Eczema: Evening Primrose Oil, Borage Oil Not Helpful

EPO is not useful for eczema, according to a Cochrane analysis. Medscape reports

Evening primrose oil (EPO) and borage oil (BO) provide little benefit for the relief of atopic eczema compared with placebo, according to a new review published in the April issue of theCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

Joel Bamford, MD, from the University of Minnesota Medical School in Duluth, and colleagues identified 27 studies (19 EPO and 8 BO; 1596 adults and children overall) that evaluated the use of oral EPO or BO for treatment of eczema compared with placebo. The review authors searched the main scientific literature databases up to August 29, 2012.

A meta-analysis of 7 EPO studies showed no significant increase in symptom relief compared with placebo based on a visual analogue scale of 0 to 100 (mean difference [MD], −2.22 [95% confidence interval (CI), −10.48 to 6.04] among patients; MD, −3.26 [95% CI, −6.96 to 0.45] among physicians). Studies of BO also failed to show any significant symptom improvement; however, a meta-analysis of studies was not performed because of differences in study reporting.

Adverse effects were mild but similar for EPO and BO, were primarily gastrointestinal in nature, and ranged in frequency from 7% to 15%. One study reported that EPO may increase bleeding risk among patients receiving warfarin.

The last line is a warning to those who think EPO is “harmless”.