Essential omega-3 fatty acids get plenty of attention from researchers (and the media). And that’s great. Omega-3s are a big piece of the overall wellness puzzle.
But what about essential omega-6 fatty acids?
These guys don’t get much of the spotlight. However, we need a healthy balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for healthy cell membranes, skin, joints, and hormones.
Today, we explore one of the best sources of omega-6 fatty acids – evening primrose oil.
Evening primrose oil (EPO) is a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid supplement made from the seeds of the evening primrose plant (Oenothera biennis). Its yellow flowers bloom at night – hence the name.
EPO is a good source of omega-6 fatty acids linoleic acid (LA), gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), and vitamin E. GLA in EPO may help to regulate the inflammatory response. It’s converted into dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA) – a precursor to anti-inflammatory prostaglandins E1.
Let’s look at a few of the health benefits of EPO.
As an inflammation mediator, EPO is a popular supplement for soothing eczema and atopic dermatitis.
In fact, research suggests people with eczema struggle to metabolize fatty acids and convert linoleic acid to active GLA. This explains why taking evening primrose oil may reduce skin dryness, itching, sensitivity, and redness in eczema sufferers.
That said, a meta-analysis found EPO is not more effective than a placebo for eczema.
While there are mixed results on eczema, it may still give you a healthy glow. This study found that 1500 mg of EPO daily reduced skin roughness and improved moisture, elasticity, and firmness.
Evening primrose oil is a popular women’s health supplement. It may ease annoying PMS symptoms by stimulating anti-inflammatory prostaglandins.
This study found EPO reduced PMS-related stress, sleep disturbances, sugar cravings, bloating, and sore breasts. And a review of 10 randomized controlled trials found EPO is an effective natural treatment for breast tenderness.
But, full disclosure, other studies have found it isn’t better than a placebo for PMS.
(Skip to the end for more about EPO benefits)
With all that said, here’s our list of the 8 best evening primrose oil supplements.
All the supplements selected are from trusted brands and made according to Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) for quality and safety.
*Note: We have affiliate links throughout this article, which means we receive a commission if you buy from any of our links. This supports our mission to bring complicated health and fitness info in an entertaining package. And it keeps us from putting up annoying things like banner ads. Those suck.
Micro Ingredients EPO supplies 1300 mg of premium-quality, cold-pressed evening primrose oil per capsule serving. It also delivers 120 mg of active GLA.
Cold-pressed extraction is essential when buying an EPO supplement. Air, light, and heat damage polyunsaturated fatty acids. Once damaged, the fatty acids become a health risk. Carefully cold pressing the seeds helps to maintain freshness and potency.
This product is vegan-friendly, non-GMO, non-irradiated, and free from gluten, soy, additives, and preservatives. But don’t take my word for it. The products are made in an FDA-registered manufacturing facility and evaluated by an independent lab for purity, potency, and safety. You can request to see the test reports free of charge.
Lastly, each bag contains 180 capsules for just $26.34 – 14 cents per capsule.
It’s easy to see why Micro Ingredients Evening Primrose Oil grabs the #1 spot on our list!
Sports Research EPO is a close runner-up. Each soft gel delivers 1300 mg of cold-pressed oil standardized for 10% GLA.
Their extraction process ensures the purity and freshness of the delicate oil. And every batch is IGEN™ non-GMO tested, gluten-free, and kosher. You can choose between bottles of 30, 120, or 240 soft gels.
Sports Research is a cGMP-compliant and third-party audited brand producing some of the highest-quality supplements on the market.
If you want to get all your fatty acids in one place, Micro Ingredients also make a potent 3-in-1 formula.
Omega 3-6-9 blends 1200 mg of the same cold-pressed evening primrose oil with 1200 mg of flax seed oil and 1200 mg of omega-3 fish oil from wild-caught, mercury-free anchovies. Each soft gel delivers a balanced ratio of fatty acids for good health.
Plus, the capsules are enteric coated to reduce awful fishy burps.
A bag of 300 soft gels sells for a reasonable $27.54. And the same quality standards are applied to all Micro Ingredients products.
