Evening primrose for eczema and allergies

Mike had such bad eczema that he was hospitalised; it was so bad he had to be bathed daily and bandaged each night, but nothing worked. He couldn’t work, he couldn’t play sport, he couldn’t really see an end to his pain. He got a bit better in hospital but was still left with sore, red, itchy skin all over his body. Eventually his wife Jude discovered evening primrose oil.

Me and my eczema…

This is Mike’s story, told by Jude, who remembers it all much better than Mike.

His eczema was bad, we regularly went to the GP and had all sorts of creams, Betnovate,
Betnovate C, Betnovate RD, Hydrocortazone (sp) and Oilatum. This was all before the internet,
So I joined the eczema society and the only info was for babies and small children. I travelled all over London to buy ‘soothing’ creams which may help. I established that he was allergic to lanolin which was in E45 – you can now get it without.

Evening primrose for allergies, asthma and eczema

Evening primrose for allergies

After a week off work and antibiotics from the doctor Mike’s eczema had really got bad. Eventually he ended up in St Thomas’s with infected eczema, he was scarlet all over and his face was covered in coldsores, not just his lips, but around his nose and ears, in his hair, he was in a really bad way, the condition is called Eczema Herpeticum. It’s quite a rare condition, it is when the herpes virus infects the eczema… Luckily he got treatment before his eyesight was damaged, the doctors were more worried about his eyesight than his skin, I guess they knew they could treat the skin… He had said his eyes felt gritty.

In hospital he had baths twice a day in a purple liquid, an antibiotic we think, then covered in 50/50 and Betnavate and wrapped in tubinet. I took him fresh fruit & veg and milk etc and after two weeks in hospital he was better. But still very red all over, he used to call himself lobster face.

After about a week I had to start the whole treatment again, including sewing socks to the end of his sleeves on the tops he wore in bed, to stop him scratching in the night – a tip from the eczema society!!

Then I discovered a book called Evening Primrose Oil by Judy Graham in (yet another) health food shop. There was a chapter about eczema and research that had been done on dogs(!) in Sweden.
As far as I could find out there are no side effects and you can’t overdose, so I decided to try it on him!! At first I just gave him regular 1000mg capsules, I can’t remember if it was 6 or 8 twice a day.
Then I read something about fishoil and skin so I started Efamol which is/was Evening Primrose (EP) and fish oil. I told him it would be at least 12 weeks before he would see any improvement and after 8 weeks he was in the bath and noticed that his inner elbow had not gone red. He continued for about six months on the high dosage and then I heard EP was available on the NHS (for children) but our doctor was quite “alternative’ and gave him a prescription.

And so he gradually got better, we reduced the dose until he gave it up completely. Apart from the odd itch he’s now fine.

My theory on water is simple. If your skin is trying to produce natural oil and you keep washing it off and replacing it with Oilatum it’s not going to work. Yes the relief is good – but it doesn’t last long. So if you take oil capsules with water, which is good for the skin and try to reduce the bathing it should work. Not very scientific I know!

Sorry we don’t have any pics (I was banned) but we have given the book to at least three other people and EP worked for them too.

If you need anything else please let me know. And, GOOD LUCK! I really hope it works for you.

Mike, smiling

Mike smiling and without a trace of eczema

Special thanks to Mike and Jude for letting me tell their story and I may be imagining this but perhaps my skin is already a little less dry… who knows. Time will tell. This really was a miracle cure for Mike but the doses most of us might be taking, a few capsules a day, may not be enough to really make a difference.

I’ve been taking EP or fish oil for years, but only ever one or two capsules a day, and then long periods with nothing when life gets in the way or I can’t afford or remember to buy them.

I still have the book that Mike leant me (Mike sorry, I’ve still got it, but it came in handy for writing this blog post.

I will get it back to you soon I promise) called ‘Evening Primrose Oil – its remarkable properties and its use in the treatment of a wide range of conditions’ by Judy Graham.

It’s a really handy, pocket sized book. Not too long to be daunting and not too complicated as to confuse the reader. The chapter that’s important here is ‘Eczema, asthma, allergies and cystic fibrosis’.

We all know that eczema, asthma and allergies can be linked but I was intrigued to find out why cystic fibrosis, a condition I know very little about, is included in the same chapter.

These four conditions do have one thing in common, they can be caused by the body’s abnormal immune defence reactions and are also all classed as atopic conditions. Atopic eczema is a chronic condition which causes inflammation of the skin and can be mild or very serious. Atopy is a generalised allergic response and can also cause hay fever and migraines as well as the eczema, asthma and allergies. Atopy is also common in people with ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, ear problems and nasal polyps.

The following problems may be present in those with eczema, allergies, asthma etc.

