Benefits of GLA

By Leah Kleinschrodt, MS, RD, LD
April 8, 2024

GLA, which stands for gamma linolenic acid, is a supplement we often recommend in clinic for a collection of things, but most importantly: skin (and hair), weight, and hormones.

This article will answer your burning questions on everything GLA, what the GLA supplement benefits are, and how to take it if essential fatty acid supplementation is right for you.

What is GLA?

Gamma linolenic acid, GLA for short, is a special type of fat in the omega-6 fatty acids family. We need a proper balance from omega-6 (and omega-3) in our body to thrive. Think of GLA as an activated form of omega-6 fatty acids that nourishes your cells and decreases inflammation and without it, things don't work properly.

What does that mean? It means getting the right amount of gamma linolenic acid can maintain youthful skin, balanced hormones, and an efficient metabolism.

As an example of how nourishing gamma linolenic acid is, it's interesting to note that breast milk is full of essential fatty acids, including GLA. To think we get fed this healthy fatty acid in our first weeks of life, if we were given breast milk as babes, proves how healing it can be for our bodies.

GLA is harder to find in significant amounts in the normal food supply, so most people who seek the benefits of GLA turn to supplementation from evening primrose oil or borage seed oil.

Benefits of GLA For Your Body?

Gamma linolenic acid can be most effective for these three things:

  • Skin – GLA promotes hydration and elasticity inside and out.
  • Weight – GLA potentiates fat loss and increases energy.
  • PMS & Menopause – GLA supports hormones and reduces inflammation.


GLA Supplement Benefits For Skin: 

Do you suffer with dry skin, broken nails or cracked heels? Then, no matter how much lotion you use, nothing seems to help? How about dry hair, bumps on the back of your arms and cracked fingertips?

The integumentary system (skin, hair, nails, and glands) is your largest organ. It's made up of countless cells that rely on essential fatty acid like GLA to stay resilient and supple, inside and out. 

Cracking skin, dry hair and brittle nails may indicate you need more fats like gamma linolenic acid. If you're dealing with dermatitis, you will be happy to know that GLA is an effective treatment for some. (1) It can also be helpful for those who are dealing with eczema or psoriasis. The benefits don't stop there; GLA helps maintain skin's moisture and elasticity as we age. It may even reduce wrinkles! (2)

Plus, beyond skin benefits, it might be surprising that some of our clients find GLA relieves incontinence or asthma. In both cases, GLA provides moisture for internal tissues and supports the lining of the bladder and lungs to work better and stay flexible.

"I have been using GLA for a few years now and it is the ONLY thing that has ever gotten rid of my dry scalp. Where head and shoulders fails, GLA prevails. I can’t live without this anymore.
It has multiple other benefits as well that other reviews can speak to :)" ~Krissy

GLA Supplement Benefits For Weight:

Simply put, your body needs the right kind of fats to lose fat. Gamma linolenic acid is one of the right kinds to turn on your body's fat burning network. GLA makes a certain kind of prostaglandin (a fat that works like a hormone) to activate the metabolism. (3) Through this messaging network, GLA revs up fat burning and boosts energy.

When working with clients, we often find that a lack of essential fatty acids, like GLA, is a missing component to activating fat burning for weight loss.

GLA Supplement Benefits For Hormones:

Can you count on the struggle with PMS symptoms like clockwork? Or are you in the throes of menopause and feel like a walking furnace and chest freezer all at once? Let’s not dwell on the negative.

Instead, let’s talk about one of our favorite tools to combat these uncomfortable symptoms (plus, night sweats, mood swings, we're talking about those too among others!) that come from hormonal disturbances.

For these uncomfortable, rollercoaster symptoms we often recommend gamma linoleic acid. Remember, a GLA supplement is a ready to use (activated) form of omega-6 that nourishes your cells and decreases inflammation. Less inflammation means fewer hormonal rollercoasters during the month. Anytime you can reduce inflammation in the body, you’re doing yourself (and future self) a huge service!

GLA Benefits For PMS:

Ok, bear with us because this gets a little science-y. A deficiency of essential fatty acids, like GLA, isn’t a good thing. It causes low prostaglandin levels (signaling molecules that regulate certain body functions, like menstruation) and high sensitivity to prolactin (a reproductive hormone in the brain).

