Evening Primrose Monograph by Student Contributor Millie Lopez

      Oenothera My whole life I’ve seen evening primrose along the roadsides. Although, I only knew her as a simple wildflower not as  a plant with medicinal properties with the ability to help heal someone. As we would play around outside as kids in my home town in southwest Louisiana we would pick the pink evening […]


    My whole life I’ve seen evening primrose along the roadsides. Although, I only knew her as a simple wildflower not as  a plant with medicinal properties with the ability to help heal someone. As we would play around outside as kids in my home town in southwest Louisiana we would pick the pink evening primrose flowers and admire the amount of pollen it would produce. We knew them as the buttercups, which I’ve always thought they were called buttercups because first they were cup shaped and second because they produced so much pollen that they took on a buttery look. They actually and later most odviously got there name from the way the flowers open up in the evening. I noticed this while  growing the Oenothera missourensis myself that I bought from The Natural Gardener. Right before I went to the store in the evening I saw that the little sepals were about to bust open and when I returned after the sun set there was a show of three beautiful yellow flowers. I expected them to open up the next day and did not make the connection until I later read in an article on Henriette’s Herbal Homepage that the evening primrose flowers are considered to be nocturnal. 
           In botany terms, as stated in Thomas J. Elpel’s book Botany in a Day evening primrose is in a subclass of the the Rose Family and is part of the Onagraceae Family. The Latin name for evening primrose is Oenothera speciosa et ahethe flowers are commonly pink or yellow, regular, bisexual or perfect, with 4 sepals and 4 petals. Whats neat is that, “There are an equal number or twice as many stamens as petals” as Thomas Elpel states. Also, the stigma has as many lobes to carpels in the ovary, which is usually again the number 4. When the ovary matures it forms a capsule of seeds that bust open and spread the seeds surrounding the are. The seeds contain high levels of omegas, which is what evening primrose is popularly known for today. The leaves are long and pinnate, sometimes having ridges on the sides. I’ve noticed that the leaves of the Texas species have sharp looking ridges on them but the missourensis do not. Also, i’ve noticed that even though evening primrose is classified as nocturnal on Henriette’s Herbal, I’ve seen them in bloom here in Central Texas during the day also. 
           There are 20 genera and 650 species of Oenothera, 12 genera being in North America according to Thomas Elepl. It was originally only native “to central grasslands from Missouri and Nebraska through Oklahoma and Texas to Northeastern Mexico” as stated in an article from The Lady Bird Johnsons Wildflower Center. The same article also states that Oenothera has buttercup as one of its common names, which is most likely why we know it as that in Louisiana. Other common names are the showy evening primrose, pink ladies and Mexican evening primrose. Another evolving viewpoint that I observed while reading this article is that the pink evening primrose populations in the southern parts of the U.S. actually open there flowers in the morning and close them at night. It would be interesting to look more into the different types of species of Oenothera while keeping this energetic difference in mind.
          During my first few provings with Oenothera I didn’t want to have any preconceived ideas of what the plant does in the body before I took it. I started taking it daily, the whole plant in tincture form and noted any changes I felt and if any of the effects were the same overtime. When I took the tincture form my energetics were greatly effected. I instantly felt it in my heart center, warming and comforting me. Over time my energetics slowed down a bit and shifted into a more cooler relaxed state. Although, I still harnessed a noticably warm center, which I almost always equate with comforting feeling and thoughts. This warmth was felt specifically in my core, and to be more specific, in the stomach area and reproductive system. This effect was consistent for a couple of days. In Making Plant Medicine Richo Chech explains that evening primrose “will impart lasting tone to the reproductive organs”. I observed noticable energy and movement in that area of the body without a doubt. Also in Henriette”s Herbal and The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Healing Remedies they both state that Oenothera has an affinity for regulating PMS discomfort especially those associated with pelvic fullness. Also, that it can be used for body indications of tissue fullness altogether, specifically dirty looking tissue states. Making me want to look further into Oenotheras role in promoting  happy and healthy tissues in the body. A couple of people in class noted that since they have taken the fresh form of a decocted tea of Oenothera there was noticeable change in the softness of there skin. 
