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Borage, blackcurrant or evening primrose oils for Omega-6 DGLA

What is Omega-6 DGLA?

Omega-6 DGLA (Dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid) is a metabolite of GLA (Gamma-linolenic Acid).   GLA residing in the cell membrane is a precursor to both inflammatory and anti-inflammatory eicosonoids in the cell’s immediate locale (i.e.inflammatory prostaglandin PGE2 and leukotriene LT-4 series via omega-6 arachidonic acid (AA) and the anti-inflammatory prostaglandin series PGE1. See EFA conversion chart

Local “Hormones”-“First Response Team”- Affect pain/ inflammation, muscles, blood pressure, clotting . . .

Effects of the anti-inflammatory PGE1:

  • Reduce inflammation and pain
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Relax muscles /dilate blood vessels / control uterine contractions
  • Improve immune response
  • Reduce blood stickiness
  • Regulate nerve impulses, body temperature and fluid levels
Borage flowers

Omega-6 DGLA is only directly available in mother's milk

For those of us who are no longer obtaining milk from our mothers, DGLA can be obtained by supplementing with GLA fatty acids.  These are found in quantity in evening primrose, borage and blackcurrant oils; GLA is easily converted to DGLA in the body;

DGLA production from GLA is enhanced when high levels of alpha-linolenic acid are present, blocking the arachidonic acid pathway.

Omega-6 GLA is not found in high levels in the diet and some people cannot efficiently convert Omega-6 LA (obtained from such as vegetable oils, nuts and seeds) to derivative DGLA in the step requiring the hepatic Δ6D enzyme.  GLA supplementation thus compensates for the lack of GLA in those with impaired Δ6D activity,

Inhibitors to Δ6D conversion ENZYMEs

Altered Fats.  Such as found in margarine, shortening and other processed or heated oils.

Lack of vitamin B6Magnesium and Zinc)

Cholesterol and Long-Chain Saturated Fat (from meat and dairy) compete for conversion enzymes).

LA to ALA Imbalance (LA and ALA compete for enzymes).

Sugar, Chemicals, Caffeine

Excessive  PALMITOLEIC fatty acids.  A MUFA significantly found in milk and tropical oils.

Age (over 30) – enzyme production diminishes with age; Health problems (E.g. Diabetes).

Alcohol, drugs, stress, high INSULIN, environmental chemicals.

Ancestry accustomed to a high fish diet (E.g. Inuit, Oriental, West Coast N. American native, Norwegian).

GLA Supplementation

GLA supplementation has been shown to have a favorable effect on the DGLA AA ratio.    AA increase is smaller compared to increase in DGLA, meaning less of the inflammatory PGE2 and LT-4 eicosanoids and more of the anti-inflammatory PGE1

Omega-6 GLA works synergistically with Omega-3

Omega-6 GLA supplementation should not be given until Omega-3 deficiency has been dealt with.   Until Omega-3 levels have been increased, supplementing GLA will make the imbalance worse in a probably already oversupplied Omega-6 diet.   If cancer is present, this is especially important, because Omega-6 enhances tumor growth, and Omega-3 suppresses growth.

GLA is best supplemented together with omega-3.  Co-supplementation of GLA with EPA lowers blood AA levels. It does this by blocking the Δ5D enzyme;  also lowers neutrophil leukotriene synthesis.   Barham, 2000

In most cases, Omega-3 supplementation has shown equally effective to supplementing Omega-6

Results have been comparable between Omega-3 and Omega-6 supplementation for many problems and diseases in extensive, controlled, hospital /clinic, double-blind studies world-wide.    This according to Dr. Udo Erasmus Ph.D, renowned expert on dietary fats and author of “Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill”.

There are two exceptions where GLA supplementation gives better relief than omega-3:

  • Premenstrual breast pain and premenstrual syndrome symptoms.    i.e. bloating, irritability, depression;
  • Sjogren’s syndrome (drying/atrophy of tear/salivary glands);

Some applications of GLA-rich oils

Borage Oil

Skin applications

  • 20% borage oil reverses hyperproliferation (skin cells regenerate too fast) better than EPO.   Increases ceramide synthesis in guinea pigs
  • Borage oil NOT shown effective for eczema
  • Topical application of borage oil reduces symptoms of atopic dermatitis in double-blind placebo-controlled study.  Kanehara, 2007
  • Borage oil helps hydrate elderly skin

Reports that Borage seed oil contains toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids have been found to be false.   These problematic compounds have limited the use of comfrey leaves, however, they are only present in the leaves and flowers (not the seeds) of the borage plant, and in much lower amounts than in comfrey.