In women, prolactin is higher in the second half of the menstrual cycle. This means more intense PMS symptoms as you get closer to your period. No fun … but GLA to the rescue! The linoleic acid in GLA helps to increase prostaglandins, which in turn helps to relieve PMS and makes your hormonal cycle through the month a smoother ride.

Studies have shown up to 3,000-6,000 milligrams of evening primrose oil (a form of GLA) to be safe and effective. If someone is really struggling with PMS symptoms, we commonly recommend 4-6 softgels per day of GLA-160 (which is 4,000-6,000mg of borage seed oil) to fully supply the body with this crucial fatty acid.

GLA Benefits for Menopausal Symptoms:

In the early days at Nutritional Weight & Wellness, one of our dietitians met a regular client who swore that taking GLA had completely gotten rid of her hot flashes. With her enthusiasm in mind, and research supporting this claim, we share this option with clients in peri-menopause and menopause who are struggling with those infamous hot flashes.

Research supports the use of GLA for reducing the severity and frequency of hot flashes and who doesn’t love that result?

The amounts used in these studies were fairly small, at 500-1,000mg per day. So 1 softgel of GLA-160 per day (which is 1,000mg of borage seed oil) may be sufficient for some women. Others may need more, especially if they struggle with vaginal dryness or other dry skin, hair, and nails in menopause. 

If you can relate to the struggle of hormones, wherever you are in your cycle or menopause, consider trying GLA and watch how you feel.

We often remind our clients that supplements (especially fat-based supplements like this one), rarely produce overnight results. Many studies used GLA for at least 8 weeks, and we often recommend taking GLA consistently for 3-4 months before re-evaluating your hormonal symptoms and potential benefits.

Food Sources of Gamma Linolenic Acid:

As a food first company, we like to recommend options for folks who like to get nutrients from their food. Both omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids are called “essential” because we can’t make them within our bodies and therefore, we must consume it from food or supplements.

Since gamma linolenic acid is an essential omega 6 fatty acid, this falls into the category of needing to get it from outside of our bodies. Food sources of dietary gamma linolenic acid are found in evening primrose oil, black currant seed oil, borage oil, and in spirulina (often called blue green algae).

Flaxseed oil is rich in alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), a form of omega 3 fatty acid, but it also has some omega 6. Some of our clients take therapeutic doses of both omega 3 and 6 while sometimes it is easier to use separate supplements to achieve the wanted results.

Essential Fatty Acids: Omega 3 vs Omega 6

As we mentioned above, gamma linolenic acid, GLA for short, is a special type of fat in the omega-6 fatty acids family. We need a proper balance from omega-6 (and omega-3) in our body to thrive and GLA helps keep those fatty acids in balance. Let's talk briefly about the differences of omega 3 and omega 6.

A common question we get is "what's the difference between omega 3 fatty acids and omega 6 fatty acids?" Both of these fall under the category of polyunsaturated fatty acids. These dietary essential fatty acids are ones that we need to get through food or supplements because the body doesn't make them on its own.

Food sources for omega 3 fatty acids are fatty fish, like salmon, anchovies, mackerel, herring, sardines, and tuna along with plant sources like chia seeds, flaxseed, and walnuts. Omega 6 fatty acids, like we mentioned above, come from various plant seed oils.

Because omega 6 fatty acid content can also be found in refined oils, like soybean oil, canola oil, and cottonseed oil, if you are eating a lot of processed or fried foods, it's easier to be consuming more omega 6 fatty acids compared to omega 3s.

We often recommend omega 3s fish oil for brain health, heart health, and reducing inflammation and are beneficial for people with heart disease, depression, cancer, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and other autoimmune diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis.

Omega 6s, in the form of gamma linolenic acid, we recommend as a support for skin, hair, hormones, and metabolism.

Working with a licensed and registered dietitian or nutritionist can help you determine if you are getting the right balance between omega 3s and omega 6 fatty acids or if you would benefit from dietary supplementation, like a high quality fish oil.

