Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA): The Many Benefits Revealed

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Gamma-Linolenic Acid, commonly known as GLA, is an essential fatty acid found in various plant-based oils. You may not hear about it as often as other fatty acids like Omega-3, but GLA offers its own set of unique health benefits. From supporting skin health to reducing inflammation, GLA supplements have a lot to offer. This article dives into the science behind these benefits to help you understand why GLA might be a good addition to your daily routine.

What Is Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA)?

Gamma-Linolenic Acid, or GLA, is an essential fatty acid that your body can’t produce on its own. It belongs to the Omega-6 family and is commonly found in plant-based oils like borage oil, evening primrose oil, and black currant seed oil. Unlike some other fatty acids, GLA plays a specialized role in the body. It serves as a building block for important substances that help regulate inflammation and cell growth. Because you can’t make GLA naturally, getting it through supplements or your diet becomes crucial for tapping into its health benefits. This section will help you understand how GLA works and why it’s worthy of your attention.

What Are the Benefits of Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA)?

  • Hormonal Balance: GLA may help regulate hormones.
    • PMS/PMDD: Evening primrose oil has had some positive studies showing improvement in PMS. [PMC6718646]
    • Menopause:
      • Mood Swings: Researchers gave 1,000 mg of evening primrose oil capsules daily or matching placebo for 8 weeks to 189 women. They concluded that evening primrose oil for the psychological symptoms of postmenopausal women. [PMID: 31738736]
  • Skin Health: GLA supports healthy skin by promoting moisture retention and reducing inflammation, making it beneficial for conditions like eczema and dry skin.
    • Rosacea Treatment: Researchers have found that GLA is an effective add on treatment for Rosacea. [PMC7875229]
    • Eczema: Researchers found that when they gave Evening Primrose Oil 4–6 grams daily for 12 weeks, their atopic dermatitis scores decreased. [PMC3930832]
    • Dry Skin: GLA-enriched food appears to be safe and to improve skin barrier function in subjects with dry skin conditions and mild atopic dermatitis. [PMID: 22123240]
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: GLA’s anti-inflammatory properties can ease joint pain and stiffness, possibly benefiting conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. [PMC5409664]
  • Diabetic Neuropathy Prevention/Treatment: Researchers compared GLA to ALA and concluded that GLA treatment in patients with painful Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy was non-inferior to ALA in terms of reducing pain intensity measured over 12 weeks. [PMC7453980]
  • Anti-Inflammatory: GLA’s anti-inflammatory properties have a broad range of potential benefits, from reducing skin irritation to easing arthritis symptoms. [PMID: 17168669]
  • Brain Health: GLA may play a role in maintaining brain function and supporting cognitive health.
    • ADHD: Researchers report that the addition of GLA to EPA and DHA supplementation may work synergistically to improve brain function in ADHD. [PMC9416383]
    • Cognitive Decline: In animal models of glycation induced memory decline, GLA reduced the negative effect of excessive fructose. [PMC7012036]
  • May Improve Quality of Life in MS Patients: One study reported “a significant effect on several important aspects of life quality such as the increase of cognitive function, vitality, and overall life satisfaction. It also reduced the pain and fatigue in comparison to the placebo.” [PMC6003444]
  • Improved Maintenance of Weight Loss: GLA may help regulate metabolism and support healthy weight management. Researchers studied people who had lost weight giving them either 5 g Borage oil or an Olive oil placebo. They concluded, “GLA reduced weight regain in humans following major weight loss, suggesting a role for essential fatty acids in fuel partitioning in humans prone to obesity.” [PMID: 17513402]
  • Allergies: Some individuals find relief from allergy symptoms, like itching and inflammation, with GLA supplementation.[PMC10421109]

Evening Primrose In Women’s Health

Best Sources Of GLA

Evening Primrose Oil: Evening primrose oil is derived from the seeds of the evening primrose plant (Oenothera biennis). It’s a popular source of GLA and typically contains about 7-10% GLA. What sets it apart is its relatively mild flavor and versatility; it can be used both topically and orally. People often turn to evening primrose oil for conditions like eczema, menopausal symptoms, and premenstrual syndrome due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

Borage Oil: Extracted from the seeds of the borage (Borago officinalis) plant, borage oil is one of the richest sources of GLA, containing 20-23%. It has a stronger taste compared to evening primrose oil and is often considered more potent due to its higher GLA content. Borage oil is particularly noted for its ability to improve skin health and reduce inflammation.

Black Currant Seed Oil: This oil comes from the seeds of the black currant (Ribes nigrum) plant and contains around 15-20% GLA. Black currant seed oil is unique because it also offers a healthy dose of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), another beneficial fatty acid. This dual action makes it versatile, and it is often used to improve immune function and reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

GLA, AGE’s, and Brain Function

As we get older, our thinking and memory can start to decline. One theory suggests that this happens because of something called “advanced glycation end products” (AGEs), which increase in our bodies as we age. These AGEs are formed when proteins or fats in our body react with sugar without the help of enzymes. Think fried foods and a high sugar diet. Research has shown that eating a lot of carbohydrates, especially fructose, can lead to more AGEs and memory problems.

