What are the Most Common Evening Primrose Side Effects?

Stacy Blumberg

Evening primrose is an herbal supplement that is taken to treat a variety of ailments such as premenstrual syndrome, heart disease, and eczema. Not all uses of evening primrose have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but it remains a popular natural remedy. Most people who take evening primrose do not experience negative side effects. The most common evening primrose side effects are headaches, nausea, indigestion, and soft stools.

Some individuals may experience hives as part of an allergic reaction to evening primrose.
Some individuals may experience hives as part of an allergic reaction to evening primrose.

Common evening primrose side effects are also the milder side effects, as none of them are life threatening or lead to lasting issues. People who experience headaches, nausea, indigestion, or soft stools when taking the supplement orally are advised to discontinue use and speak to a doctor before beginning again. Those using evening primrose oil externally may experience rashes or hives as side effects.

Headaches are a potential side effect of evening primrose oil.
Headaches are a potential side effect of evening primrose oil.

A small percentage of people are allergic to evening primrose. Allergic reactions can lead to more severe evening primrose side effects. Symptoms of an allergy include hives, difficulty breathing, and swelling in the face. Extreme allergic reactions may lead to seizures. If any of the symptoms of an evening primrose allergy manifest, seek medical attention immediately.

Certain people are advised not to take evening primrose without consulting a physician for additional information. Those who suffer from schizophrenia, epilepsy or blood clotting disorders are typically advised not to consume evening primrose. Anyone who is expected to have surgery may need to stop taking evening primrose a few weeks before the surgery, as it can increase the risk of bleeding. Little is known about the effects of the supplement on unborn babies, so pregnant women should avoid taking evening primrose until after the baby is born.

Evening primrose is a flowering plant and is taken orally as an herbal supplement or used externally as an oil. The key ingredient is gamma-linolenic acid, or GLA, a fatty acid. Other uses of the supplement are treatment of acne, diabetes, and Alzheimer's.

Even though evening primrose side effects have been reported, it is considered one of the safer supplements to take regularly. The incidence of serious side effects from evening primrose is extremely rare. Milder side effects are more common than the serious ones but are still infrequently reported by those taking evening primrose.

The Native Americans are thought to be the first to use evening primrose for medicinal purposes. European settlers learned of the plant from the Native Americans and brought the root back to England and Germany. In Germany, evening primrose is known as German rampion.

Evening primrose oil capsules.
Evening primrose oil capsules.

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Discussion Comments


I had a severe reaction to EPO and ended up in the ER with severe abdominal pain. I will never touch the stuff again!


Does anyone have an allergy to the evening primrose plant? I have never taken primrose oil but after having primroses on my dining room table and picking off the dead blossoms for two weeks, I developed a rash and other allergy symptoms. The primroses were the only thing I could come up with that were different.

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