How To Take GLA Supplements: 

If you decide that taking gamma linolenic acid dietary supplementation is right for you, we would recommend taking 4-6 GLA soft gels daily. GLA is best taken with meals, so many of our clients find it helpful to divide it out between breakfast and dinner.

Like mentioned earlier, especially with hormones, it may take some time to see changes in your cycles or menopausal symptoms. Plan to take GLA for a couple of months and take note of any positive changes.

In our nutritional counseling, we have seen evening primrose oil to be helpful for younger women and borage oil for women after age thirty. Whichever form is right for you, an effective dose can range from 300-1000mg per day. Gamma linolenic acid is safe for teens and adults.

Our Recommended GLA Supplements Brand

When considering nutrient supplementation, it's important to choose a quality product that's gone through third party testing and uses a high standard for ingredients. In clinic, we recommend our sister company NutriKey as a source for great dietary supplements.

NutriKey GLA-160 provides 4,000 milligrams of borage seed oil (640mg of gamma linolenic acid) and we have had many clients find great success with this product, including our staff!

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"I decided to order this last month after I got an email advertising all the benefits from NWW. I wanted to give it a shot and I'm so happy I did! It took me about a month to notice results but my skin is glowing and my PMDD symptoms have decreased dramatically. To the point I was caught of guard by my period showing up and didn't even experience the extreme PMS I usually do. My skin looks the best it ever has! I've received so many compliments on my skin in the last month than I ever have and this is the only thing I can contribute it to. I also get very cystic/hormonal acne and this month I've noticed a significant decrease in my breakouts. I love this product so much! Love what it does for my body and skin and highly recommend trying it out!" ~Lexi

Key Takeaways For GLA

For the health of many systems in the body to function properly, you need a balance of the essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Gamma linolenic acid is a therapeutic source of essential omega 6 fatty acids that may help support the health of your skin, your metabolism, and your hormones.

It's important with fat-based supplements to give them time to work in the body and you may not experience results right away.

You can't supplement your way out of a poor diet, so support your efforts with a real, whole foods diet plan and reach out to us if you need help in setting up a meal plan and supplement plan that's right for you.

Nutritionist Support For Skin, Weight, And Hormones

If you have more questions about gamma linolenic acid supplementation for your specific needs, scheduling a nutrition consultation would be a great next step. Our registered and licensed dietitians will look over your health history to see what dose would work best for you and what other dietary adjustments you can make for the best improvement.

For more information on skin, hormones, or weight management, check out these resources:

READ: Acne and Diet: What You Need To Know - food swaps plus key supplements for those who have breakouts.
LISTEN:Boosting Hair Health - Ask a Nutritionist- diet strategies, nutrients, and supplements (including gamma linolenic acid, GLA!) to maintain and promote healthy hair growth
LISTEN: Hidden Weight Gain Factors- where guest, Ann Louise Gittleman talks with our nutritionists about how gamma linolenic acid can assist with weight loss

NutriKey Products Mentioned:

NutriKey GLA-160: provides 4,000 milligrams of borage seed oil with 640 milligrams of gamma linolenic acid, an omega 6 fatty acids source that is instrumental in maintaining hormonal health and healthy tissues throughout the body.


3) Gittleman, Ann Louise. The New Fat Flush Plan. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2017

About the author

Leah is a licensed dietitian with Nutritional Weight & Wellness. Leah’s natural inclination toward health began to falter in college as she fell victim to the low-fat, high-carbohydrate, low-calorie dogma of the time. It didn’t take long for her body to start showing signs of rebellion. When Leah found Nutritional Weight & Wellness and began eating the Weight & Wellness Way of real food, in balance, her body swiftly reacted. Leah continues to be amazed each and every day at the positive impact that nutrition has had on her own health. Knowing how wonderful that feels, she is passionate about helping as many people as she can find their own relief. Leah is a licensed dietician through the Minnesota Board of Nutrition and Dietetics. She received her bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science from the University of Minnesota, Duluth. Most recently she completed her M.S. in Nutrition from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

View all posts by Leah Kleinschrodt, MS, RD, LD


I have read that Evening Primrose oil can have interactions with anesthesia that could cause convulsions. It is recommended not to take it a couple weeks before any surgeries. Is that the case?
May 3, 2017 at 1:51 am


As a precaution, we generally recommend stopping all supplements before surgery unless approved by your doctor. 

cherise irving
I want to thank you for this information.
October 16, 2017 at 5:22 pm

Why is your site classified as not a secure site
December 19, 2017 at 4:53 am


This issue should be now be resolved!

