Last updated: September 11, 2020

How we pick our products

14Products analyzed

27Hours invested

9Studies researched

78Comments collected

Evening primrose oil has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. It’s made from a plant called the Evening Primrose, or evening-star, and is known to soothe symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, relieve menopausal symptoms and help treat skin conditions. Are you already familiar with evening primrose oil? Have you ever tried using it? The benefits may come as a surprise to you, so keep reading!

Many of the benefits from evening primrose oil are supported by scientific evidence, while others are being studied to this day. This oil, which was once mostly found as a home remedy, is now being used by doctors for conventional medicine, often in the dermatological field.

Key Facts

  • Evening primrose oil is extracted from seeds of the evening primrose plant, which is also known by its scientific name Oenothera biennis. These seeds also provide proteins, minerals and fiber.  However, the oil is most useful for its medicinal use, since it contains two essential omega-6 fatty acids: linoleic acid and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).
  • Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) helps with the treatment of dermatological issues, relieves pain linked to premenstrual syndrome and soothes symptoms from rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Evening primrose oil can be consumed in its pure form or as capsules. The oil has both internal and external uses: it can be applied topically, and is also used as part of creams, shampoos and special soaps.

Our Selection: The Best Evening Primrose Oil on the Market

People are becoming increasingly interested in using evening primrose oil as one way to improve their general health and wellbeing. These days, there are many different brands selling primrose oil capsules and oils, but the quality is not always sufficient, so you should choose carefully. We’ve selected some of the best evening primrose oil supplements available on the market, to help you get started.

The Best Evening Primrose Oil Capsules

Sport Research makes these bestselling, high potency evening primrose oil liquid softgels. Each softgel contains 1300mg of cold-pressed evening primrose oil and 10% GLA. The gels are non-GMO, gluten free, and made without artificial colorings, stearates or titanium dioxide.

Take one softgel daily with food to improve your general well-being, support a balanced immune response and maintain healthy skin. If for any reason you don’t get the results you hoped for, this product comes with a 90 day satisfaction guarantee. Choose from two affordable sizes: 120 count or 240 count.

The Best Evening Primrose Oil for Dry Skin

If your skin is in need of nourishment and protection, look no further. This 100% pure evening primrose moisturizing oil is used by herbal practitioners for a range of skin issues such as dryness and acne. Each 1 ml of oil contains between 80 and 100 mg of GLA, the essential fatty acid that helps soothe healthy skin cells. About 1/8 of a teaspoon of this oil can be considered equal to one 500 mg softgel.

This product is derived from evening primrose seeds, and the oil is pressed at a low temperature in order to produce a pure, natural, virgin oil that you can trust. No fillers, solvents or preservatives are found in this product. Store the oil in a cool, dry and dark location, and be sure to refrigerate it after opening to maintain freshness.

The Best Evening Primrose Oil for Vegans

While most capsules are made with gelatin, these capsules from Deva Vegan Vitamins are made with plant cellulose, making them suitable for vegans. Each serving of two capsules contains 1000 mg of a high-quality evening primrose oil that is organic, cold-pressed and unrefined. Each serving also provides 85 mg of gamma-lonlenic acid (GLA), 650 mg of linoleic acid (omega-6) and 60 mg of oleic acid (omega-9).

Besides being vegan, this product is also free of yeast, soy, wheat, starch, gluten, sugar, dairy, fish and artificial colors! If that wasn’t enough, one bottle of 90 capsules is also under $10, making it a great option for anyone on a tight budget.

The Best Evening Primrose Oil Blend

Nordic Naturals makes this unique blend of omega fatty acids to support a woman’s unique hormonal needs and healthy skin. Omega Woman contains 120 capsules, each with 830 mg of nutrients, including 500 mg of omega-3 from fish oil and 76 mg of the GLA found in evening primrose oil. They also have a pleasant lemon flavor that customers love.

Nordic Naturals formulas are made in true triglyceride form in order to guarantee the best absorption and results. The product is non-GMO verified and purity tested.