         Oenothera is a mucilaginous plant having anti-inflammatory qualities, meaning that evening primrose can be considered both a wet and cool herb for its ability to calm and sooth heated situations in the body. It’s been used to heal rashes and wounds, as Ellen Zimmer stated in a question regarding traditional uses of Oenothera. What’s awesome is that even though it can cool and heal inflamed tissues and make cells more elastic by juicing them up, it can also move water along. Susan Anderson would best describe the herb as both a cool and dry with great astringent properties. I believe that this can be considered the overall energetic understanding of evening primrose.
        Evening primrose seems to have a great affinity for the tissues and skin. Susan Anderson believes Oenothera has an affinity for the mucous membranes of the GI track along with other systems in the body and I thought it notable that Richo Chech suggested that the best preparation of evening primrose is to take the plant fresh, using the flowers and foliage as salad garnishes as well as the seeds for there high omega content. All of the properties of Oenothera lead me to believe that some of the best preparations for it would be in either a cold oil infusion, a glycerite or as a cold and hott water infusion. The alcohol infusion seems to have more of an affinity for the reproductive organs and digestive system, moving things along and toning them.8 When trying to bring healing to tissues you can only add in that healing process by allowing the already essential nutients in the plant, in this case the essential fatty acids, to be present when using it for healing that specific system in the body.
          I feel we can find great healing with Oenothera using oil infused preparations. The essential oils in it help our cells maintain an overall healthy state and healthy growth. Lisa Ganora states in her book Herbal Constituents that “A balance of many different fatty acids is important for the health maintenance and the prevention of excess inflammation.” The specific essential fatty acid found in Oenothera is a polyunsaturated fat called y-Linoleic acid. It seems that since Oenothera is known for it’s omegas and observed to be pretty mucilaginous that oil infusions or glycerites would be the most logical form or preparation. 
        Overall to me Oenothera is uplifting to the spirit, toning to the tissues of the body along with being soothing and cooling to mucous membranes, relaxing to the body and mind and also moving to fluids and energetically moving altogether. I actually had a dream about evening primrose the other day. There were zombies all around and I was told to give the people evening primrose to pull them out of there zombie state, helping to balance that specific emotional state within humans. Maybe evening primrose can even help enliven someone who’s already naturally melancholic but they are in a state of imbalanced were they are even too slowed mentally or physically for there already slow natural state. Another indication for using evening primrose I feel would be that if there is also a manifestation of stagnation in the body, specifically wet stagnation. Maybe this outlook could be helpful when balancing a formula for someone with this body type so that it does not push them too far into a sanguine, hott, awakend state creating an imbalancefor them from there natural state. Even clinical herbalist Anne Merrill would describe the plant as moving and yet still having a softening quality. Invertly it can may even be use to cool over heated situations in the body down, specifically the tissues of the body and the reproductive system while allowing a humorally hot individual to stay within there natural moving, warm state of being. To me evening primrose controls the fire within the core but still allows it to stay alive, kindled, burning bright and strong as it should.

    Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification by Thomas J. Elpel’s. Page 114.
    Henriette’s Herbal Homepage. Oenothera-Evening Primrose Kings American Dispensatory1898 www.hentiettesherbal.com/eclectic/kings/oenothera.html 
    Lady Bird Johnsons Wildflower Center The University of Austin Tx. Oenothera speciosa www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=OESP2
    Making Plant Medicine Richo Chech. Page 150.
    Herbal Constituents: Foundations of Phytochemistry by Lisa Ganora. Page 188.
    Natural News. Evening primrose oil: The king’s cure all http://www.naturalnews.com/036177_evening_primrose_oil_nutrition_healthy_oils.html