Dec 242007

You can read my original Evening Primrose post here. This post was based on my initial experiencs the beginning of last June, and this current post reflects using the plant very frequently for the last few seasons.

Oenothera spp.
Energetics: Neutral to Cool. Fairly neutral in humidity, though containing both mucilage and astringent properties. Very gentle and suitable for the young, elderly and infirm or of delicate constitution.

Actions: Anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, vulnerary

Affinities: Reproductive, GI, Lungs, Kidneys, Nervous

Excellent for uterine/ovarian cramping for many women, either as tea or tincture of the whole plant including roots and budding, flowering and seeding tops. Also helpful in the intestinal distress that often accompanies such cramping. Great for chronic reproductive inflammation and pelvic congestion, especially when used long term. More sedative as a tincture, more gently calming and nourishing as a tea. A prime nourishing infusion herb, restorative to the nerves, reproductive organs, GI, kidneys and lungs with its greatest affinities seemingly aligned with the reproductive tract and lungs. I use it where many would use Oatstraw, as Evening Primrose is native and local whereas I must order Oatstraw — and while they are not identical, they are similar enough in their nutritive properties for it to be a most useful exchange.

There are some older references to using Evening Primrose in glandular fullness, and I feel that it may be a gentle lymphatic along the lines of Violet, but haven’t tested this theory specifically yet, but have noticed such effects when treating other disorders.

The seeds are a traditional food for many indigenous tribes, and contain a goodly amount of essential fatty acids. You can pay a pretty penny for the extracted oil in health food stores, or you can collect the seed, crush it and add it to flax seed oil or some other EFA rich oil, keep it stored someplace cool of course, or make as needed. The leaves are usually mild, mucilaginous and slightly peppery and make a lovely addition to salads and stews. The young roots can make a tasty vegetable, depending on the species, and growing conditions, and were traditionally boiled or used like parsnips in food.

Here are the primary constituents of the common Evening Primrose, quoted from Michael Moore’s Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West (2nd edition):

Lignin  Seed 160,000 Ppm
Linoleic-acid  Seed 227,798 Ppm
Quercetin  Herb; Leaf 207,000 Pp
Tannin  Herb 110,000 Ppm
Beta-linoleic-acid  Seed 66,000 Ppm
Alpha-linoleic-acid  Seed 58,000 Ppm
Glutamic-acid  Seed 28,068 Ppm
Oleic-acid  Seed 50,000 Ppm
Palmitic-acid  Seed 31,590 Ppm
Gamma-linolenic-acid  Seed 48,600 Ppm

It especially excels as a vulnerary and has been used extensively by native peoples for snakebite, spider bite, swellings, bruises, wounds and all sorts of insect stings/bites and other irritations. Modern use confirms these uses, and my own experience has found that a spit poultice of the leaf is amazing for many wounds and bites, the salve or fomentation is also very useful, and the plant in all its preparations and forms are necessary items in my practice.

As a nervine, it is potentially very effective, but not all respond to it immediately, and sometimes prolonged use is necessary to take advantage of it deepest benefits. It can be a most useful calmative, especially suited for nervous exhaustion, hormonally oriented irritability and depression and anxious, tense children. It is of an uplifting character, and useful in cases of mild to moderate depression, most noticeably so when associated with exhaustion, addiction withdrawal and chronic digestive issues. It may be thought of it as an adjunct or replacement for Milky Oats in many formulas.

I also use Evening Primrose in all of my lung tonic formulas, and consider it nearly as essential as Mullein for such applications. It has a history of use in bronchitis, asthma (especially with digestive involvement), pneumonia, whooping cough and similar lung ailments. I find it useful as a soother and anti-spasmodic for the lungs, and a wonderful addition to Mullein, Rabbit Tobacco and other gentle lung tonics, especially as it is not as drying as many common lung herbs.

Evening Primrose is a common plant from India to Europe to North America with a long history of folk use and quite gentle, yet effective, in application. I find it curious that it is not more utilized by modern herbalists, though it is gaining some popularity with David Winston’s work with it in GI based depression, and Matthew Wood’s writings about its overall tonic attributes.

I’ve included some ideas below on how Evening Primrose can be incorporated into everyday usage or professional practice.


GI Tonic for Dyspepsia and Hypo-acidity associated with Eating Disorders
2 Parts Evening Primrose
1 Part Mugwort
1/2 Part Rosemary

Menstrual Cramps
2 Parts Evening Primrose
2 Parts Blissowort (Skullcap)
1 Part California Poppy
1 Part Wild Peony root (optional)

Reproductive Tonic for Pelvic Fullness, Poor Circulation, Inflammation and Cramping (to be taken throughout the month, or at least for the last two weeks of the cycle, works as tincture or strong tea, though I somewhat prefer the tincture)
2 Parts Evening Primrose
1 Part Rose Hip (fresh or recently dried)
1 Part Sweet Clover

Lung Tonic for Inflammation, Dryness, Irritability and a tendency to spasmodic afflictions
2 Parts Evening Primrose
2 Parts Mullein
1 Part Elderflower
1 Part Chokecherry bark
1/2 Part Ginger root
note: 1 Part Elm or Malllow could be added or substituted for the Cherry for extra moistening effects.

Nourishing Formula for Inflammation of the Liver and associated digestive distress
2 Parts Evening Primrose
1 Part Mugwort
1 Part Rose

Nervine for Children
1 Part Evening Primrose
1 Part Catnip
1 Part Lemon Balm

Nerve Tonic for Exhaustion, Burnout or Substance Withdrawal (best as tincture combo)
1 Part Evening Primrose
1 Part Blisswort (Skullcap)
1 Part Nettles (or Nettle Seeds with specific adrenal involvement)
1/2 Part Sage

General Salve
1 Part Evening Primrose
1 Part Plantain
1 Part Elder flower or leaf

  5 Responses to “Another Evening Primrose Post”

  1. Thank you for an excellent post on this plant. I HAVE to get to know her better. funny thing is, all along the creek where we moved this fall there are old dried stalks of her. just have to wait till spring!


  2. You’re welcome! I hope you enjoy her, she’s a fabulous plant.

  3. Are you tincturing the whole plant, and drying the ariel parts?

  4. Hi Celia, I’m using whole plant (roots and all) for both tincture and drying. I might try separating out the parts this year, but I love love love the taste of the tincture and tea from the way I’ve been making it…. but if it’s a prolific enough year, I want to make an all flower tincture.

  5. An all flower tincture makes me wonder about a flower essence of Evening Primrose. Very healing of painful childhood memories, “literally rebirths the soul, providing a matrix of emotional nutrients that were lacking in the soul’s earliest feelings about incarnation” (FES book).

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