Buyer’s Guide: Everything You Should Know About Evening Primrose Oil

Evening primrose oil is well known for its amazing ability to relieve symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome and menopause. It can also benefit men. Still, even though evening primrose oil is generally good for our health, it’s important not to go over the recommended daily dose. Why? Below, we’ll answer that question and many more.

beautiful young woman outdoor enjoy nature

Evening primrose oil is a great supplement to boost your well-being.
(Source: Subbotina: 20934468/ 123rf.com)

What exactly is evening primrose oil?

Evening primrose oil is a vegetable-based oil that comes from the seed of the Oenothera biennas plant. The seeds contain between 15 and 20% fats, including the essential omega-6 fatty acids linoleic acid and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). Evening primrose oil is extracted from the seed using pressure.

In an ideal situation, the extraction is done through a cold pressing process to maintain the nutritional and medicinal properties of the natural seed. Extraction that uses high temperatures or solvents can impact the quality of the omega-6 fatty acids and cause the oil to lose many of its best properties.

Evening primrose oil in a glass bowl on a dark background

Evening primrose oil is a natural product that gynecologists and dermatologists recommend for the treatment of various symptoms.
(Source: Madeleinsteinback: 88288875/ 123rf.com)

 What is gamma-linolenic acid (GLA)?

Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is an essential omega-6 fatty acid. In this case, essential means that it isn’t produced naturally by the human body and therefore must be obtained via your diet, just like the well-known omega-3 fatty acids. GLA is key to the majority of the medicinal benefits that come from evening primrose oil.

In particular, this omega-6 fatty acid is crucial for the production of prostaglandins and leukotrienes, which are anti-inflammatory substances. GLA is also found in borage, hemp and blackcurrant oils.

Flowering evening primrose

The evening primrose flower offers a number of medicinal properties.
(Source: Prazis: 57408873/ 123rf.com)

Why do some people call evening primrose oil “women’s oil”?

Evening primrose oil has been shown to help with several medical issues related to women’s health. It also moisturizes the skin and improves its appearance, both when taken orally or used topically. Furthermore, this supplement can help restore nail and hair structure. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) helps with:

  • Easing hot flashes, changes in mood, vaginal dryness and skin fragility that may take place during menopause.
  • Relieving pain and fluid retention linked to premenstrual syndrome. Specifically, it can soothe mastalgia (breast pain).
  • Preventing osteoporosis (an illness more common in women than men). It supports bone mineralization and limits the occurrence of bone fractures.
  • Lessens pain, inflammation and stiffness caused by rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease causing the body’s immune system to attack its own tissue, including joints. This condition is more common in women at a ratio of 2-3 to 1.
  • Boosting hydration and elasticity of skin, and reducing the appearance of wrinkles. Vitamin E, which is often added to evening primrose oil supplements, also contributes to slowing signs of aging in skin. Evening primrose oil used with massage can reduce the appearance of stretch marks.
Dr. Josh AxeCertified Doctor of Natural Medicine

“Evening primrose oil can reduce symptoms associated with PMS, such as breast tenderness, bloating and headaches. During menopause, it can help balance hormones and improve unwanted menopause symptoms”

What are the other benefits of evening primrose oil?

Evening primrose oil can also help those suffering from the following:

  • Eczema: Eczema describes inflammation of the skin. Usually, eczema is also characterized by dryness, peeling, itching and rashes.
  • Atopic dermatitis: This is a very common childhood disease that occurs alongside eczema. It causes inflammation, itching and redness. Taking evening primrose oil supplements can reduce the antihistamine dose needed for managing the symptoms of this condition.
  • Diabetic neuropathy: Diabetes can harm the nerves and impact the transmission of nerve impulses, causing numbness, weakness and pain, often in the feet and legs. The GLA in evening primrose oil can reduce such symptoms.
  • Raynaud’s disease: One symptom of this condition is that the fingers and toes are especially sensitive to cold. Taking evening primrose oil, as well as massaging with the oil, can relieve pain and limit the sensation of numbness.
  • Other conditions: Evening primrose oil is also a good option for anyone who suffers from acne, scleroderma, ulcerative colitis, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), benign prostatic hyperplasia, asthma and prostate cancer.
Woman using hot water bottle

Evening primrose oil can help relieve stomach cramps.
(Source: Grinvalds: 1000801078/ 123rf.com)

When is best to take evening primrose oil supplements?

