Everyone has experienced hair loss at some point in their lives, and while for most people it is just a temporary phase, for others it might be more permanent and drastic, especially if you don't do something about it. Today there are many herbs and different types of ingredients that can help prevent hair loss and also boost hair growth. One such example of such herbs is evening primrose oil, which is mostly found in Europe and Northern America. Evening primrose oil is commonly used as a health supplement, ingredient in beauty products, as well as a topical treatment. Evening primrose oil is also recommended for women who are experiencing premenstrual syndrome (PMS). But does treating hair loss with evening primrose oil really work?

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What is Evening Primrose?

  • Also known as the night willow herb, evening primrose is a flowering plant that has yellow blossoms and grows primarily in Europe and North American. Evening primrose gets its name because unlike most flowering plants, this plant blooms and opens its petals only in the evening.
  • Oil is extracted from the seeds and is commonly used by many people these days as a health supplement, ingredient in many cosmetic products, and also as a topical treatment.
  • Evening primrose oil (EPO) is also known for its anti-inflammatory, hormone balancing, and antioxidant properties, due to which it is often recommended for women who are experiencing PMS symptoms.
  • In recent years, Evening primrose oil is being hailed as an herb that promotes hair growth and minimizes hair loss, though a lot more research is still required to confirm this.(1)

Read on to find out how evening primrose oil can help in the treatment of hair loss.

Benefits of Using Evening Primrose Oil for Hair

Evening primrose oil is known to be rich in omega chain fatty acids such as antioxidants and gamma-linoleic acid. These properties of the oil make it beneficial for hair as it helps boost your scalp health by nourishing it and building up its defense.

Evening primrose oil also helps stimulate regrowth of hair as it provides your scalp with all the essential nutrients it needs for boosting hair regrowth, while at the same time also protecting your hair from damage.

Apart from this, the omega chain fatty acids present in Evening primrose oil are also believed to have the following benefits:

  • Lower inflammation
  • Boost the growth of healthy cells
  • Fight oxidative stress

Due to all these reasons, it is believed that Evening primrose oil can help you deal with hair loss that is caused by:

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  • Scalp inflammation
  • Nutritional deficiency
  • Environmental damage such as overexposure to UV rays

Evening primrose oil is also known to contain phytoestrogens. Many researchers believe that the presence of phytoestrogens helps improve the symptoms of many hormone-related conditions, including menopause.

Interestingly, hair loss is also a major symptom of menopause. Due to this, Evening primrose oil is seen to serve a dual purpose here - helping with the menopause symptoms and even with hair loss.

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What is the Science Behind Evening Primrose Oil Use and Hair Loss?

There is limited research available on the role Evening primrose oil plays in treating hair loss and the effect it has on your overall hair health. However, some research is available on how the specific ingredients and the chemical components present in the oil affect your hair health.

While this limited research has provided some insight into how Evening primrose oil might help with hair loss, more in-depth research is still needed to positively confirm how Evening primrose oil works in helping hair loss. Some of the research that has been done so far is described below.

Research from the Seoul National University College of Medicine in South Korea has shown that Evening primrose oil might help promote new hair growth. Similar to other plant-based oils, Evening primrose oil is rich in arachidonic acid. Arachidonic acid has been found to boost new hair growth and also help the existing hair shafts grow longer and healthier.(2)

Evening primrose oil is also known to decrease scalp inflammation and reduce damage to your hair follicles. Gamma-linoleic acid is the omega chain fatty acid that is found in this oil, and this ingredient is famous for its anti-inflammatory properties. While there are no specific studies on gamma linoleic acid and its role in reducing scalp inflammation, the ingredient has been studied as a potential treatment for inflammatory conditions such as eczema or atopic dermatitis.(3) Some research has also found that the sterols present in Evening primrose oil also help in lowering inflammation.(4)

Evening primrose oil might also decrease oxidative stress. There is a lot of stress that you put on the hair every day. From using the various products to heat styling, curlers, and many other cosmetic procedures that are done on your hair only worsens alopecia-related hair loss. Evening primrose oil is a powerful antioxidant as it contains high levels of vitamin E. Vitamin E is known to alleviate oxidative stress. In 2010, researchers at the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences in Malaysia found that consuming oral supplements of vitamin E helps improve the symptoms of alopecia. The participants of the study who were given vitamin E supplements were found to have an increased hair count per inch of the scalp as compared to the participants who were given the placebo. The results of this study indicate that Evening primrose oil helps stimulate hair follicles and also protects the follicles, keeping your hair healthy.(5)

How to Use Evening Primrose Oil For Treating Hair Loss?

