King’s Cure, Sun Drop, German Rampion
Oenotherae biennis syn. Enothera biennis
Evening primrose is a hardy biennial (in the sub-tropics I find it is a perennial), forming a rosette of soft, hairy, grey/ green, oblanceolate-shaped leaves 15cm long, that sit close to the ground. As the plant grows, a smaller rosette of leaves form in the centre of the larger leaves. The leaves have fine, soft-toothed margins, and white raised midribs.
gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), oleic and linoleic Acid
A, B, C, E
potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium
astringent, sedative, digestive, anti-viral, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory
Being native to the U.S.A., the American Indians gathered the herb to hasten wound healing, and to use as a sedative, painkiller, diuretic, cough remedy, for muscle spasm and for weight loss. Botanists spread word of its many uses. In the seventeenth century, gardens in Europe grew the pretty plant and it became known as king’s cure all by anyone who had heard about its valuable properties.
Analytic research by scientists in the early 1900’s found the oil from the seed contained linoleic and gammalinolenic acid (GLA). It is this GLA which sets it apart from many other oils and makes the plant so valuable to our health. GLA has several important functions in the body; it plays a vital role in the upkeep of healthy cell membranes, which are the extremely thin walls around each cell. The membranes must be strong, so the cells are not attacked by free radicals, but also soft and pliable so that nutrients can enter and wastes can be excreted. Another important function of GLA is that it converts inside the body to a physiologically active substance called Prostaglandin EI (PGEI). Prostaglandins regulate a wide range of body functions including blood pressure and cholesterol levels, nervous system transmission, saliva production and inhibiting abnormal cell proliferation. It is this co-operative function of GLA and PGEI in the oil of evening primrose that can make it a star player in our well being, particularly as GLA is not very abundant in most foods we generally eat. Other sources of GLA include oats, barley, blackcurrant oil, borage, comfrey, anchusa, rosebay willow, spirulina, human breast milk, with a small amount being found in cow’s milk.
Our body can use linoleic acid to produce prostaglandins itself, provided things are functioning properly. However, many features of the modern Australian diet prevent the efficient production of prostaglandins. For example, our diet is often high in sugar, saturated fats and alcohol and we often suffer from nutritional deficiencies such as insufficient vitamins, particularly B6, C and E and minerals magnesium and zinc. It does not matter which of these contribute to the difficulty in creating GLA; the end result is the same, an inadequate amount of GLA, resulting in a prostaglandin deficiency. This is where evening primrose oil can come to the rescue. By supplementing our diet with the GLA concentrated in evening primrose oil, we enable our body to carry out the function of creating the vital prostaglandins. The wonder-working function of protaglandins should not be under-estimated; particularly as considerable research data now shows the herb can be beneficial for many conditions.... ... see How can I use HERBS in my daily life? for full text.