Benefits of GLA

By Alyssa O'Brien, RD, LD
May 1, 2017

Gamma linolenic acid (GLA) is a special type of fat in the omega-6 family. We need a proper balance of essential fatty acids from omega-6 in our body to thrive. Think of GLA as an activated form of omega-6 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 GLA can maintain youthful skin, working hormones, and an efficient metabolism. Even breast milk is full of essential fatty acids such as GLA but as we get older, we don’t have activated sources of GLA, like breast milk, in our diet anymore. For a more adult source of GLA, we are sharing that we can get GLA from evening primrose or borage seed oil. Phew, no breast milk for us!

GLA 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


Skin: 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 content of GLA to stay resilient and supple, inside and out. Cracking skin, dry hair and brittle nails may indicate you need more fats like GLA. If you’re dealing with dermatitis, you will be happy to know that GLA is an effective treatment for some. (1) The benefits don’t stop there; GLA helps maintain skin’s moisture and elasticity as we age. (2) Plus, beyond skin benefits, it might be surprising that some of our clients find GLA relieves incontinence or asthma. In both cases, GLA supports the lining of the bladder and lungs to work better and stay flexible.

Weight: Simply put, your body needs the right kind of fats to lose fat. GLA 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.

PMS and Menopause: If you experience PMS or menopausal symptoms, it could be from hormonal imbalances or excess inflammation – maybe both. One safe solution is GLA. A deficiency of essential fatty acids like GLA, contributes to the inflammation that makes symptoms worse. Your body also needs GLA to make good quality, functioning hormones. Although more research is needed on this topic, after supplementing with GLA, some women report fewer symptoms ranging from decreased breast pain to improved moods. Keeping your blood sugar low and taking the right dose of GLA may help to correct essential fatty acid imbalances associated with PMS and menopausal symptoms.

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.

GLA is safe for teens and adults. For more specific information on your personal health history, consider coming in to talk with one of our nutritionist and dieticians to learn more.

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

About the author

Alyssa has personally experienced the radical improvements that nutrition has on cholesterol levels, anxiety, anemia, energy and more. These experiences inspire her to support others to make real changes with real food in order to be happy and healthy with themselves and those around us. Alyssa is a registered dietitian and licensed through the Minnesota Board of Nutrition and Dietetics. She received her B.S. in dietetics from the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Then she completed the Mid-Willamette Valley Dietetic Internship in Oregon.

View all posts by Alyssa O'Brien, 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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