  • Immune system problems – where your body reacts to foods and substances incorrectly, treating food protein as if it were bacteria or a foreign invader to be fought, when in fact it’s harmless. This causes all sorts of problems such as eczema and rashes, asthma and allergies.
  • Poor enzyme production and digestive problems – a number of scientific research studies have discovered that atopic people may have a defect in the enzyme delta-6-desaturase which is responsible for converting linoleic acid to gammalinolenic acid meaning they are very low in essential gammalinolenic acid and arachidonic acid. This basically means digestion is poor and some food proteins cannot be digested and so they make their way through a leaky gut membrane and cause problems elsewhere.

How can evening primrose help?

Evening primrose oil can’t correct the problem with the faulty enzyme, but it can replace the missing fatty acids that are so important for healthy digestion and immune systems. Studies at Bristol Royal Infirmary proved that patients needed to be taking at least eight to twelve capsules for twelve weeks to make up for the lifetime of living with faulty enzyme production so this isn’t a quick fix.

If you think you’re atopic and have problems with your immune system and digestion causing allergies, eczema, asthma etc. the following may make things worse:

  • Trans fatty acids – almost all the trans fats now in our diets come from an industrial process that partially hydrogenates (adds hydrogen to) unsaturated fatty acids. Trans fats, then, are a form of processed vegetable oils and many health professionals and scientists believe and have proven that they can be very bad for our health. They are found in margerines and high fat baked goods. Stick to unsaturated vegetable oils from canola, peanuts, olive, flax, corn, safflower and sunflower
  • Stress, which can cause the adrenal glands to excrete harmful hormones
  • Simple carbs like bread and cakes which can cause a rapid rise in blood glucose
  • Alcohol

As well as evening primrose oil other oils can help to do the same job including borage, flax and fish oils. I tend to alternate between them and rotate which supplement I’m taking. I’ll take a look at the differences between the Omega 3 and 6 oils on the market soon as some may be better and faster acting than others.

I found this article on the Foods Matter website. It’s quite old and dates back to 2007 but I think the information is still very relevant. Read “Fatty Acids in Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and ADHD – Dr. Alex Richardson – 2007” which goes into many other conditions which can be greatly alleviated with omega 3 and 6 fatty acid supplementation.

Just google ‘evening primrose oil for eczema’ you’ll get hundreds of links to websites with success stories.

There can be side effects in very rare cases. If you are thinking of trying it please do check with your doctor that there is no reason that you shouldn’t. There have also been more than 30 human studies reporting the benefits of EPO for eczema and dermatitis. A study of 1,207 patients found that EPO helped relieve symptoms from skin conditions, including itching, crusting, edema (fluid, swelling), and redness. EPO can be used in children and adults with skin conditions.

It’s important to remember that we are all different. What worked for Mike may not work for others, but I think I’m going to give this a go. It can’t do any harm. I take a few capsules every day anyway but I think I’ll up my dose. Anyone else tried this?

Please speak to your doctor before taking any supplements and always read the label. If you would like to speak to a professional there are many private hospitals with great allergy facilities. Find out about allergies and how to detect symptoms. Find out more about allergy treatment and medicine at a private hospital nearest to you in Kent.

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About Ruth

Ruth works freelance as a copywriter and writes the What Allergy blog to share information with people who have allergies, eczema, asthma and food intolerances. http://www.whatallergy.com was voted in the top 5 allergy blogs and Ruth also judges regularly for the FreeFrom Food Awards and FreeFrom Skincare Awards. She also won the Foods You Can People's choice Best FreeFrom blogger award 2014.


  1. Great blog post, Ruth – as always – good oils in the right place are just so important….. Will link from our sites.

    • Thanks Michelle. The problem with all these things, like supplements and the right foods is that there is soooo much to remember and so many things that might help, I rattle with the amount of vits and minerals I take. Can’t do any harm though. A link back would be fab. Thanks!

  2. Hi Guys
    Not quite sure if you are interested, but I manage an e-commerce store specialized in Eczema Relief and Management: http://www.theallergyshop.com.au
    It is unique and leading store for all people affected by eczema.
    We sell worldwide.
    It is not only commercial but also educational, based on my long experience in dealing with Atopic Dermatitis.
    We are very well-known for our audio-visual blog and Facebook.
    Anything you need please send me an email.

    • I’m absolutely convinced that eczema, like all skin conditions, comes down to the health of the skin barrier. And oils are a really important part of that – if they can get through the skin and don’t harm it.

      I always remember from my days managing a Holland & Barrett store, one of the first things we always recommended to mums with eczematous babies and toddlers was simple EPO day and night until it calmed. Worked a treat in most cases.

      The top 3 skin healing actions: remove the allergens, relieve the inflammation and strengthen the barrier.

    • Thanks Christian – Always great to have a contact where one can buy stuff for soothing and healing eczema. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Sara mason says:

    I have a two yr old. He has eczema herpeticum I’m really struggling with treatments to Sothec the effects it has on max. I’m curious as to how it is going to effect his life as he gets older. I am going to start using evening primrose oil tonight and see how he goes.

