Researchers estimate more than 31 million Americans suffer from eczema, an itchy skin rash that often includes redness, swelling and cracking of the skin. The most common treatments are moisturizers and steroid creams, but they are not always effective at controlling the symptoms.
A recent systematic review by the Cochrane Collaboration looked at the effectiveness of two alternative treatments – oral evening primrose oil and borage oil – for treating eczema.
The analysis included 27 studies with more than 1,500 participants in total. There was no statistically significant advantage demonstrated for either evening primrose oil or borage oil compared to placebo.
Both treatments yield some mild side effects: headache, upset stomach and diarrhea. With evening primrose oil there is an anticoagulant (blood-thinning) effect when taking these products, which could be especially dangerous for people already using another blood thinner product.
The take-home message: Neither evening primrose oil or borage oil are effective in treatment eczema. There is some evidence that topical steroid creams, exposure to ultraviolet light and an immune-suppressing drug called cyclosporin (for serious cases) are effective. As with any health problem, it’s important that a physician develop a tailored treatment plan for each patient.