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Herbal Remedies: Evening Primrose for Diabetes

Updated on April 8, 2018
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My knowledge of herbal remedies comes from self-testing and research. I have poisoned myself so you don't have to, in other words.

A partially blooming batch of Evening Primrose. They will completely open during the night.
A partially blooming batch of Evening Primrose. They will completely open during the night.

A Brief Description of Evening Primrose

The evening primrose is a North American flower and medicinal herb. It looks like a green stalk jutting out of the ground with yellow bulbs near the top. These bulbs actually contain flowers that bloom from late spring through summer. They are wholly unremarkable. At least they're unremarkable in my opinion, but what do I know about fashion and beauty? It's considered an ornamental plant in many parts of Europe and can be seen all over botanical gardens. I suppose fashion and beauty will continue to elude me.

The interesting part of the evening primrose is what happens during the blooming season. Every evening the flowers on the plant will quickly open and ready themselves to be fertilized. The flowers will close by noon of the next day and, if fertilized, will turn into a small fruit. When I first saw this I was really shocked, but I think some of the reactions on YouTube are a bit over-the-top for this. Maybe watch those videos with the volume muted.

If you like, you can grow this plant just about anywhere. Be careful though, as it's an invasive species. Your neighbors are not going to thank you for an evening primrose infestation. Maybe grow it in a pot in an enclosed space if you can.

Evening Primrose Blooming Poll

Have you ever seen an Evening Primrose open up?

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Video of an Evening Primrose Blooming

The evening primrose flower closing in the morning. It repeats this ritual throughout the blooming season.
The evening primrose flower closing in the morning. It repeats this ritual throughout the blooming season.

Evening Primrose's Medicinal Uses

The most prevalent use of evening primrose is for diabetics, especially those suffering nerve damage. Taken in the correct dose the oil of this herb can help improve the symptoms of nerve damage. This seems to be linked to the fatty acids contained in the flower's oils, but since herbal supplements aren't heavily regulated in America we may never have the research. Personally, I've seen mixed results from evening primrose for nerve damage. About half of those I've talked to will swear by it, but about half will say it doesn't help.

Another use of evening primrose that you may not have known about is bone density. Taking this herb with calcium can help reduce bone loss or even increase bone density if you have osteoporosis or just a weak bone structure. Now, some sources say you need to take primrose with fish oil tablets for it to be effective while others say that the herb by itself is fine. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I don't have bone density issues so I can't experiment on myself. Feel free to comment on your own experiences.

I know I'm leaving out a lot of alleged medicinal uses of evening primrose. I know a lot of people use it for ADHD. I know about the supposed benefit for people with high cholesterol. However, after researching for this article I know about a few things I now regret. The listed medicinal uses are the only ones I could find evidence to support.

Now, before you ask, the answer is yes. I did find that it has "some" support as a treatment for eczema. I also found that support challenged by legitimate medical journals. If it personally helped you that's great. Unfortunately, there are good odds it won't help anyone else. At least not any more than acupuncture or other placebos will.

The variant of evening primrose with a purple flower is still medicinal. I have not personally tested its effects compared to the yellow variant though. I've seen them on the border with Mexico.
The variant of evening primrose with a purple flower is still medicinal. I have not personally tested its effects compared to the yellow variant though. I've seen them on the border with Mexico.

Preparing Evening Primrose For Medicine

Every part of the evening primrose plant is edible and contains the medicinal oil. You could just pop a few of the seeds, the flowers, or the leaves into your mouth if you like. If that doesn't suit you, you could also grind up the plant and put it in a capsule. In fact, I've heard that some people like to use the ground up leaves or whole flowers to make a tea. I'm not sure if the tea retains the medical benefits though. Be careful if you want to go that route.

However, the way I prepare evening primrose is in a tincture. This is where we infuse the herb into another source. In this case, I'll be using alcohol.

To prepare a tincture of evening primrose, I use about 1 ounce of the herb and mix it with 5 ounces of high proof Vodka or EverClear. You can use just about any part of the herb for this process. You can use it whole or dry it and grind it up. Either way, you'll want to mix it in a small jar or vial and give it a good shake. Label and date the vial and let it stand for about six to eight weeks. Make sure you shake it once a day to keep the process going. When done, move the liquid portion of the tincture to an amber vial with a dropper. My recommended dosage is about 3 drops on your tongue three times a day. Don't go overboard, this is alcohol after all.

A variation on that, which has been recommended to me, is to try infusing the herb in honey. I haven't tried it myself, but if the idea of using an alcohol tincture is upsetting or impractical it might be a good alternative. Give it a shot if you intend to give this to someone under the legal drinking age.

This is, unfortunately, a case of the evening primrose invading another habitat. It doesn't belong in this particular forest, but a poorly maintained garden nearby has allowed it to spread like wildfire.
This is, unfortunately, a case of the evening primrose invading another habitat. It doesn't belong in this particular forest, but a poorly maintained garden nearby has allowed it to spread like wildfire.

Evening Primrose Toxicity and Side Effects

Aside from a few mild side effects, there are a number of situations you don't want to mix with evening primrose.

Evening primrose can make it harder for your blood to clot. So, if you suffer from a bleeding disorder, or you're bleeding right now, don't take the herb. Also, and it really should be obvious here, don't take evening primrose with things like aspirin or other anti-clotting medications. That is unless you want to know what it's like to have hemophilia. In that case, your curiosity will be satisfied beyond your wildest dreams.

Next, the fatty acid inside evening primrose seems to have odd effects on people with seizures. If you have epilepsy or seizures this herb can increase the frequency and severity. It can also cause seizures in certain people suffering from Schizophrenia or who take drugs for the illness. Unfortunately, you won't know this is going to affect you until it does. There doesn't seem to be any warning signs that evening primrose will affect you. My advice, as with all herbal remedies, is better safe than sorry.

I'm putting this last because it's a combination of the other two points. Don't take evening primrose with surgery. The herb can both reduce clotting and interact with anesthesia. This means you can bleed out and have a seizure during your surgery. I feel this deserves special attention. It's one thing to have trouble closing your wounds. It's another thing to do that while you're having a seizure.

Seizure Symptoms Poll

Do you suffer from seizures that might cause a conflict with Evening Primrose?

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The southern variants with purple flowers also close during the daytime. This is an example of one flower in the process of closing down for the morning.
The southern variants with purple flowers also close during the daytime. This is an example of one flower in the process of closing down for the morning.

© 2018 Michael Ward

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