Evening Primrose, the occasional visitor.

By Catriona Stewart
Medical Herbalist, Summer 2014

One thing I love about having a garden and never fail to be amazed by, is how plants ‘move around’ to suit themselves. The same is true of the meadow in front of my house or even up on the moors. Any gardener knows that you may plant something in one place, but you may well find the following year it pops up somewhere else!

I’ve been intrigued by the visitors that pass through my garden as well; one that recently appeared has been the very pretty Evening Primrose. It arrived unexpectedly about 3 years ago, beside my front path; the following year it was flowering enthusiastically across the road; it wasn’t to be seen at all last year and then a week or so ago I realised it had returned to my garden! I haven’t been able to spot it in any of the local gardens so wherever it is coming from, it’s travelling quite far!

Evening Primrose, as well as being a very pretty flowering plant, has long been used for the health benefits of its oil. Known often as EPO, it is sold as a supplement on its own and is also included in OTC fish-oil products such as EFAMOL, Eye-Q and Eskimo.

Why take EPO?

Fatty acids are essential to human health; the fatty acid chains which come in all sorts of different forms are used for brain function, hormones, skin, bone density, digestion, healthy circulation, you name it – fats are in there! It is believed that the human organism can generally create all the different lengths of fatty-acid chain needed for health from any of the ‘building block’ precursors available in the oily vegetable sources such as safflower or corn oil, some of the nut oils, such as walnut, and even hemp and flax. However, for a number of reasons, this may not happen.

According to EFAMOL’s website: “The body can convert Linoleic Acid (LA), found in foods such as safflower and corn oil and turn it into GLA and AA, whilst Alpha-linolenic acid, found in fish oils and green leafy vegetables can be converted to DHA and EPA. However, your body's conversion process can become less efficient due to a variety of factors, including diet, age, alcohol consumption and an excess of saturated fats in the diet. Sometimes it is necessary to supplement the diet to ensure sufficient levels of these important nutrients.”

A further concern with our modern diet is that we tend to take very imbalanced quantities of the fatty acid types. Olive oil is special in that it has a good balance of Omega 3 and 6 oils within it.

Research evidence on EPO alone is still scarce; it is used to address a range of problems and especially has been viewed as potentially beneficial for women’s hormonal issues. My own approach is that the combination of fish oils and EPO as formulated in EFAMOL and EYE-Q (products from 2 reputable companies with plenty of research evidence behind them) is one of the most effective ways of dealing with any potential EFA deficiency.

All that science aside - the lovely lemony-yellow blooms of the Evening Primrose that emerge late in summer are a tonic in themselves! I love my flowering visitors.