I know this is an old article but I have a question...they say my prostaglandins are too high which is resulting in bad cramps every month (approx. 10 days a month before a period). Does that mean GLA would not help? I already take Omega 3's daily but there's no GLA in them.
March 17, 2018 at 9:58 am


I’m sorry to hear about your bad cramps, that can be miserable. I think it would be better to make an appointment with one of our nutritionists as it sounds a little more complex then we can answer over a blog comment. GLA may be very be helpful. However, it is difficult to recommend without a personalized appointment. 

I've just started taking Borage seed oil with this product Safe to take regular.does it lower your cholesterol , Blood pressure and.raise your good Cholesterol.and also help you loose some Weight.and lower your blood sugar and keep it on track among other things.and is it safe for long term use?
Answer back please ??
October 17, 2018 at 2:35 pm


GLA is safe long term. It may help to raise your HDL, but is not one of the primary reasons people supplement with it. GLA can help with weight loss. Supplementing with omega-3 is more beneficial for blood sugar and cholesterol. It is not known to reduce your blood pressure. This podcast talks in depth about the benefits of GLA and this article you may also find helpful

Can GLA cause brain tumors in women or increase your estrogen or progesterone levels?
November 29, 2018 at 9:14 pm


Interesting question! However, I have found no evidence suggesting that evening primrose oil has estrogen or progesterone in individuals.  I have also not found any research suggesting it will cause brain tumors in women.  It is always good to be cautious before adding supplements to your regime.  It is important to have an expert evaluate supplement needs based on each individuals health profile.


I developed rash on my both legs after using foot massage machine at the end of July. I have seen my family doctor and skin specialist but they prescribed the cream that don't help at all.
Until December I tried zincofax on my legs, it helped a lot to get rid the rashes but my legs were still red and itch. Then I start to take evening primrose oil 500mg one capsule per day for menopause symptoms and only after 2 days, my legs don't feel itchy much like before. and now I am taking 2 500mg a day.
My menopause symptoms is irregular period, sleep problem, dry itchy skin and eczema on my legs after using foot massage machine. I am 46 years old.

My questions is:
Should I take more dose to help my eczema on my legs? How much EPO should I take?
Is Borage oil more effective than EPO? Any side effect of Borage oil cause I have never try Borage oil.

Thank you

January 12, 2019 at 5:03 pm


So glad to hear that you have found relief with the Evening Primrose Oil (EPO)! EPO is in the same "family" of Omega 6 fats as borage oil, so you will likely see a similar benefit with both sources. Some people respond better to the EPO, while others like the borage oil - you may try a bottle at a time and see how your body responds to the same dose from the two different sources. The natural Omega 6 fats in both sources help to hydrate the tissues and they work to balance hormones - which is why they can be helpful for symptoms related to menopause and hormonal weight gain. Eczema can be related to a deficiency in the essential fats (like Omega 3 and Omega 6), but it can also be a sign of a food sensitivity, digestion problem, or immune imbalance. If you are still struggling with unresolved symptoms, consider setting up an individual consultation with one of our great nutritionists. They would be able to help you formulate a nutrition plan and supplement guide to best fit your individual needs.

Great questions and responses. . . I feel better overall & have been taking less than a week!
My question is for the old (76 yo) man in my life.... will EPO aid in reducing a slightly enlarged prostate? Thanks in advance....
February 26, 2019 at 11:50 am


Omega 6 GLA would be a great start in helping to rebalance hormones for both males and females. We understand that many men have an enlarged prostate as a result of too much estrogen in their body. You can learn more about the estrogen connection to prostate health here: In general, we find that our male clients need some additional support with the anti-inflammatory fats like Omega 6 GLA and Omega 3 EPA/DHA (aka fish oil).

What is the best time of the day to take Borage oil?
June 2, 2019 at 10:50 am


The GLA/Borage seed oil is best taken with meals. Many of our clients find it helpful to divide it out between breakfast and dinner.

