Also known as "Kings Cure-all", Evening Primrose has a long history of medicinal use in the Western world. After being used for some time by Native Americans, it crossed the Atlantic in the early 17th century and was categorised by one of the first significant European botanists, the Englishman John Goodyer.
Its alternative name also hints at the breadth of its use - it really was thought to be a cure-all, with applications ranging from coughs and gastro-intestinal complaints to wound healing and pre-menstrual stress. Which of these is it still used for today? We give a full list below.
Evening Primrose may be particularly familiar to those readers from North and Central America, where it can be found growing in a variety of habitats. Its distinctive yellow flowers open in the evening, before closing once more at dawn, giving the plant its unique name.
Evening Primrose is very hardy and can often be found in tougher environments such as embankments or otherwise barren soil. It is frequently the first plant to succeed in such an area, but as conditions improve it is crowded out by more aggressive plants.
Although Evening Primrose was considered a multi-purpose herb when it was used back in the 16th and 17th centuries, its uses today tend to be more limited. It has not yet been evaluated by the FDA, but numerous studies have shown its effectiveness against certain ailments.
Evening Primrose Oil has been used successfully to alleviate the pain of Premenstrual Stress. In fact, as a general pain killer and sedative it has also shown promise.
Even more promisingly, a 2005 North Western University trial found that Evening Primrose Oil acts similarly to many cancer drugs in fighting breast cancer. This may become the primary use of Evening Primrose in years to come, although conventional treatments are preferable for now.
Among the ailments that Evening Primrose was thought to treat in older times are asthma, eczema, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, circulatory problems and high cholesterol. Although there is anecdotal evidence to support all these uses, no clinical trials have yet been completed.
The tenacity of the Evening Primrose plant is useful for gardeners looking to fill barren areas of their garden with ornamental plants. They tend to survive very well in dry, drought-ridden areas.
In Western cuisine, the Evening Primrose root has occasionally been used as a vegetable, while the stems can be eaten in salads. Additionally, the root has in the past been used as a flavoring for wine.
Originally, herbologists would prepare a tea from the entire Evening Primrose plant. These days however, our job is made much easier by having Evening Primrose oil readily available from most herbal stores.
For those looking for a more exact dosage, a variety of pills and capsules are also now available.
Evening Primrose is a relatively safe substance to take. The worst side effects to have been reported are mainly headaches and stomach pain. However, you should always consult you doctor before starting any herbal treatment.