The simplest way to use Evening primrose oil is by applying it topically. However, you can also have it orally, or in both ways. However, it is essential that you do not confuse essential oil of evening primrose with evening primrose oil or Evening primrose oil. The essential oil of evening primrose is a lot stronger, and it also gives off a volatile aroma that is typically used in aromatherapy.

  • If you have hair loss due to inflammation, then anecdotal evidence shows that topical application of the oil is more favorable.
  • If you have hair loss due to a hormonal condition, then Evening primrose oil supplements are likely to be more beneficial than topical application of the oil.
  • If you choose to take supplements, then keep in mind that herbal supplements are not regulated or approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that you should only buy supplements from trustworthy manufacturers and shops.
  • Before beginning any type of supplements, you should always discuss with your doctor about whether you have any individual risk of side effects or if you face any risk of drug interactions with your other medications/supplements.

According to research, Evening primrose oil supplements work best when they are taken with a meal. The average dosage of Evening primrose oil is 500 milligrams every day. If you find that your supplement's dose is higher than this, then you should confirm the correct dosage with your doctor once before you start using the supplements.
Whenever you are trying out any new supplement, it is best, to begin with, a lower dose and then slowly work your way up to higher doses. You might experience nausea or an upset stomach after taking Evening primrose oil supplements for the first time. If this happens, then you should either lower your dose or discontinue use.

Are there any Risks and Side Effects of Using EPO?

Evening primrose oil is usually considered to be safe for use for a short period of time. It is not clear whether or not Evening primrose oil can be used safely for a longer period of time.(6)

Nevertheless, it is always recommended that you consult your doctor before you start using Evening primrose oil. While it is generally safe for your average user who is in overall good health, there is still a small risk of side effects or drug interactions.

Do not take Evening primrose oil without consulting your doctor if you:

  • Have epilepsy
  • Have schizophrenia
  • Are pregnant
  • Are breastfeeding
  • Are on blood thinning medications such as warfarin (brand name: Coumadin)
  • Have hormone-sensitive cancer like ovarian or breast cancer
  • Have a surgery scheduled within the next 10 to 15 days

Conclusion

If you are experiencing moderate hair loss, then it is a good idea to try out Evening primrose oil to see if it helps stop the hair loss. However, if you notice that you have unexpected or severe hair loss, then it is time to consult a dermatologist. A dermatologist will be able to best assess your symptoms, check your scalp for any fungal infection or other issues, and then discuss your treatment options. Evening primrose oil might be an option for treating hair loss, but your doctor may also recommend a more reliable alternative treatment.

If while using Evening primrose oil you experience any type of unusual side effects, you should discontinue using the product and speak to your doctor. Some of the common side effects to watch out for include breakouts at or around the hairline, accelerated hair loss, and scalp or hair discoloration.

References:  

  1. Stonemetz, D., 2008. A review of the clinical efficacy of evening primrose. Holistic nursing practice, 22(3), pp.171-174.
  2. Munkhbayar, S., Jang, S., Cho, A.R., Choi, S.J., Shin, C.Y., Eun, H.C., Kim, K.H. and Kwon, O., 2016. Role of arachidonic acid in promoting hair growth. Annals of dermatology, 28(1), pp.55-64.
  3. Senapati, S., Banerjee, S. and Gangopadhyay, D.N., 2008. Evening primrose oil is effective in atopic dermatitis: a randomized placebo-controlled trial. Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology, 74(5), p.447.
  4. Anon, (2019). [online] Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication
  5. /229435475_The_sterols_isolated_from_Evening_Primrose_oil_modulate_the_release_of_proinflammatory_mediators [Accessed 3 Jul. 2019].
  6. Beoy, L.A., Woei, W.J. and Hay, Y.K., 2010. Effects of tocotrienol supplementation on hair growth in human volunteers. Tropical life sciences research, 21(2), p.91.
  7. NCCIH. (2019). Evening Primrose Oil. [online] Available at: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/eveningprimrose [Accessed 3 Jul. 2019].
Sheetal DeCaria MD

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

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Last Modified On: August 27, 2019

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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