Primrose Oil May Successfully Treat Allergic Skin Disorder

This study focuses on determining the benefits of evening primrose oil on an inflammatory skin disorder called atopic dermatitis. Evening primrose oil is a rich source of essential fatty acids, the absence of which could lead to atopic dermatitis. Fifty patients, recently diagnosed with atopic dermatitis, were randomly assigned to two groups. Members in one of the groups were treated with primrose oil and the others were served a placebo. At the end of the study, it was found that nearly everyone (96 percent) of those treated with primrose oil showed improvement without adverse effects, while only 32 percent of the placebo group had improved.

Atopic dermatitis is a chronic skin disorder in those with allergies or asthma. This disease begins to affect people during their early years. The incidence has been increasing over the years. Even with a wide range of treatment modalities, an ideal solution to this chronic disorder is yet to be found. Those with atopic dermatitis have lower plasma levels of essential fatty acids and this worsens the inflammation. Evening primrose oil, hempseed oil, and spirulina are natural, rich sources of essential fatty acids, such as linoleic acid and gamma-linolenic acid. Many clinical trials highlighted the benefits of evening primrose oil, in particular, on atopic dermatitis. This study was performed, as there have been no similar studies on the Indian population.

* Fifty newly diagnosed patients with atopic dermatitis were split into two groups. The first group was given 500 mg capsules containing primrose oil, to which vitamin E was added as antioxidant. The other was the placebo group and the members in the group received sunflower oil as treatment.
* The patients took one to 12 capsules orally per day, depending on the individual’s age, for a total of five months.
* The patients were examined every month, until the end of the study, and parameters like extent of the scars, intensity, dryness, and itching were assessed. Each of these parameters was assigned a score between one and three.

* Nearly 60 percent of those in both the groups had a family history of allergic disorders.
* The total score of all the disease parameters reduced from 7 to 2.24, in those treated with evening primrose oil. However, in the placebo group the scores dropped only to 5.7 from 6.4.
* At the end of five months, there was a marked improvement in 36 percent of those treated with evening primrose oil and no improvement in the placebo group. Moderate improvement was seen in 56 percent of the treated group compared to 8 percent of the placebo group after five months.

Shortcomings/Next steps
Not many studies on the effects of evening primrose oil have been done on the Indian population. Atopic dermatitis is attributed to various genetic and environmental factors. With the success of evening primrose oil on the study population, further studies on its effects on other disorders could show encouraging results.

Evening primrose oil has been recommended as a treatment modality in various diseases, mostly allergic or those involving the immune system. In this study, evening primrose oil has been used for atopic dermatitis with no reported adverse effects. Evening primrose oil has also been used in other disorders and has improved clinical parameters like the lowering of immunoglobulin E levels in allergies and itching. Factors such as racial variation and use of other drugs could explain the rationale between inconsistent patient responses to evening primrose oil. As dietary supplementation of essential fatty acids did not alleviate atopic dermatitis in most studies, the use of evening primrose oil could be promising.

For More Information:
Evening Primrose Oil for Allergic Skin Disorders
Publication Journal: Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology, October 2008
By Swapan Senapati, Sabyasachi Banerjee,
From the Calcutta National Medical College, Kolkata, India

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.

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