    • Eczema herpaticum is a difficult one because it’s so easy to spread it around the body and it’s so painful. Have you been to the doctor for advice? Good luck anyway and would love to hear back if it works or not. I also find aloe vera very soothing and it also has healing properties, as does tea tree oil. But there might be some medication your doctor could prescribe that might work faster. Sounds like he’s suffering. You can also break open the capsules and use the oil inside on the skin as well as ingesting the capsules by mouth. Good luck.

  4. Actually, you will find that primrose oil can be HARMFUL for diseases in which the inflammatory response goes haywire. Why? Because primrose oil is omega-6 and omega-6 is metabolized into either anti-inflammatory or inflammatory agents, depending on the BODY’S NEEDS. So if the body has chronic inflammation, it will be metabolized into inflammatory agents. Use Google to find info about omega-6 and Cystic Fibrosis. You will find that there are studies that advises to avoid them for this reason.

    • Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA), part of the omega-6 family, is essential to good health. But not all omega-6 fatty acids are the same. Linoleic acid is a form of omega-6 found in cooking oils, but a more desirable form of omega-6 is gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which is found in evening primrose, black currant and borage oils. The body converts GLA to a hormone-like substance called prostaglandins which control virtually every organ in the body. These compounds especially affect the heart and circulation, skin, immunity, and inflammation.

  5. Hi,
    I wanted to let people know that evening primrose oil works for eczema, I have suffered chronic eczema from childhood, usual treatments celestone, diprosone, eleuphrat, diprosone ov, advantan lots of oily lotions, oral prednisolone when really bad. I also tried PUVA therapy(this had bad results!) Nothing worked for very long, only helped the symptoms and made my skin so fragile that the slightest bump would make me bleed. I started taking 3 evening primrose oil tabs every day about 8 months ago (max recommended dose) , the change was gradual but the past 3 months I haven’t used any steroid creams, I dont need any moisturisers (I actually found the moisturisers were causing trouble by making my skin sweat and causing hair follicle infections) My life has changed around completely, my skin is as normal as anyone elses, no scaling or flaking, I do get the occasional redness around inside of elbows and behind knees (mostly due to stress) but this disappears pretty quickly. Evening Primrose Oil has cured my eczema which i’ve had for 35 + years. Perhaps it doesn’t work for everyone but its definitely worth a try.

    • Hi Alex, thank you so much for sharing. This is amazing. Do you also use the oil directly on your skin? I’ve never done this but that is also an option as well as taking the capsules. Definitely worth a try and better than endless treatments that give short lived relief or don’t work. Thanks again and great news!

  6. Sew Fun, Ho says:

    I had tried taking evening primrose oil capsules like 5 big ones per day for a few months and it worked for my eczema. But someone cautioned me against this high dosage of oil which may cause blockage in blood vessels leading to heart attack! May I know if there is such a risk and any other risk of overdose? What is the optimal amount to take which will help in controlling eczema yet pose no other known health risks? Thank you

    • Hi there, well I’m not sure if you can overdose on just 5. I am taking 2 fish oil capsules a day at the moment, I alternate between Evening primrose, borage and fish oil. I’ll see if I can find out.

      • Hi Ruth, Thanks for your reply. Good if we (those who are taking various types of fatty acids like evening primrose oil, fish oil, borage oil, flaxseed oils etc) can find out if there is any harmful effect of overdose, and what is the optimum amount to take. Look forward to your search.

  7. I had persistent eczema on my face near my mouth and chin during one of my pregnancies. I tried all sorts of moisturising creams, creams for eczema from the chemist and even a steroidal cream the doctor prescribed. Nothing made any difference. Then I read that evening primrose is good for the skin and is an anti inflammatory so I bought some 1000mg capsules. I took about 5 a day for 5 days and the scaling disappeared. From the sixth day onward I just took one a day and by the end of two weeks it was barely pink and by one month all signs of it was gone.

    • WOW that is amazingly quick! Thanks for sharing and such fantastic news. I’ve been using fish oil too and borage but have to admit, not taken any for months. I must get back on the supplements.

  8. I tried EPO and though it worked for skin it gave me feeling of constant hunger even after just taking 500 mg, I tried taking it before food and after food as well. It also caused mouth ulcer.

    Anyone else got same side effects ? Any suggestions on how to avoid these side effects ?

  9. I completely agree with the post by Alex, I had very similar experience when no conventional (steroids, creams, etc) or other treatments worked for my eczema and taking Efamol brand of primerose oill, 1000 mg 3 to 4 times a day for last 11 months changed my skin and my life. EPO works for eczema. I recommend all eczema sufferers to try it and be patient since it takes a couple of months to start seeing the results. Also keep the supplement dosage high for at least first several months. I truly belive that majority of dermatologists don’t even discuss EPO with the patients because they, along with pharmaceutical companies, want to sell more prescription drugs that create dependency and provide only short term effect. EPO supplement should be the first cure to try since it is proven to be successful treatment for so many kids and adults who suffer daily from this terrible condition.

  10. My allergies and eczema are bad, and only steroids have ever really helped me. Then I tried foderma serum randomly and I’m so glad that I did! He helps reduce my rashes and makes the itching stop! I wonderful product!


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