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The common evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) shows its beauty only in the dark - its yellow flowers shine only one night before they fade. The oil from Oenothera is known as a remedy for skin complaints such as eczema or neurodermatitis, it is said to alleviate rheumatic complaints and arthritis.
Profile of the evening primrose
- Scientific name: Oenothera biennis
- family: Evening primrose family (Onagraceae)
- Common names: Night flower, evening flower, egg flower, ham herb, ham root, proud Heinrich, cough flower, sweet root
- Parts of plants used: Leaves, roots, stems, seeds and flowers
- distribution: Originally North America, now in many places in Europe, in gardens and overgrown
- application areas: Skin problems, rheumatic complaints, neurodermatitis, diarrhea, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), period pain
Evening primrose - the most important facts at a glance
- Oenothera biennis is a plant from the evening primrose family.
- The flowers open in the dark and are pollinated by moths.
- The evening primrose serves both indigenous people as a food and medicinal plant.
- In Europe, it found its way into the farm gardens, where it was considered a particularly strengthening vegetable.
- The roots can be prepared like turnips.
- Evening primrose oil can be found in cosmetics in moisturizers.
- The oil is said to have healing effects against bronchial asthma, neurodermatitis, multiple sclerosis, PMS, menstrual cramps, cancer, Alzheimer's, skin complaints and inflammatory diseases.
- Scientific studies prove the anti-inflammatory effects of the gamma-linolenic acid contained in the seeds as well as the positive effects of evening primrose oil against diseases of the nerves in the context of diabetes.
Common evening primrose (also known as common evening primrose) mainly supplies the valuable omega-6 fatty acids gamma-linolenic acid and linoleic acid. There are also monounsaturated oleic acid, tannins, lignin, minerals and mucilages, as well as protein, cellulose and starch.
Gamma-linolenic acid is one of the most important active substances in the evening primrose seeds. The plant is one of three commercial resources for this omega-6 fatty acid, along with black currant (Ribes nigrum) and borage (Borago officinalis). Gamma-linolenic acid is found in ten botanical families.
Evening primrose - effect
The body has to get omega-6 fatty acids from the outside because it cannot produce them itself. The fatty acids are important to strengthen the skin's barrier and thus prevent the skin from drying out. Preparations from the plant should also
- calm down,
- Inhibit inflammation,
- Relieve cramps,
- contracting (astringent)
- and promote digestion.
In their article "herb and modern drug interaction", Zafar Mehmood, Mohammad Shavez Khan and others mention that the oil from Oenothera biennis has traditionally been used to treat asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, symptoms before and during menstruation and various inflammatory diseases. The gamma-linolenic acid in the seeds is therefore the main component. The oil could interact with a number of medicines, including medication for epilepsy and psychosis.
Evening primrose oil is also often used to treat multiple sclerosis, Raynaud's syndrome, alcoholism, psychoses (schizophrenia), Alzheimer's and various forms of cancer. However, there are no valid studies to prove such effects.
Evening primrose for women suffering
Common evening primrose oil is often used to relieve women suffering from breast pain, menopausal symptoms and premenstrual symptoms. It contains the amino acid tryptophan and, as already mentioned, an unusually high proportion of essential fatty acids - especially linoleic acid and gamma-linolenic acid.
These fatty acids are prostaglandin precursors. Prostaglandins are tissue hormones that are found primarily in sperm in humans. They cause uterine contractions, which could explain why evening primrose oil has traditionally been used as a remedy for menstrual cramps and premenstrual syndrome.
According to general practitioner D. Jill Mallory, midwife supplements containing evening primrose oil have been widely used in the last month of pregnancy in the United States - to stimulate the uterus and prevent late births.
Mallory points out that there are indications, however, that oral oil consumption during pregnancy may be associated, among other things, with an increased risk of premature bladder rupture and suction cup delivery (vacuum extraction). According to the author, this finding is not surprising since the oral administration of evening primrose oil has never been a traditional application. More extensive studies are needed to determine the benefits and harm of evening primrose during pregnancy.
Evening primrose and nerve disorders
The omega-6 fatty acids found in the seeds of the plants are essential components of myelin and the neuronal cell membranes. Gamma-linolenic acid has shown positive results in the treatment of diabetes and may be useful in preventing diabetic neuropathies.
Gamma-linolenic acid is converted into prostaglandin E1 (PGE1) in the body. This has anti-inflammatory effects, inhibits platelet aggregation and dilates the vessels. In patients with diabetes, the level of prostaglandin E2 increases and the level of PGE1 decreases. In diabetes, this leads to an increased risk of inflammation, narrowed vessels and platelet aggregation. Dietary supplements with gamma-linolenic acid promote the production of PGE1.
Two randomized studies showed positive effects of gamma-linolenic acid in neuropathies, such as occur in diabetes. As a result, evening primrose oil can help to alleviate peripheral nervous system disorders in diabetes.
