NPR : News

Filed Under:

Evening Primrose Oil No Match For Eczema's Itch

Eczema is an itchy and, to some, an embarrassing skin ailment. Typical medial treatments like cortisone are less than ideal.

So some people have turned to evening primrose oil, a remedy made from the seeds of a yellow wildlflower that are rich in the essential fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid.

There's only problem: evening primrose oil doesn't seem to work. A review of studies that tested the effectiveness of evening primrose oil found that it offered no improvement of symptoms compared with placebos like olive oil or paraffin oil. The supplement is taken orally in capsules.

The review looked at 19 studies testing evening primrose oil. Eight others tested borage oil, another plant-based remedy. They involved almost 16,000 adults and children in 12 countries. None of the studies found any benefit from evening primrose oil or borage oil.

While eczema is common, affecting as many as 20 percent of childrenm, most outgrow it. But the itchy, swollen skin can be uncomfortable and unsightly.

The study authors don't hold out much hope that more research will find some benefit, saying that the strength of these studies makes it hard to justify further testing. They also note that evening primrose oil can keep blood from clotting and can be dangerous in people taking blood thinners, and that borage contains a compound that can be toxic to the liver.

The report was published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, which is considered the gold standard for evidence-based medicine.

As dietary supplements, alternative remedies like evening primrose oil aren't tested for safety and efficacy with the rigor that's applied to prescription medications.

Since 1998 the National Institutes of Health has put millions of dollars into studying popular alternative remedies — from yoga to chelation — to see if they work. The National Center for Conventional and Alternative Medicine's current budget is $128 million a year.

So, the good news is that we're finally getting the kinds of studies that will help people make informed choices about alternative remedies.

The not-so-good news, at least if you're selling evening primrose oil, is that those kinds of studies may show that it's not all it has been cracked up to be.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Aviator Beryl Markham Soars Again In 'Paris Wife' Author's New Book

"It is my fate to illuminate the lives of these one-of-a-kind notable women that have been somehow forgotten by history," says Paula McClain. She shines her spotlight on Markham in Circling the Sun.
NPR

At The Purple Pie Place, Where The Crusts Are Just Sweet Enough

Bobkat's Purple Pie Place is a fixture in Custer, S.D. From chicken pot pie to strawberry rhubarb, Trevor Yehlie and his family have been baking and serving pies at the local favorite since 2009.
NPR

SuperPACs Report Their Funds — And The Numbers Are Staggering

SuperPACs released their latest funding numbers Friday, and already it's clear that the committees' roles in 2016 will be gargantuan.
NPR

Despite Host Controversy, Amazon Takes A Chance On 'Top Gear'

The trio that made Top Gear the world's biggest car show will return to the small screen in a new show for Amazon Prime. The BBC canned one of its hosts last year after a fight with a producer.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.