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Evening Primrose Oil Overcame Persistent Allergic Reaction to Sun Exposure

Q. At 39 I developed solar urticaria. This is a skin allergy to sunlight, with pain and severe itching for days after sun exposure.

One of my friends recently mentioned that taking borage oil helped her depression. I also have depression so I looked it up and found it has gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) in it. I discovered that evening primrose oil also contains GLA. It is often recommended for skin problems such as eczema, autoimmune problems like rheumatoid arthritis and women’s hormonal problems such as menopausal hot flashes.

I decided to try evening primrose oil, and I was shocked. Just four days of taking the pills has made my solar urticaria go away.

I’m a biologist and I know all about placebos, but I can’t imagine that this uncomfortable condition could be cleared up by blind faith in an herbal remedy. If this information can help just one other person with solar urticaria, I would be thrilled.

A. Solar urticaria is a rare condition in which exposure to sun can produce dramatic hives. Doctors often recommend antihistamines or, in severe cases, immune suppressing drugs.

Although preliminary data support the use of evening primrose oil or GLA for diabetic neuropathy, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis and hypertension, there is not much solid research. One large analysis suggests caution: this supplement might suppress the immune system and could interact dangerously with the anticoagulant warfarin (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, April 30, 2013).

Your experience with evening primrose oil is fascinating and might lead to a new way to manage this uncomfortable skin condition. 

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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