Evening primrose oil and neurodermatitis
Atopic dermatitis is presumably related to a lack of PGE1, which is indicated by a lack of enzyme activity by those affected by delta-6-desaturase. This deficiency is compensated for by the gamma-linolenic acid present in evening primrose oil and PGE1 can form. As a result, the anti-inflammatory effects intensify, which in turn alleviates the symptoms of neurodermatitis. At the same time, evening primrose also prevents chronic inflammatory skin disease, since the supply of linolenic acid means that a PGE1 deficiency does not even arise.
Evening primrose oil can reduce the effectiveness of chemotherapeutic agents. Theoretically, the use of nonsteroidal drugs could interfere with the effects of the oil. Beware of anticoagulants: if you use them, you should take evening primrose oil only under strict control or not at all.
Oenothera biennis - Interesting facts
The common evening primrose grows up to a meter high and stands out due to the egg-shaped base leaves. Its flowers shine yellow between June and October. However, they bloom only at night and usually only for a single night - they then wither until the next noon. The square fruits contain a lot of round seeds, and especially these contain the coveted oil.
Evening primrose prefers dry soils with little nutrients and a lot of lime. It originally comes from America, but has spread widely as a neophyte in Europe. Here it inhabits particularly graveled railway embankments, roadsides, river banks, quarries, gravel banks, sand pits, industrial plants and ruderal areas.
Collection time for roots, leaves and seeds
The name "evening primrose" comes from the night flowers, but leaves, roots and seeds are collected. While the leaves can be collected all summer and early autumn, the best time to find seeds is from August to October. The roots are best dug up in autumn.
The way to Europe
The evening primrose came to Europe from North America from around 1620 - mostly seeds and plant parts of it ended up in the cargo unintentionally. In Germany it spread mainly as a vegetable plant. Various indigenous peoples of North America used roots and leaves as both food and medicine, and from the 18th century they also found followers on this side of the Atlantic. It even became such a typical plant of agricultural gardens (cottage gardens) that it was given numerous common names and presumably many people forgot that it was originally not a native plant.
Some of the common names indicate that evening primrose was considered medicine, for example it was called cough flower. Others refer to a vegetable that turns reddish "like ham" when cooking (ham herb or ham root) and has a pleasant sweetness (sweet root). Eggflower may refer to the egg shape of the base leaves, night star to night flowering, as well as evening flower. The name “proud Heinrich”, however, can hardly be explained.
Evening primrose - use in the kitchen
The roots were cooked in traditional recipes, in water or in vegetable broth. Evening primrose was considered particularly nutritious. The farmers particularly used the roots from the autumn of the first year of the two-year plant to the next spring. The roots can be prepared in a similar way to parsnips, turnips or salsify. They can also be cut into slices and mixed with vinegar and oil as a salad. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Ghasemnezhad, Azim: Investigations on the effects of harvest methods and storage conditions on yield, quality and germination of evening primrose (Oenothera biennis L.) seeds, Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen, Dissertation, 2007, Deutsche Nationalbibliothek
- Mallory, D. Jill: Chapter 53: Postdates pregnancy. In: Rakel, David (ed.): Integrative Medicine (fourth edition), Elsevier, 2017
- Sunil, T. Pai: Chapter 13: Peripheral Neuropathy. In: Rakel, David (ed.): Integrative Medicine (fourth edition), Elsevier, 2017
- Zafar Mehmood, Mohammad Shavez Khan et al .: Chapter 18: Herb and modern drug interactions. In: Mohd Sajjad Ahmad Khan, Iqbal Ahmad, Debprasad Chattopadhyay (ed.): New Look to Phytomedicine - Advancements in Herbal Products as Novel Drug Leads, Academic Press, 2018
- Timoszuk, Magdalena; Bielawska, Katarzyna; Skrzydlewska, Elżbieta: Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) Biological Activity Dependent on Chemical Composition, in: Antioxidants (Basel), 14; 7 (8), August 2018, PMC
- Sampath, Harini; Ntambi, James M .: The role of fatty acid desaturases in epidermal metabolism, in: Dermato-Endocrinology, 3 (2): 62-64, April-June 2011, PMC
- Montserrat-de la Paz, S .; Fernández Arche, M.A .; Ángel-Martín, M .; García-Giménez, M.D .: Phytochemical characterization of potential nutraceutical ingredients from Evening Primrose oil (Oenothera biennis L.), in: Phytochemistry Letters, Volume 8: 158-162, May 2014, ScienceDirect
- Bayles, Bryan; Usatine, Richard: Evening Primrose Oil, in: American Family Physician, 80/12: 1405-1408, December 2009, American Family Physician
- Halat, Kathleen M .; Dennehy, Cathi E .: Botanicals and Dietary Supplements in Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy, in: The Journal of the American Board of Family Practice, 16 (1): 47-57, January 2003, JABFM