It’s not crucial that you take evening primrose oil or capsules at a specific time of day. Nonetheless, it’s always a good idea to take the capsules with meals. The oil can be consumed on an empty stomach, on its own or mixed with juice.

What is the recommended dose for evening primrose oil and capsules?

The dosage of evening primrose oil capsules can vary widely depending on the concentration found with each brand. In general, manufacturers’ suggest taking 1 to 3 capsules each day. For oil, the suggested dosage is one half to one teaspoon per day.

For those with cyclic mastalgia, 1 teaspoon of evening primrose oil per day is advised, whereas 1 ½ teaspoons each day is suggested for those with diabetic neuropathy. Always consult your doctor before using evening primrose oil for a medical condition.

A bottle of evening primrose oil with fresh evening primrose flo

Evening primrose oil is often referred to as “the women’s oil.”
(Source: Madeleinesteinbach: 111028379/ 123rf.com)

How long will it take to see the benefits of evening primrose oil?

This can vary widely, from just a couple weeks to about 6 months. It depends on the dosage you take, and how your body reacts to the product. Menopausal women who take evening primrose oil for their symptoms usually see positive effects after one month of use. For cases of rheumatoid arthritis, meanwhile, it may take up to 6 months for a significant improvement to be seen.

Can you take too much evening primrose oil?

For ideal cardiovascular health, it’s crucial to maintain a proper balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The best ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is 5:1, which means we should consume 5 times more omega 3 (fish, chia, nuts, flax) than omega-6 (evening primrose oil, borage, hemp, sunflower, corn, soy).

Any guess what the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio is for most people? From 1:25 to 1:50. So that shows that we consume a lot more omega-6 than omega-3. This has an inflammatory impact that can contribute to heart disease and atherosclerosis.

Can the fatty acids in evening primrose oil replace those found in cod liver oil?

No, you can’t swap these oils for one another. Cod liver oil offers mostly omega-3 fatty acids, while evening primrose oil provides omega-6 fatty acids. Both omega-3 and omega-6 are crucial for our health but can’t be produced by the human body. They need to be consumed through food or supplements.

Omega-3 is especially beneficial for heart health and also functions to lower cholesterol. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an omega-6 fatty acid present in evening primrose oil, has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Evening primrose oil and cod liver oil have some shared health benefits, and some important differences:

If I want I should take
To ward off heart disease and boost heart health Cod liver oil
To improve vision and prevent eye disease Cod liver oil
To treat rheumatoid arthritis and other joint disorders (such as arthritis and osteoarthritis) Evening primrose oil or cod liver oil
To help with skin appearance Evening primrose oil (for top results, although cod liver oil also promotes healthy skin)
To lessen breast pain (mastalgia) and other premenstrual syndrome symptoms Evening primrose oil
To lower blood cholesterol Cod liver oil
To mitigate the symptoms of menopause Evening primrose oil
To soothe eczema (inflammation), dryness and peeling of the skin Evening primrose oil
To prevent osteoporosis Evening primrose oil or cod liver oil

Are there any restrictions regarding evening primrose oil supplementation?

Evening primrose oil is a very safe supplement when taken in the recommended doses. Consuming excessive quantities could lead to diarrhea, flatulence and bloating. Anyone who is undergoing treatment for a medical condition or who takes a regular prescription medication should speak with their doctor prior to taking evening primrose supplements.

It is often the case that evening primrose oil is used in unison with treatment for an illness. In these cases, it’s usually the doctor who determines which dosage the patient should take. Anyone in the following circumstances should avoid evening primrose oil supplements and capsules:

  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Children (unless under supervision of a doctor)
  • Anyone taking anti-convulsive medication
  • People taking anticoagulants, blood thinners or anti-platelets
  • Anyone who’s going to have surgery involving anesthetic (stop taking evening primrose oil supplements at least 2 weeks prior to surgery)
  • Epileptics taking phenothiazines

Can evening primrose oil taken orally still improve skin?

