The Health Benefits of Ahiflower Oil

This vegan omega-3 fatty acid may be the new fish oil

Ahiflower oil and softgels

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Ahiflower oil is a healthy oil rich in omega-3 fatty acids that is fast becoming a favored alternative to fish oil and flaxseed oil. Derived from the seeds of the corn gromwell plant (Buglossoides arvensis), ahiflower oil is different from fish and flaxseed oil in that it is converted in the body into biologically active forms of fatty acid.

Ahiflower oil is a rich source of stearidonic acid (SDA), an omega-3 fatty acid also found in hemp seed oil, blackcurrant oil, and spirulina. When consumed, SDA is broken down and transformed into docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), the two types of omega-3s found in high concentration in fish oil.

DHA is a primary structural component of the brain, skin, and retina, while EPA is known to help lower cholesterol and triglycerides.

Health Benefits

Many people have turned to ahiflower oil as a vegan alternative to fish oil. As a group, omega-3 fatty acids are known to reduce chronic inflammation that contributes to the onset and progression of many diseases, including:

Different omega-C fatty acids have different bioactive properties. Ahiflower oil stands apart due to its high SDA content.


Although fish oil is high in DHA and EPA, only a proportion of these fatty acids will enter the bloodstream through the intestines. With ahiflower oil, any and all SDA that enters the bloodstream will be converted to DHA and EPA. As a precursor to DHA and EPA, ahiflower oil may be more effective than fish in boosting fatty acid levels.

Other plant-based oils like flaxseed oil or pumpkin seed oil are rich in a type of omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). While boasting many of the same properties as SDA, ALA is the one omega-3 fatty acid that does not confer to cardiovascular benefits, according to a 2018 report in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Moreover, the conversion to ALA to DHA and EPA is nowhere near as efficient as ahiflower oil.

Ahiflower oil also contains omega-6 fatty acids which play a major role in brain function, bone health, and the avoidance of type-2 diabetes.

Current Research

Because ahiflower oil’s use as a dietary supplement if relatively new, few scientific studies have evaluated its health properties.

Among the available research, a 2016 study published in the Journal of Nutritional Science compared the fatty acid composition in 40 adults provided either ahiflower oil or flaxseed oil for 28 days. People given ahiflower oil had far higher concentrations of DHA and EPA in blood and tissue samples.

A 2017 study published in the journal Nutrients similarly demonstrated the anti-inflammatory benefits of ahiflower oil over other plant-based oils. For this study, 88 adults were given a daily supplement of either ahiflower oil, sunflower oil, or a combination of the two oils for 28 days.

By the study’s end, the adults treated with ahiflower oil only had higher concentrations in an anti-inflammatory compound known as interleukin-10 (IL-10). Increased IL-10 concentrations correspond to an improvement in certain inflammatory diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn's disease.

Possible Side Effects

Due to the paucity of research, little is known about the long-term safety of ahiflower oil. Though generally regarded as safe (GRAS) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), higher doses of ahiflower oil may slow blood clotting, increasing the risk of easy bruising and bleeding.

For this reason, ahiflower oil should be used with caution if you have a bleeding disorder or are taking anticoagulants ("blood thinners") like Coumadin (warfarin) or Plavix (clopidogrel). You should also stop taking ahiflower oil supplements two weeks before scheduled surgery to avoid excessive bleeding.

Compared to fish oil, the risk of allergy to plant-based oils like ahiflower oil is low.

Ahiflower oil may be advantageous to people with a fish or shellfish allergy who are more likely to be allergic to fish oil.

Dosage and Preparation

Ahiflower oil is typically sold as a softgel capsule. They are not dosed in the same way as vitamins—in milligrams (mg) or international units (IU)—but are instead measured by their constituent fatty acids in either grams or milligrams. Ahiflower oil is sometimes sold in bottles and dispensed by the teaspoonful.

There are no guidelines for the appropriate use of ahiflower oil. Studies have used up to 9 grams (9,000 mg) daily for 28 days. Even so, there is no evidence that higher doses are any more effective than lower ones.

Most manufacturers recommend up to four softgels per day. However, be advised that the amount of stearidonic acid per capsule can vary. Some brands contain less than 300 mg of SDA per capsule, while others deliver in excess of 500 mg per capsule.

Always read the product label to determine the exact SDA content per capsule.

What to Look For

Because dietary supplements are not strictly regulated in the United States, the quality can vary from one brand to the next. To ensure quality and safety, opt for supplements that have been voluntarily submitted for testing by an independent certifying body like the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab, or NSF International.

If you are strictly vegetarian or vegan, check that the softgels are made with vegetable-based gelatin rather than gelatin from pork or beef cartilage.

Ahiflower oil supplements can be stored safely in the refrigerator or a cool, dry room. Bottled oil should be kept refrigerated once open. Avoid direct sun exposure (such a keeping the pills on a window sill) as this can oxidize the oil and lead to rancidity.

Never use a supplement past its expiration date. If stored in the refrigerator, ahiflower oil has a shelf life of around two years.

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