache, soft stools and nausea. If you notice these symptoms, stop taking this herbal remedy.
Preparation and Dosage
Commercial preparations are the most commonly used form of evening primrose. Take the oil capsules by mouth as directed on the package. Sometimes the oil is placed directly on the cervix to prepare it for labor in the last weeks of pregnancy.