Evening primrose oil contains high levels of the omega-6 essential fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid, or GLA, while flaxseed oil is comprised of 90 percent unsaturated fatty acids, the majority of which are the omega-3 essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA. Each of these oils has distinct, though different, health benefits.
Evening primrose oil may help treat a chronic skin condition known as atopic dermatitis in which impaired fat metabolism leads to inflammation, according to a study published in the September 2008 issue of the "Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprosy." In the study, participants with atopic dermatitis took 500 milligrams of evening primrose oil per day for five months. After the first month, 96 percent of participants experienced improvement in symptoms such as itching, skin dryness and area of skin affected. No adverse effects were reported.
Evening primrose oil may offer benefits for relief of diabetic neuropathy, a painful degenerative nerve condition associated with diabetes, according to Jeffrey I. Mechanik, coeditor of the book "Nutritional Strategies for the Diabetic/Prediabetic Patient." Omega-6 fatty acids in evening primrose oil are necessary for production of nerve cell membranes and myelin, the fatty substance that covers and insulates nerve cells. A laboratory animal study published in the August 2012 issue of the journal "Ultrastructural Pathology" found that two weeks of supplementation with evening primrose oil reduced nerve damage and improved pancreatic health.
Your heart will thank you for including flaxseed oil in your diet for its ability to thin the blood, decrease inflammation and reduce the risk of irregular heartbeat, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. A laboratory animal study published in the October 2012 issue of the journal "Lipids in Health and Disease" found that a combination of exercise and flaxseed oil increased levels of high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, the good form of cholesterol, and an antioxidant that guards against arterial plaque formation. Another study published in the August 2012 issue of the journal "Cytokine" found that flaxseed oil supplementation decreased inflammation and prevented arterial plaque formation in laboratory animals.
Lignins, a group of phytoestrogens in flaxseed oil, provide antibacterial, antifungal and anticancer properties, according to the University of Dayton. A study published in the December 2007 issue of the journal "Ophthalmology" found that flaxseed oil reduced inflammation and assisted in the healing of chronic eye infections in children. Researchers concluded that flaxseed oil may offer a safe alternative to long-term antibiotics for some infectious conditions.
Omega-6 fatty acids in evening primrose oil may promote seizures in some people and should not be used if you have a history of seizure disorder. If you are pregnant or breast-feeding, consult your doctor before using evening primrose oil. Both oils have blood-thinning effects and shouldn't be used if you are prone to bleeding problems or have a blood disorder. Flaxseed oil and other omega-3 fatty acids can raise fasting blood sugar levels. If you take blood sugar-regulating medications, consult your doctor about using flaxseed oil.
- Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprosy: Evening Primrose Oil is Effective in Atopic Dermatitis: A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial
- Ultrastructural Pathology: Histopathological Study of Evening Primrose Oil Effects on Experimental Diabetic Neuropathy
- Nutritional Strategies for the Diabetic/Prediabetic Patient; Jeffrey I. Mechanick and Elise M. Brett
- Lipids in Health and Disease: Effect of Flaxseed Supplementation and Exercise Training on Lipid Profile, Oxidative Stress and Inflammation in Rats With Myocardial Ischemia
- University of Dayton: Healthy Benefits of Flaxseed Oil
- Ophthalmology: Visual Outcome and Corneal Changes in Children With Chronic Blepharokeratoconjunctivitis
- Cytokine: Dietary Flaxseed Oil Reduces Adipocyte Size, Adipose Monocyte Chemoattractant Protein-1 Levels and T-cell Infiltration in Obese, Insulin-Resistant Rats
- Voprosy Pitania: Nutritional and Functional Properties of Flaxseed
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Possible Interactions With: Flaxseed Oil
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Evening Primrose Oil
Tracey Roizman, DC is a writer and speaker on natural and preventive health care and a practicing chiropractor. She also holds a B.S. in nutritional biochemistry.