Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA) and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA)

GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid that is found in the oils of some plant seeds, including evening primrose (Oenothera biennis), borage (Borago officinalis), and black currant (Ribes nigrum). GLA can be used by the body to make substances that reduce inflammation.
Effectiveness and safety information are as follows:
  • A 2000 Cochrane Collaboration review analyzed seven placebo-controlled studies of GLA (from evening primrose, borage, and black currant oils) for rheumatoid arthritis. The authors noted that there were issues with these studies that made it difficult to draw conclusions. However, they thought the better studies indicated potential relief of rheumatoid arthritis pain, morning stiffness, and joint tenderness.
  • There are potential side effects and risks to be aware of with GLA. First, these plant seed oils may affect certain medical conditions and interact with prescription medications. Some specific warnings to be aware of include:


    • Some borage seed oil preparations contain ingredients called PAs (pyrrolizidine alkaloids) that can harm the liver or worsen liver disease. Only preparations that are certified and labeled as "PA-free" should be used.


    • Borage oil and evening primrose oil might increase the risk of bleeding and bruising, especially in people taking blood-thinning drugs, such as aspirin, clopidogrel, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or warfarin.


    • Evening primrose oil may cause problems for people taking a class of psychiatric drugs called phenothiazines, such as chlorpromazine or prochlorperazine.


    • Side effects of these oils can include nausea, diarrhea, soft stool, intestinal gas, burping, and stomach bloating.


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