WONDER PLANT The evening primose, a beautiful herb with buttercup yellow flowers, has deep-sated healing properties, writes KAMALA THIAGARAJAN
I t thrives in cool climates of North America and Europe. The pretty blossoms last only a day, withering away before the sun sets and hence the name, evening primrose.
To witness the beautiful flowers unfurl in the twilight is a remarkable experience. The entire plant seems to glow with bright yellow phosphorescence.
About two inches long, the seeds of the evening primrose are used to produce a potent oil that is used in the production of medicines and cosmetics. This is because the precious oil from this seed has been known to be a true miracle worker. It contains several fatty acids that the body requires for a glowing, healthy complexion, to reduce allergic eczema (skin rash) and improve the circulation.
Rich medicinal properties
Evening primrose is said to include a substance called Gamma-linolenic acid, (GLA) which balances the female hormones that often tend to rage wild once old age and menopause set in. Linoleic acid also helps the body make use of insulin, regulate weight, and prevent cancer and heart disease. It reduces swelling or irritation, making evening primrose ideal for treating inflammatory ailments like asthma or arthritis.
New research shows that properties in evening primrose ease depression and hyperactivity. Parts of the shoot act as an astringent, soothing throat irritation and chest congestion. The root of this plant improves and tones digestion.
American Red Indians were known to use it as poultice, stuffing a cloth containing the leaves and using this crushed mix to heal bruises and to stem excessive bleeding.
Today, evening primrose is available in the form of capsules and is often recommended for calming stress. A cup of evening primrose decoction also aids weight loss (see box). For best results, one cup is recommended with every meal.
The best effects of evening primrose however, have been noted on the skin. A group of doctors from Kolkata treated chronic atopic dermatitis patients (a disorder marked by excessively dry skin, accompanied by severe itching and inflammation) with a 500 mg dose of evening primrose oil in capsule form. The treatment continued for a period of 5 months. At the end of the fifth month, 96% of the patients showed marked improvement, with no significant adverse effects reported.
If you would like to supplement your diet with evening primrose capsules, do consult your doctor for the appropriate dosage before you begin. Keep in mind that an excessive dose can do more harm than good.
If used in excess, the oil may cause indigestion, nausea and headache. For individuals prone to seizures and epilepsy, it is best to avoid evening primrose altogether, since some studies have proved that it can worsen these conditions.
Today, it is heartening that more detailed studies into the healing properties of this wonder plant are being conducted by researchers across the world.