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Evening Primrose Oil: the latest clinical trials for atopic dermatitis, ‘dry eye’, and dyslexia

Evening Primrose Oil (EPO) is a mixture of omega-3 and other fatty acids extracted from the seeds of Oenothera biennis and related species. EPO was developed as a supplement in the 1980s and its significance increases with each passing year. A list of recognized medical applications for this supplement includes:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • acute respiratory distress
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • diabetic neuropathy
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • migraine headaches
  • appetite control
  • hemodialysis side effects
  • osteoporosis
  • breast cancer
  • psoriasis, atopic dermatitis
  • premenstrual syndrome
  • cyclic breast pain
  • immune deficiency
  • dry eye syndrome

Medical research on EPO intensified into the 1990s and then tapered off as the subject became well understood. A number of studies are still published each year, some of them exploring new applications, others refining our knowledge of existing usages.

An article in the news at Easier.com1 discusses a new study of atopic dermatitis — the most common form of eczema. Sixty-five patients were randomly assigned to take either EPO capsules or a sunflower oil placebo. After five months, 96% of the EPO users had improved, compared to only 32% of the placebo users.2

Contact lens users who get Dry Eye problems might consider taking an Evening Primrose Oil supplement, according to a study in the journal published by the British Contact Lens Association. In the study, 76 female soft contact lens wearers were treated for 6 months with either an oral EPO supplement or an olive oil placebo. “The EPO group showed a significant improvement in the specific symptom of ‘dryness’ at 3 and 6 months … and also a significant improvement in overall lens comfort…” 3

Even dyslexia has now fallen under the spell of Evening Primrose Oil. According to a study in the Journal of Medicinal Food, EPO taken for 5 months by 20 dyslexic children resulted in a 60% improvement in reading speed, and a 23% improvement in ‘motoric-perceptual’ velocity.4


[4]  A 5-month open study with long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in dyslexia. J Med Food. 2007 Dec; 10(4):662-6

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