Does primrose oil relieve PMS?

A recent study revealed once again how GLA helps to bring relief from premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Evening primrose oil, a natural source of the omega 6 fatty acid GLA, is a widely used natural remedy for the management of PMS symptoms such as breast tenderness, mood swings and irritability.

To ensure validity of the results, the research study was designed as a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.120 women were diagnosed using standardized criteria, including 23 PMS related symptoms that were recorded according to severity.

Symptoms included irritability, anger, bloating, breast tenderness, depression, restlessness, insomnia, oedema, and bowel abnormalities.

To accurately evaluate efficacy, the study group was divided into three treatment groups. The treatment duration was six months and treatment was initiated on the 15th day of the menstrual cycle and continued for the next 15 days.

Group 1 received 2 capsules of placebo; group 2 received 1 capsule placebo and 1 of 210 mg GLA; group 3 received 2 capsules providing a total of 420 mg GLA. Symptoms were recorded for the duration of the study. 

The results of the study showed a reduction in PMS symptoms following GLA supplementation, confirming the value of a GLA supplement, such as Evening Primrose Oil, in the nutritional management of PMS symptoms.

There are 2 different Omega 6 fatty acids that regularly receive contradicting reports in nutritional and health literature.

The positive reports normally focus on Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA) from plant sources such as evening primrose and borage oils.

The negative reports typically relate to the excessive intake of omega 6 fatty acids from processed and heated oils in our diet, typically found in deep fried foods such as potato chips and processed or hydrogenated oils such as certain margarine products, and a variety of other processed foods.

Where the Omega 6 fatty acid GLA is well documented to be safe and beneficial, the Omega 6 fatty acid LA is the one that causes confusion.

Another Omega 6, Linoleic Acid (LA), is found in high concentrations in sunflower seeds. In its raw state, sunflower seeds, or even cold pressed sunflower seed oil, provides us with the health benefits of LA.

However, with the heating and processing of sunflower seed oil, health benefits are reduced and replaced by adverse effects. Dietary recommendations to reduce the intake of Omega 6 fatty acids are often mistakenly transposed to, or projected onto all foods and supplements that contain Omega 6 fatty acids.

Sunflower seed products, naturally rich in LA, cannot be classified as healthy or unhealthy A handful of raw sunflower seeds certainly hold different health properties compared to a tablespoon of sunflower seed oil from a deep fat fryer in a take-away store, even both examples contain LA. By the same token, GLA from evening primrose oil should not mistakenly be regarded as unhealthy, just by the mere classification as an Omega 6 fatty acid, especially as it has a vastly different molecular structure and as a result, unique physiological actions and benefits.

1. Rocha Filho EA, Lima JC, Pinho Neto JS, Montarroyos U. Essential fatty acids for premenstrual syndrome and their effect on prolactin and total cholesterol levels: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Reproductive Health 2011;8(2):1-10. doi:10.1186/1742-4755-8-2.

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