When menopause comes, it doesn’t usually take long before someone in your life recommends evening primrose oil to you. This natural remedy has long been touted as a great way to treat some of the more uncomfortable and painful symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes, anxiety, hair loss, insomnia, and joint pain.
But what is evening primrose oil and is there any truth to its cure-all claims? Let’s answer some of your questions.
What is evening primrose oil?
Evening primrose oil comes from the seeds of the evening primrose or Oenothera biennis plant, which is found in North America, Europe, and parts of the southern hemisphere. The plant gets its name from its yellow flowers, which bloom in the evening.
The leaves of evening primrose were once used by North America’s indigenous communities to treat wounds and sore throats, and the entire plant was used to treat bruises.
Today, however, the seeds are primarily used for their oil, which some say can help to treat eczema, breast pain, and (you guessed it) menopause symptoms.
What does evening primrose oil do to hormones?
Evening primrose oil contains something called gamma-linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid that helps cells to function better.
In a 2013 study on female rats, researchers found that gamma-linolenic acid may have similar effects to estrogen in the body.
This is good news since many of the symptoms you experience during menopause are caused by declining levels of estrogen, and boosting these levels may help you feel better.
The body also uses gamma-linolenic acid to create hormone-like compounds called prostaglandins.
Prostaglandins help to reduce inflammation and improve blood circulation, and having more in your body might give even more support to all of the hormonal changes you’re going through.
There is some evidence that suggests that prostaglandins help to reduce the stiffness in your joints, too, as these aches and pains are often caused by inflammation.
Many of these studies, however, aren’t conclusive. And more research definitely needs to be done to confirm that evening primrose oil affects your hormones in healthy and sustainable ways.
Should you use evening primrose oil for hot flashes?
Hot flashes. They’re just not fun. One minute, you’re in control of your body’s thermostat and the next minute it’s completely malfunctioning.
While hot flashes are a very normal part of menopause, you probably still want to control them as best you can.
In a clinical trial conducted in 2013, researchers looked into whether evening primrose oil could improve menopausal women’s experience of hot flashes.
They found that women who took the oil orally for six weeks during menopause had attacks that were less severe than the women who took a placebo, but that the attacks weren’t necessarily less frequent or quicker.
Not everyone agrees, though. In a 2016 article, the National Institute for Biotechnology Information says that there’s no reliable proof that evening primrose oil, or many other natural remedies for that matter, can offer relief for the symptoms of menopause.
Evening primrose oil also hasn’t been approved by the FDA, which means that its full spectrum of benefits and side effects hasn’t been confirmed by scientists.
What is the evening primrose oil dosage for menopause?
Evening primrose oil comes in both gel capsules and as bottled oil, and you can either take it orally or apply it topically.
The recommended daily amount is usually 500mg, but it’s always a good idea to chat to your doctor before taking it.
If the dosage is too high, you could experience some quite nasty side effects.
What are some of the side effects of evening primrose oil?
Evening primrose oil can hit your tummy pretty hard and some of the potential side effects include an upset stomach, diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal pain.
Headaches, bleeding and even seizures are also possible.
Be careful of taking evening primrose oil if you’re using other medication, too, as it can sometimes cause some fairly dangerous interactions. It shouldn’t be used with blood-thinning or blood pressure medication, for example, or certain drugs that are used to treat mental health conditions like schizophrenia or specific types of depression.
It’s probably safer to apply it topically, but, even then, keep an eye out for any allergic reactions.
What’s the bottom line on evening primrose oil and menopause?
We know that menopause is no ordinary thing, and totally get that your body might need a little bit of extra support.
Evening primrose oil is probably safe for you to use responsibly and in the right doses, and you might notice that it helps to alleviate some of the harsher symptoms you’re experiencing.
Just be sure to speak to your doctor first, especially if you’re on other forms of medication. They’ll be able to advise you best.
Introducing a few lifestyle changes might also help your body feel a bit better.
You can probably guess a lot of these straight away – they’re all the usual suspects.
Exercising regularly, eating balanced meals, and limiting the stress in your life are all likely to help you to feel more like your old self. Take the time to figure out what routine works well for you, and do your best to stick to it.
To help you understand all the changes your body is experiencing, and how best to deal with them, we’ve pulled together some other articles you might find useful:
What Happens During Menopause?
How to Deal With Menopause
How Long Does Menopause Last?
Unusual Menopause Symptoms You Might Not Know
What are the Signs Perimenopause is Ending?
Essential Oils for Menopause: What Helps?
What are the 34 Symptoms of Menopause?
What Are The Benefits of Progesterone After Menopause?
Menopause Weight Loss: What to Know
How to Combat the Menopause Itch
Osteoporosis and Menopause: What to Know?
How to Delay Menopause
Testosterone Pellets for Women: What to Know