The Benefits of Gamma-linolenic Acid for Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis

New hope may be on the horizon for those suffering the aches and pains of rheumatoid arthritis.


When taken orally, GLA promotes improvements related to joint pain, stiffness and grip strength.

Several studies show GLA is an effective treatment for reducing inflammation, joint stiffness, swelling, and overall discomfort in rheumatoid arthritis patients with few side effects.

Supplementation with evening primrose oil and other sources of GLA has been shown to lessen the joint pain and swelling of rheumatoid arthritis. A six-month study reported fewer signs of inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis sufferers taking capsules containing GLA than in those taking a placebo. In another trial, the number of tender joints and swollen joints dropped significantly with GLA but not with a placebo.

While long-term supplementation with GLA has proven effective against the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, it has none of the dangerous side effects.

What is Gamma-linolenic acid?

Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is an omega-6 fatty acid that is found mostly in plant-based oils. GLA is found in Borage (also known as Starflower) Oil, Evening Primrose Oil, and Black Currant Oil.

Omega-6 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids. They are necessary for human health but the body can’t make them — you have to get them through food. Along with omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function as well as normal growth and development. Also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), they help stimulate skin and hair growth, maintain bone health, regulate metabolism, and maintain the reproductive system.

Taken internally, the body converts GLA into prostaglandins. These hormonelike compounds help regulate various body functions, controlling inflammation in some cases and promoting it in others. The prostaglandins produced from GLA fall into the anti-inflammatory category. Cell membranes also rely on the presence of GLA.

Because these oils are not found in foods you normally eat, you have to get them from supplements.

What are the best sources of Gamma-linolenic acid?

The best sources of Gamma-linolenic acid are:

evening-primrose-oil1. Evening primrose oil

Preliminary evidence suggests evening primrose oil may reduce pain, swelling, and morning stiffness in rheumatoid arthritis patients.

Rheumatoid arthritis sufferers are missing the GLA that lubricates your joints, Evening Primrose is a GLA – gamma linolenic acid that lubricates the joints.

The remarkably rich stores of GLA in evening primrose oil are what make it so valuable in healing. Evening primrose oil offers an unusually concentrated source of GLA, with 7% to 10% of its fatty acids available in the form of GLA.

A highly recommended evening primrose supplement product is Barlean’s Organic Evening Primrose Oil,

Extra Strength Barlean’s Organic Evening primrose oil,  consists of 100% organic and pure, cold pressed oil of Evening Primrose, a potent source of Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA), an omega 6 fatty acid produced in human metabolism.

Click here to read more on the supreme benefits of evening primrose oil for treating the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

borage-oil 2. Borage Oil

Borage oil is an effective natural treatment for reducing inflammation in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis with few side effects, several studies show.


Borage seed oil is naturally extracted from the flower Borago officinalis or Starflower found in Europe, North Africa, Asia Minor and North America.

Borage Oil is a rich source of the nutritionally important omega-6 fatty acid Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA).

Borage Oil is a more concentrated source of GLA than Evening Primrose Oil. One Borage Oil capsule is equivalent to about 5 standard Evening primrose capsules in GLA content.

Borage seed oil is the richest source of GLA, containing 20 to 26%. While GLA from evening primrose oil has been widely researched, scientific evidence supporting the use of borage oil has been limited. Nonetheless, one preliminary trial and two double-blind trials have shown that borage oil, 1.1-2.8 grams per day for at least three months, reduces symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Thirty-seven patients with active rheumatoid arthritis were randomly assigned to receive, in double-blind fashion, 1.4 g/day of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) from borage seed oil or a placebo (cotton seed oil) for 24 weeks. GLA reduced the number of tender joints by 36%, compared with a 30% increase in the placebo group (p = 0.02 for difference between groups); reduced (improved) the tender-joint score by 45%, compared with a 55% increase in the placebo group (p = 0.003); reduced the swollen-joint count by 28%, compared with a 48% increase in the placebo group.

For the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, the amounts of GLA from borage used in successful double-blind trials were 1.4–2.8 grams daily for at least two months.

A highly recommended evening primrose supplement product is Barlean’s Organic  Borage oil supplement.

Barlean’s Borage Oil is gently fresh pressed and free of chemicals filtration or refinement.  The result is fresh, pure and pristine borage oil supplying 220 milligrams of Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) per capsule.

currant-seed-oil3. Black currant seed oil

Black currant seed oil is rich in essential fatty acids, which promote and maintain the body’s vital functions.

Due to the inflammation modulating benefits of black currant seed oil, it may be helpful for inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

Approximately 17% of black currant seed oil consists of the omega-6 fatty acid, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). Another 13% consists of an omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid. Evening primrose oil is primarily used for its essential fatty acid content, but it contains only about 8% gamma-linolenic acid, half of what is found in black currant seed oil. Because both omega-6 and omega-3 acids are needed in our diets, a supplement of black currant seed oil is beneficial. These essential fatty acids are broken down by the body into prostaglandins, the body’s regulating substances that block pain and govern many other physical functions, especially in proper functioning of the circulatory system

The British Journal of Rheumatology has noted that black currant seed oil may be so effective in rheumatoid arthritis patients because of a reduction in the secretion of the inflammatory cytokines and TNF-alpha. Cytokines are a source of inflammation. By preventing their production, black currant seed oil offers some relief.

Another benefit it may provide is a reduction in the amount of pain medication rheumatoid arthritis sufferers must take.

General guidelines for Use

Take your GLA supplement together with food. By taking evening primrose oil (or other GLA sources) with food, you will not only help ensure good absorption of GLA but possibly minimize any unpleasant side effects.

GLA only works if taken orally; there is no evidence that these oils applied topically are effective. It also may regulate the immune system.

Be sure to buy Gamma-linolenic acid supplements from a reliable manufacturer; cheap substitutes such as soy and safflower oils have been found in some commercial products.



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