Did you know that Evening Primrose Oil (EPO) has a wide array of benefits for fertility? Research has shown that it can help reduce PMS and inflammation, increase cervical mucous production and improve uterine health. The reason it is helpful for those issues is because it is a rich source of the omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFAs) – Linoleic Acid (LA), and Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA). Evening Primrose Oil is one of the few plants to contain GLA. The oil comes from the seeds of the Evening Primrose plant, Oenothera biennis. The seeds are gathered and cold pressed for their oil, and then the oil is encapsulated for dietary supplement use.
LA and GLA are required by the body to make prostaglandin E (PGE2). There are several types of prostaglandins, PGE2 being one of them. Prostaglandins act similarly to hormones, as they too are “messengers” that tell their target cells “what to do and when.” The main difference between prostaglandins and hormones is that prostaglandins are not produced at distinct sites in the body, but rather many places around the body. Another difference is that prostaglandins target cells are in the immediate proximity of their secretion site. PGE2 plays a role in female fertility by helping to control regulation of hormones, acting on uterine cells, cervical cells and corpus luteum regression.
Promote and Maintain Hormonal Balance
As explained above prostaglandins are necessary for proper hormonal balance. Getting enough LA and GLA omega-6 EFAs through EPO supplementation ensures you are promoting healthy prostaglandin function.
Help for Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
Many women face breast tenderness, bloating, acne, water retention, depression, foggy thinking, irritability and headaches prior to their menstrual period; this is known as PMS. There have been four double-blind, crossover, controlled trials, showing significant positive results in reducing PMS by using 3-4 grams of EPO a day. Results show a marked improvement in the reduction of headaches, foggy thinking, clumsiness, depression, irritability, bloating, and breast tenderness.
If you are a woman who suffers from PMS EPO may be safely combined with other herbs such as Vitex to help alleviate PMS symptoms.
Increase Cervical Mucous
EPO has been used by herbalists for hundreds of years to increase cervical mucous. Cervical fluid is necessary for allowing the sperm to swim freely through the cervix. Some women have low to no cervical fluid, so it is harder for the sperm to move through the vagina. Cervical fluid is more alkaline than the slightly acid vaginal environment. Sperm are nourished and thrive in cervical fluid and if there is not enough the sperm may not be able to survive the journey to the awaiting egg.
The suggested use for increasing cervical mucous using EPO is to start of at 500mg, three times a day for a total of 1500mg per day. If desired results aren’t achieved in the first cycle, you may want to increase the dose to 3,000 mg a day in your next cycle. If you are actively trying to conceive, do not use EPO after ovulation because its action on the uterus. You can learn more about this below.
How EPO Acts on the Uterus
It is believed that the high levels of LA and GLA’s in Evening Primrose Oil have a direct effect on uterine cells. These contract and relax smooth muscle tissue. This action on the uterus is toning for the uterine muscles in preparation for pregnancy. EPO is NOT suggested for use after ovulation when a woman is trying to conceive. If a woman is pregnant, or thinks she may be pregnant, she should not not use EPO because the uterus may begin to contract. In some women this may lead to pre-term labor or miscarriage; though there is little evidence of this. Nonetheless, it is always best to use caution when using EPO if you think you may be pregnant.
Some of you may have heard that EPO is safe for pregnancy. This is because EPO has been used to prepare (ripen) the cervix, in the last trimester of pregnancy, for hundreds of years, by midwives. This is either done by rubbing the cervix with the oil, having the mother use an EPO capsule as a vaginal suppository, or having the mother take it in internally the last few weeks of her pregnancy. This should only be done under the care of a highly qualified midwife or other qualified medical professional.
Something to Think About if You Use Aspirin Therapy
It has been found that aspirin and aspirin like compounds may inhibit prostaglandin function. This is of special concern for women who have been using aspirin therapy for years. Many doctors suggest aspirin therapy to help reduce the chance of recurrent miscarriage, due to blood clotting issues. EPO may help support prostaglandin function for women who have used or are currently on aspirin therapy.
Suggested Usage of Evening Primrose Oil
General use is 1500 – 3000 mg one to two times daily. Beginning at the lowest suggested use, and then increasing suggested use over time, as necessary.
While Actively Trying to Conceive: General usage is 1500 – 3000 mg one to two times daily, from day 1 – 14 in the cycle. Evening Primrose Oil may cause uterine contractions in pregnancy which is why it may be best to not continue it past ovulation (in case of pregnancy) while actively trying to conceive. Post ovulation it may be best to switch to cod liver oil or another omega-3 oil.
Not Actively Trying to Conceive: For those who desire to take EPO to help reduce PMS, for menstrual cramps or general hormone balance support, and are NOT actively trying to conceive, EPO may be taken all month long.
Discontinue Evening Primrose Oil if you suspect or confirm you are pregnant. Consult a qualified practitioner to see if this supplement is right for you.
Who knew a tiny seed could hold amazing fertility health benefits? The Evening Primrose flower is delicate, yellow and very fragrant. It opens in the evening attracting moths basking in the moon’s soft glow. It seems to have a connection to the cool evening and the moon cycle. In the morning as the sun comes up, the flower closes resting during the hot day. It relies on its seeds to continue its life cycle, as it is a biennial plant. It is one of the few night-blooming plants on earth. This is another special plant that has an affinity to women’s fertility. It holds a dear place in my heart!
– Hudson, Tori, N.D. (2008). Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. New York, New York: McGraw Hill Publishing.
– Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary. (1997). pp. 1573
– Romm, Aviva. (2010). Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health. St. Louis, Missouri: Churchill Livingstone.
– Weed. Susun, S. (1986). Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year. Woodstock, New York: Ash Tree Publishing.