Conventional wisdom has it that oils are something to keep out of our diets. These liquid fats are just too laden with calories.
But there are certain oils that have great medicinal properties…
Evening primrose oil
Oil extracted from the seeds of the evening primrose plant (Oenothera biennis) is rich in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).
Native Americans used the evening primrose as a medicine, and modern research has confirmed that its oil can help in a variety of conditions.
Many people who have diabetes wind up with neuropathy, a form of nerve damage that causes pain and weakness. An impressive body of research shows that evening primrose oil can help diabetics guard against neuropathy.
In one 1993 study conducted in seven hospitals in England and Finland, 50 diabetic patients took 12 capsules of evening primrose oil daily for one year. Another 50 diabetic patients took an olive oil placebo for the same period of time.
Result: Those who took evening primrose oil experienced significant reductions in pain and weakness, and improvements in nerve function and reflexes. Those who got the olive oil experienced no such improvements.
Borage (Borago officinalis) is a plant with blue star-shaped flowers. Oil extracted from its seeds contains an even higher concentration of GLA than evening primrose oil. Four standard capsules contain as much of the beneficial fatty acid as 12 evening primrose oil caps.
• Psychological stress
In a controlled study conducted at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, and reported in the Journal of Human Hypertension, 30 healthy college students were divided into two groups. The first group took nine borage oil capsules a day for 28 days. The second group took a placebo for the same time period. Before and after the supplement period, they were given a psychological test known to cause stress.
Result: The students in the borage oil group exhibited much less stress when they took the test the second time. Those in the placebo group exhibited no decline in stress the second time around.
Salmon and other cold water fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids substances the body uses to synthesize “good” prostaglandins. A growing body of research suggests that fish oil is powerful medicine against a number of illnesses.
• Crohn’s disease
This inflammatory bowel condition causes severe diarrhea and abdominal pain, and interferes with nutrient absorption. Crohn’s disease often goes into remission only to flare up several weeks or months later. One study done in Italy and published in The New England Journal of Medicine showed that fish oil supplements brought striking benefits to people with Crohn’s. In the study, 78 patients who were in remission took either nine fish oil capsules daily or a placebo.
Result: After one year, 74% of the control group had suffered relapses. Only 41% of those who took the fish oil relapsed.
Using medicinal oils
While there’s little risk in taking a daily capsule of evening primrose oil, borage oil or fish oil on your own, be sure to check with your doctor first. He/she should be able to help you determine a dosage appropriate for you. Certain risks are associated with use of natural oils.
Example: Fish oil can thin the blood enough to cause internal bleeding, especially when taken along with other “clot-busters” like garlic or aspirin. In some cases, it raises blood sugar and cholesterol.