Evening Primrose Oil and Menopause

One of the most popular remedies for menopausal symptoms is evening primrose oil, also known as EvPO, which is extracted from the seeds of the evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) plant.

Evening primrose oil is rich in two types of omega-6-fatty acids including linoleic acid (60%-80%) and γ-linoleic acid (8%-14%). These are involved in the production of hormone-like substances called prostaglandins. By increasing production of prostaglandins, EvPO is thought to help counter hormonal changes associated with menopause.

Woman Experiencing Menopause Suymptoms
Peter Dazeley Collection / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images 

Why Do Women Use Evening Primrose Oil?

EvPO is said to help with the following menopause-related changes:

  • Anxiety
  • Hair loss
  • Hot flashes
  • Insomnia
  • Joint pain
  • Mood swings
  • Night sweats
  • Weight gain

Evening primrose oil is one of the most popular remedies for menopausal changes. A report published in Menopause in 2015 surveyed postmenopausal women aged 50 to 65 years and found that 70.4 percent used natural remedies, with evening primrose oil being the most commonly used.

Another survey published in The Medical Journal of Australia in 2015 found that phytoestrogens (like soy) were most commonly used for symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats, followed by evening primrose oil.


Proponents claim that evening primrose oil can offer relief from a number of menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, night sweats, difficulty sleeping, vaginal dryness, and disturbance in mood.

However, there is little scientific support for the theory that evening primrose oil can help treat menopausal symptoms. In fact, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that "there’s not enough evidence to support the use of evening primrose oil for any health condition."

While few studies have tested evening primrose oil's effects on women going through menopause, most of the available research has yielded negative findings. For instance, in a review published in American Family Physician in 2009, researchers stated that there is insufficient evidence to determine if evening primrose oil is effective for "most clinical indications" (including symptoms associated with menopause).

In a small study published in Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics in 2013, women aged 45 to 59 years who were experiencing menopause-related changes took either an evening primrose oil supplement or a placebo for six weeks. At the study's end, there was an improvement in the severity of hot flashes, but not hot flash frequency or duration.

Possible Side Effects and Safety

Evening primrose oil is likely safe for most people, according to the NIH. However, the use of evening primrose oil supplements may cause side effects such as upset stomach, headache, nausea, and diarrhea. Stomach pain and loose stools or diarrhea may indicate that the dose is too high. Rarely, other side effects include increased bruising, bleeding, low blood sugar, allergic reactions, or seizures. 

You shouldn't take evening primrose oil if you have bleeding disorders, epilepsy, or another seizure disorder. EvPO shouldn't be taken in combination with certain medications (including blood-thinning drugs or supplements, blood pressure medication, schizophrenia drugs, and antidepressants). It also shouldn't be taken within two weeks of a scheduled surgery. 

If you're considering the use of evening primrose oil for the treatment or prevention of symptoms associated with menopause, consult your healthcare provider before starting your supplement regimen.

The Takeaway

If you're looking for natural relief of menopausal symptoms, consider lifestyle changes such as exercising regularly, following a balanced diet, practicing relaxation techniques, and taking up yoga.

If you're still considering trying evening primrose oil, be sure to discuss it with your healthcare provider as a viable option first to best address your concerns and improve your well-being.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Johnson A, Roberts L, Elkins G. Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Menopause. J Evid Based Integr Med. 2019;24:2515690X19829380. doi:10.1177/2515690X19829380

  2. Gentry-maharaj A, Karpinskyj C, Glazer C, et al. Use and perceived efficacy of complementary and alternative medicines after discontinuation of hormone therapy: a nested United Kingdom Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening cohort study. Menopause. 2015;22(4):384-90. doi:10.1097/GME.0000000000000330

  3. Gartoulla P, Davis SR, Worsley R, Bell RJ. Use of complementary and alternative medicines for menopausal symptoms in Australian women aged 40-65 years. Med J Aust. 2015;203(3):146, 146e.1-6. doi:10.5694/mja14.01723

  4. Bayles B, Usatine R. Evening primrose oil. Am Fam Physician. 2009;80(12):1405-8.

  5. Farzaneh F, Fatehi S, Sohrabi MR, Alizadeh K. The effect of oral evening primrose oil on menopausal hot flashes: a randomized clinical trial. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2013;288(5):1075-9. doi:10.1007/s00404-013-2852-6

  6. Chung BY, Kim JH, Cho SI, et al. Dose-dependent effects of evening primrose oil in children and adolescents with atopic dermatitis. Ann Dermatol. 2013;25(3):285-91. doi:10.5021/ad.2013.25.3.285

Additional Reading
  • Kelley KW, Carroll DG. Evaluating the evidence for over-the-counter alternatives for relief of hot flashes in menopausal women. J Am Pharm Assoc (2003). 2010 Sep-Oct;50(5):e106-15.

  • National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Evening Primrose Oil [NCCIH Herbs at a Glance]. NCCIH Publication No. D341. Updated September 2016.

By Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.