Grabbing fourth place is an excellent EPO supplement from Source Naturals. Each soft gel delivers 1350 mg of cold-pressed EPO, yielding 135 mg of GLA. A bottle contains 120 soft gels and can last between 1-4 months, depending on the number of capsules you take.
Each serving of Now Super Primrose provides 1300 mg of cold-pressed evening primrose oil containing 120 mg of active GLA.
It’s non-GMO and kosher but not suitable for vegans and vegetarians. A bottle of 120 soft gels goes for $17.35 on iHerb.
NOW has an NPA A-rated GMP certification, ensuring all manufacturing and testing processes are thoroughly assessed.
Natural Factors Ultra Prim ticks all the boxes. It delivers non-GMO, cold-pressed evening primrose oil containing 10% GLA in soft gel capsules.
They use expeller pressing, which gently crushes the seeds to release the oil. Not using heat or solvents preserves the stability and nutritional value of the oil. Their ultra-purification method also removes residues and impurities.
The product is third-party tested for purity, potency, and safety by ISURA. This is an independent Canadian natural health product verification and certification organization.
You can choose between 500 or 1000 mg in 180 or 240 soft gels.
Nature’s Answer delivers 4. oz of pure cGMP-assured evening primrose oil with a dropper for easy use. It’s ideal for people who want a higher dose or those struggling to swallow capsules.
Half a teaspoon of oil delivers 2 grams of EPO containing 195 mg of GLA. It contains their Quick-Sorb® herbal blend of ginger, amla fruit, and capsicum fruit to support absorption.
It’s a great product, but I suggest chasing the oil with food to disguise the taste.
NOW offer the same pure, cold-pressed evening primrose oil in strengths of 500 mg or 1000 mg per serving. You can choose between bottles of 90 or 250 soft gels.
Our goal is to rank the best evening primrose oil supplements. But you need to understand how we ranked them to make the best decision for your needs.
Here are a few factors we considered when making our list.
The FDA doesn’t regulate the supplement industry. Unfortunately, this means dodgy products are everywhere.
For this reason, we only list reputable companies that adhere to Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) regulations. We also prioritize brands that use third-party testing and make their Certificates of Analysis (COA) available on request.
All the products on the list use cold-pressed EPO to avoid damage and ensure freshness. Each one is pure, stable, and free from chemical solvents.
EPO doesn’t taste great, which is why it typically comes in soft gel capsules. However, we also included pure oil so you can pick what works best for you.
When it comes to supplements, it’s essential to consider the dosage. We chose supplements containing between 500–2000 mg of EPO per serving.
Good health shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. We look for products that are affordable but never compromise on quality.
A study from 1991 found that 6 grams of evening primrose oil improved morning stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. And in 2011, a review study found moderate evidence that evening primrose oil reduces pain intensity and disability in RA.
That said, we could do with some updated research.
Anecdotal evidence suggests EPO helps women going through menopause. The research is sparse, but this study found it reduces the severity of hot flashes during menopause.
There’s some solid research linking polyunsaturated fatty acids to heart health.
This 2020 review study found taking up to 4 grams of EPO daily lowered blood triglycerides and boosted HDL cholesterol levels. HDL particles transport other forms of cholesterol from your cells to your liver for detoxification (in short, they’re the good guys).
Diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage) is a side-effect of uncontrollable blood sugar. It causes numbness, tingling, and burning in the hands and feet.
This study of diabetics found that 500-1000 mg of evening primrose oil reduced nerve pain when combined with vitamin E. Again, this isn’t a quick fix, and it may take several months to see improvements.
Evening primrose oil is generally considered safe. But some people notice nausea, an upset stomach, and heartburn after taking EPO.
In addition, it has blood-thinning properties and may not be suitable for people taking blood-thinning medication or those scheduled for surgery.
The risks are low but talk to your doctor before starting any new supplement.
Store your evening primrose oil in a cool, dark place to minimize oxidation (the fridge is ideal). And keep the bottle well-sealed to support freshness and potency.