Image for Gamma linolenic acid (GLA)
Gamma linolenic acid (GLA)
While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.

Related Terms

  • Blackcurrant berry, blackcurrant dried leaf, blackcurrant oil, blackcurrant seed oil, borage oil (Borago officinalis), borage seed oil, BSO, bugloss, burage, burrage, casis, cassis, cureall EPO, Efamol, European black currant, European blackcurrant, evening primrose oil, fever plant, fungal oil, king's grosellero negro, hempseed oil, huile de hourrache, huile d'onagre, n-6 essential fatty acids, night willow-herb (Oenothera biennis), omega-6, omega-6 fatty acids, omega 6 oil, omega-6 oil, polyunsaturated fatty acid, primrose, PUFA, quinsy berries, ribes nero, ribes nigri folium (Ribes nigrum), scabish, siyah frenkuzumu (Turkish), squinancy berries, starflower, starflower oil, sun drop, zwarte bes.

Background

  • Gamma linolenic acid (GLA) is a dietary omega-6 fatty acid found in many plant oil extracts. Commercial products are typically made from seed extracts from evening primrose (average oil content 7-14%), blackcurrant (15-20%), borage oil (20-27%) and fungal oil (25%). GLA is not found in high levels in the diet. It has been suggested that some individuals may not convert the omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid to longer chain derivatives, such as GLA, efficiently. Thus, supplementation with GLA-containing oils, such as borage oil and evening primrose oil, is occasionally recommended to increase GLA levels in the body.
  • GLA is available commonly as a dietary supplement and is sold over the counter in capsules or oil to treat a variety of conditions such as eczema, oral mucoceles (mucus polyps), hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol), depression, postpartum depression, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), psoriasis (chronic skin disease), muscle aches, and menopausal flushing.
  • There is currently good evidence for GLA treatment in rheumatoid arthritis, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage). Little or no effect has been found in treatment of atopic dermatitis, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), cancer prevention, menopausal flushing, systemic sclerosis, and hypertension (high blood pressure). GLA has also been used to help with the body's response to tamoxifen in breast cancer patients.
  • Today, production and extraction of oil from evening primrose and borage is done by companies primarily in China, New Zealand, and England. Pharmaceutical licensing for GLA oil products has had only limited success worldwide.

Evidence

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Dosing

The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.

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Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

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Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.