Evening Primrose Oil (Oenothera biennis)
Evening primrose oil is obtained from the seeds of the evening primrose plant (Oenothera biennis), also known as king's-cure-all, night willow and tree primrose. The plant is part of the North American family Onagraceae. The genus is actually related to willow herbs and not to primroses (Primula).
The Oenothera species is thought to have originated in Mexico and Central America, approximately 70,000 years ago, spread across the North American continent from there, and imported to Europe by Italians later. It now grows all over the world, in temperate climates.
Evening primrose tolerates poor soil quality well and is a popular cultivated plant. It also grows wild along riverbanks and in sandy places.
The stem and leaves are covered in tiny hairs and appear silver for this reason. The flowers are lemon yellow and fragrant, closed during the day and fully open in the evening. Unfortunately, they are short lived and last only for a day or two; an oblong and hairy pod, containing the precious seeds, then replaces the flower head.
Evening primrose seeds are simply cold-pressed to obtain their oil.
The roots of evening primrose were used as an appetizer to provoke a taste for wine, just as we might eat olives today.
Dietary supplements made from it have been used to treat skin problems, menopausal syndromes, anxiety, brittle nails, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions. Infusions made from the whole plant were part of traditional, herbal medicine and were believed to have sedative and pain-killing properties.
When applied to dry, itchy skin, organic evening primrose oil is very effective. It has been shown to help eczema, psoriasis and acne. Many of the soothing properties are attributed to gamma-linoleic acid, or GLA, a key component of the plant. The mature seeds contain approximately 7-10% of GLA.
Organic evening primrose oil also contains linoleic acid (an essential fatty acid); this helps to retain the skin’s moisture content.