Shelf life ~6 months.   Courtesy of the oil’s inherent 400 ppm tocopherols combined with the anti-oxidant ferulic acid;

Evening Primrose Oil (EPO)

Problems where EPO has been found  particularly helpful.   Results seen after 3-4 months

  • Atopic eczema.   Use 6–8 g EPO/day; may not be effective topically
  • Cyclic and non-cyclic mastalgia (breast pain) – 3-4g EPO/day
  • PMS, psoriasis, M.S.
  • Hypercholesterolemia.   2-3 g GLA/day
  • Rheumatoid arthritis.   3g GLA /day
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon
  • Sjogren’s Syndrome
  • Asthma
  • Diabetic neuropathy


Problem-specific Omega-6 Supplementation Doses:

Generally 600 mg. Omega-6 GLA / day up to max 3g / day
 Health-beneficial oils are organic, cold-pressed, and unrefined
Oil% GLADose size
Evening Primrose Oil (EPO)  ~9% GLA1 tsp. provides 460mg GLA/ day
Borage Oil (BO)~20-25% GLA1000 mg capsule provides ~ 230 mg GLA ¼ tsp. provides ~ 280 mg GLA 
Blackcurrant Seed Oil (BSO)
Unrefined BSO is hard to find
~17% GLA1000 mg capsule provides ~ 200 mg GLA.

WARNING: Drug interaction: Omega-6 supplementation may increase the risk of temporal lobe epilepsy in schizophrenic patients taking phenothiazine epileptogenic drugs.

Barham JB, Edens MB, Fonteh AN, Johnson MM, Easter L, Chilton FH (August 2000). “Addition of eicosapentaenoic acid to gamma-linolenic acid-supplemented diets prevents serum arachidonic acid accumulation in humans”. J. Nutr. 130 (8): 1925-31. PubMed

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Meet the author

Meet the author

Deeply concerned about seeing so many people experiencing way too many health issues and weight challenges, I set out on a 20+ year journey to find out what was going wrong and what could be done about it...
Food Fats and Oils – Healthy or Not?
Meet the Fatty Acid Families
Fat’s digestive journey
Cholesterol – Our Hero
Cholesterol and Saturated fat are NOT the “Darth Vader” of ischaemic heart disease
Food Oils
Best Frying Fats
Expeller-pressed vs, Solvent extracted?
Animal fat
Avocado oil
Canola oil
Coconut oil
Olive oil
Palm oil
Peanut oil
Selecting / Storing oils
Essential Fatty Acids
EFAs – Fats of Life!
Damaged / Toxic Fats
Health issues help w/ anti-inflammatory EFA supplementation
EFA Deficiency Symptoms
“Omega-3 Fix”
“Omega-3 Fix” – Omega-3 +++
We need more omega-3
How to do the “Omega-3 Fix”
EFA amounts in foods
Flax seed – 0mega-3-rich Oil, Lignans, Fiber
– Flax seed baking and storage stability
Eating fish for omega-3
– Are fish too toxic to eat?
– Salmon choices
How to choose a good marine oil supplement
– Fish oil
– Cod liver oil
– Krill oil
– Typical processing for marine oils
Science behind the “Omega-3 Fix”
Can we convert plant Omega-3 ALA to the needed EPA / DHA ?
“Omega-3 Fix” Recipes
Oats ‘n’ Flax Porridge
Fruit Slushy
Creamy Nuts ‘n’ berries
Budwig Salad Dressing
Budwig Spread
“Omega-6 – “How-to”
How to obtain good omega-6 fats
Borage, Blackcurrant or Evening Primrose Oils for Omega-6 GLA
EFAs – 5 vital functions:
(1) Cell Membrane integrity
(2) Cellular energy production
(3) Eicosanoids-“First Responders”
• EFA Conversion Chart
• Specific Eicosanoid Effects
(4) Systems Support
(5) Child Development