This causes me to wonder: Is Flaxseed oil also a good supplement to take?
June 3, 2019 at 2:36 pm


Flaxseed oil is rich in alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), a form of Omega 3 fatty acid.  It also has Omega 6 or GLA.  Some of our clients  take therapeutic doses of both Omega 3 and 6 and sometimes it is easier to use separate supplements to achieve the wanted results.


Amy M
THANK YOU for this information! I am so excited to try some of the recommendations. I have SUFFERED menopausal symptoms for yeeears. Am post menopausal now, but still endure so many almost intolerable symptoms with no relief in sight. I have used prescribed medications and supplements for years with minimal relief if any, and have found the gynecologist to only have a specific spectrum and time frame they are willing to consider before telling me something along the lines of: sorry about your luck; and, well, it just comes with age and effects some women differently than others (live with it). This gives me hope. Do you have a newsletter to which I can subscribe?
September 22, 2019 at 10:17 pm


We are so happy you found this information helpful, We do have a newsletter you can sign up here. We also have a podcast click here for the podcasts on Menopause. If you would like more individualized help in managing your symptoms you can also set up a one-on-one appointment with one of our Nutritionists in-person if you are in the twin-cities, via phone or skype. 

I'm suffering from acne since puberty and recently I got treatments from a specialist dermatologist. Doctor told me that my acne is due to hormone imbalance. With tropical treatments I could cure acnes upto a great extent. Now my skin is dull with hiperpigmentation, blackheads, whiteheads under-eye dark circles and some pimples. Body skin is very dry. My lips are also very dark. Will GLA be helpful to cure these conditions? I'm slim and not fat. Will GLA reduce my weight further? I'm 25 years old. Thank you!
November 12, 2019 at 9:08 pm


GLA can help some of this but probably won’t get rid of all of these symptoms. The GLA is worth a try and no it won’t reduce your weight further.  If the acne is due to hormonal imbalances I think you need to address that then you won’t need to rely on topical treatments. You may find this article 5 Hormone-Related Symptoms That Often Go Ignored helpful. I would suggest making a one on one nutrition appointment to address this, it’s too difficult to provide further recommendations without knowing more about you individually.

Mandy dorrington
I’ve decided to start taking GLA in the hope it will kick start my weight loss. I’m a body builder and lost loads of weight for my competition. But seem to have now plateaued where I’m eating well but can’t seem to lose any weight. I go go through stages of building and cutting. Either my body has got used to this and not playing ball now! So hoping this will work.
Also my periods have become so heavy now and I get bad cramps when I did not used to at all. I know losing body fat will always affect my hormones so need to get this balance back and really need to grow my hair which doesn’t seem to be growing!!
April 15, 2020 at 7:05 am


Sorry to hear you've been experiencing some troubling health concerns! GLA is a good start to help with weight loss and promote hair growth. However, to really get to the bottom of what's going on, I think meeting with a nutritionist or dietician via phone or video would be most beneficial. It sounds like your body is going through a lot of changes and needs a little extra support!

Is borage oil safe for 13/14 year old girls to prevent/treat eczema? Does it interfere with the body's ability to regulate its immune system or hormone system?
June 1, 2020 at 3:52 pm


Yes, borage oil is safe for teen girls and shouldn’t negatively affect other systems in the body.
Great read here. I've just started taking GLA and excited to see results. A little bit to assist in weight loss and skin issues. How much do yo recommend I take?
July 11, 2020 at 12:12 pm


We would recommend taking 6 GLA softgels daily to see the benefits of the supplement. Take 2 with each meal or 3 with 2 meals.

iv just started taking starflower 1000mg i take it at night with my meal.
However i have been very restless and not sleeping since ,could this be a side effect?
March 12, 2021 at 1:50 am


I have not heard of these kind of effects from GLA, but anything is possible. I would recommend stopping the supplement and see if the restlessness and sleep improve. If they do, then perhaps the starflower is the culprit.

Lana Jackson
I found this article to be very helpful. I would like to know what are the names of some of these products and where can one find them. Thank you.
December 18, 2021 at 7:08 pm


We recommend our NutriKey GLA 

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