Evening primrose oil is often used topically to moisturize the skin, improve the appearance of any lines and soothe dry skin. All of these benefits also come from taking evening primrose oil orally. Additionally, gamma-linolenic acid reduces inflammation, which is why evening primrose oil is commonly used in the treatment of skin-related issues like eczema and dermatitis.

Professor Harry KeenUnited Medical and Dental Schools, University of London

“Taking evening primrose oil daily for 6-12 months improves symptoms of nerve damage caused by diabetes.”

What are the different kinds of evening primrose oil supplements?

There are two primary types of evening primrose oil supplements: pure oil and capsules. Capsules contain evening primrose oil and their biggest advantages are that they have no strong taste, they’re easy to swallow and can be taken anywhere. Many brands also add vitamin E to their evening primrose oil capsules.

Evening primrose oil, meanwhile, can be consumed as-is or mixed in with other drinks or liquids. Its flavor can range from very mild to more intense, depending on how it was made and then stored. The benefits and composition of the pure oil form are essentially the same as the capsules, since it contains gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), linoleic acid, vitamin E and some omega-3 and omega-9.

Evening primrose oil Evening primrose oil capsules
Flavor Variable. From mild to intensely bitter. A bad smell could indicate that oil has gone bad. Smooth, neutral
Dosage Usually recommended to take about one teaspoon (2 to 3 grams) each day From 1 to 3 capsules per day
Storage After opened, should be stored in the refrigerator. In the original container. If in a blister pack, should be kept in a dark, dry and cool spot.
GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) content From 9 to 10% 100%

Shopping Criteria

Now that you’ve learned about the many benefits of evening primrose oil and how to consume supplements properly, let’s review the main shopping criteria that you should keep in mind as you pick out a product.

Taste

Pure evening primrose oil can have a smooth, nearly neutral flavor, or can be intensely bitter. Some manufacturers add a flavor to improve the taste. Evening primrose oil goes well with citrus juices or lemonade, and the vitamin C found in citrus can even enhances the effects of the GLA found in the oil. The capsules, meanwhile, have a neutral flavor.

Performance

In general, one container of evening primrose oil capsules holds a supply for about 4 or 5 months, while 150-200ml bottles of the pure oil should last for approximately 2 months. The capsules are usually cheaper than the oil, so may be a better option for anyone on a tight budget.

Storage

Capsules are easy to store, since they come in airtight bottles or containers. The oil, however, should be kept in the fridge after opened to prevent it from going bad.

Allergens and Gluten

Supplement labels will usually have a warning that indicates if the product might contain traces of allergens like soy or nuts, but you should always check the ingredients list as well to be sure.

foco

For celiacs, be sure to check that the product is certified gluten-free.

Vitamin E

Most evening primrose oil capsules contain vitamin E for additional antioxidant effects. Vitamin E also helps to preserve the supplement’s organoleptic characteristics (flavor, aroma, color) for a longer period. If you’re using evening primrose oil to improve your skin, a supplement with vitamin E is a good choice.

Summary

Evening primrose oil is a supplement that is increasingly recommended by gynecologists and dermatologists for the treatment of a range of symptoms and to increase the well-being of their patients. It is affordable, effective and safe to use. Still, excess consumption could be harmful, and remember that evening primrose oil can’t replace the omega-3 fatty acids present in seeds and fish.

Even though it’s easy to get distracted by attractive supplement packaging, the most important information is found on the back of the label. Be sure to read the nutritional info, ingredients, allergens and manufacturer’s recommendations before you buy a product.

If you found this guide helpful, please share it with your friends and family on social media, and leave us a comment with your thoughts below!

(Source of featured image: Madeleinsteinbach: 96030306/ 123rf.com)

Why you can trust me?

Ava Kirk Medical Journalist
Ava has specialized in medical journalism and not only writes about the human body, but also knows her way around food supplements. She also studied sports science in college.