Evening Primrose Oil Benefits Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) Patients

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), whose flu-like symptoms often lead to a misdiagnosis, is also known as chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome, chronic Epstein-Barr virus, myalgic encephalomyelitis and “yuppie flu.”

CFS is a complex illness characterized by incapacitating fatigue – experienced as exhaustion and extremely poor stamina – neurological problems, and a constellation of symptoms that can resemble many disorders, such as mononucleosis, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, AIDS-related complex, Lyme disease, post-polio syndrome and autoimmune diseases such as lupus, according to the CFS Research Foundation.

These symptoms lend to wax and wane are often severely debilitating and may last for many months or years, the Foundation added. All segments of the population, including children, are at risk, but women under the age of 45 seem to be the most susceptible.

“Research suggests that CFS results from a dysfunction of the immune system,” the Foundation said. “The exact nature of this dysfunction is not yet well defined, but it can generally be viewed as an up-regulated or overactive state. Ironically, there is also evidence of some immune suppression in CFS patients. For example, in many patients there are functional deficiencies in natural killer cells.”

Peter Behan, M.D., of Glasgow University in Scotland, has performed two controlled clinical trials in which he compared the effects of evening primrose oil with a placebo. He found marked clinical improvement in 85% of those with CFS who took controlled doses of evening primrose oil, as reported the Winter 1994 issue of CFS Update, a publication of the CFS Research Foundation.

Although the researchers are uncertain how the essential fatty acids such as are found in evening primrose oil, produced their effect, they noted that these essential fatty acids are decreased in patients with severe Epstein-Barr virus infections. There were no adverse side effects from taking evening primrose oil.

Behan added that “our study shows that a treatment for PFS (postviral fatigue syndrome), based on a biochemical abnormality known to be produced by certain viral infections, can lead to significant clinical improvement.”

The CFS Research Foundation, which maintains a list of physicians treating CFS, added that “these preliminary findings appear to demonstrate that evening primrose oil, may, in fact, have some efficacy in treating an underlying immune dysfunction in CFS.”

Writing in Alternatives in Healing, Simon Mills, M.A., and Steven J. Firiando, Ph.D., said that “essential fatty acids, particularly in evening primrose oil, would help the body form Prostaglandins, hormone-like substances that help to combat inflammation and allergies.”

Added Henry Edward Altenberg, M-D., in Holistic Medicine – A Meeting of East and West, “Evening primrose oil and black currant oil are natural sources of a fatty acid, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), not easily obtained in ordinary diets. As with many herb preparations, it requires several weeks to as much as eight weeks to produce positive results.”

Holistic researchers are using evening primrose oil, vitamin C, magnesium, a sugar-free diet, treatment for a Canadidan albicans infection and other procedures to deal with CFS.

Adapted with permission from BETTER NUTRITION FOR TODAYS LIVING magazine. -Copyright 1994 by Argus Inc., Atlanta, GA. USA,

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