AGEs can cause problems by activating something called “receptor for advanced glycation end products” (RAGEs), which triggers inflammation and oxidative stress. This, in turn, can make our body functions decline.

Some studies suggest that eating fats like GLA, which are polyunsaturated fatty acids, can be good for our memory and thinking. GLA is also included in anti-aging supplements because it might help with age-related issues. We can make some GLA from linoleic acid, which is in vegetable oil. GLA can be turned into other fats like dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA) and arachidonic acid (AA), which have many roles in our bodies.

An animal study aiming to find out how GLA affects AGEs and memory problems related to aging found that GLA treatment improved memory in animals that were given high fructose diets.

Additionally, they found that GLA reversed the increase in HbA1c levels caused by high fructose intake. Higher HbA1c levels have been linked to memory problems in human studies.

Furthermore, data suggested that GLA may interact with RAGE and possibly reduce the negative effects of AGEs on oxidative stress and memory. The researchers concluded that GLA, especially at lower doses, shows promise in improving memory and countering the negative effects of glycation, possibly making it a candidate for addressing memory-related conditions associated with AGEs. [PMC7012036]

Is Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA) Safe?

When it comes to safety, GLA supplements generally have a good track record. They are widely considered safe for most people when used in appropriate doses. Many studies have looked into the safety of GLA and found it to be well-tolerated, with minor side effects like digestive upset occurring only in rare cases. Importantly, it’s always a good idea to consult a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement, especially if you’re pregnant, nursing, or taking other medications. Overall, GLA supplements offer a safe way to access the fatty acid’s health benefits.

Medication Interactions with Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA)

  • Blood Thinners: Medications like warfarin can interact with GLA, increasing the risk of bleeding.
  • Antiplatelet Drugs: Aspirin and clopidogrel are examples of antiplatelet drugs that could interact with GLA.
  • Antihypertensive Drugs: Medications for lowering blood pressure, such as lisinopril or amlodipine, may interact with GLA.
  • NSAIDs: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen could interact with GLA supplements.
  • Phenothiazines: Antipsychotic medications like chlorpromazine may interact with GLA, affecting how these drugs control seizures or schizophrenia symptoms.
  • Diabetes Medications: Drugs like metformin or insulin could have interactions with GLA that affect blood sugar levels.
  • Chemotherapy Drugs: Some medications used for cancer treatment, such as cisplatin, may interact with GLA.

Supplement Interactions with Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA)

  1. Fish Oil: Combining GLA with fish oil may affect how each supplement works in your body, particularly when it comes to inflammation control.
  2. Vitamin E: Taking Vitamin E along with GLA could affect how your body processes either supplement.
  3. Evening Primrose Oil: Since it already contains GLA, combining it with a GLA supplement may lead to excessive intake.
  4. Black Currant Seed Oil: Similar to evening primrose oil, black currant seed oil also has GLA, so combining the two could result in too much GLA in your system.
  5. Flaxseed Oil: Flaxseed oil and GLA both have effects on inflammation, so combining them could lead to interactions.
  6. Borage Oil: This is another source of GLA, so taking it in addition to a GLA supplement could lead to excessive amounts.
  7. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): CoQ10 and GLA supplements may interact, affecting how each one works in your body.
  8. Turmeric: Because both turmeric and GLA have anti-inflammatory properties, combining them may result in interactions.
  9. Ginkgo Biloba: Ginkgo can have blood-thinning effects, which could interact with the blood-thinning properties of GLA.

Order Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA) Online

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Borage Oil 1000mg by NOW Foods

Borage Oil is a nutritional oil consisting of 60% Polyunsaturated Fats and approximately twice the average content of Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) as Evening Primrose Oil. GLA is an essential fatty acid that the body is able to produce from dietary linoleic acid; however, it can be more efficiently utilized for body functions when supplied directly through dietary sources. Research has determined that Borage Oil does not have harmful levels of Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids (PAs). NOW® Borage Oil is expeller-pressed and hexane-free.

  • 240 mg of GLA
  • Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids
  • Expeller-Pressed, Hexane-Free

Suggested Use: Take 1 softgel 1 to 2 times daily, preferably with food.

Amount Per 1 Softgel Serving

Borage Oil … 1g (1,000 mg)† (Borago officinalis) (Seed)

   Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) … 240mg


Evening Primrose Oil by Barlean’s Organic Oils

Nourish your body with GLA. Evening Primrose Oil is revered as a source of Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA), which is created in the body from essential healthy fats like those found in flaxseed. For people who don’t adequately produce GLA, Barlean’s Evening Primrose Oil offers a direct source. Studies have found that taking daily doses of Evening Primrose Oil may decrease the severity of cyclical breast pain*, reduce hot flashes* and relieve PMS symptoms.*

*Alternative Medicine Review Vol 15, Number 1 http://www.altmedrev.com/publications/15/1/59.pdf *Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Nov 2013, Vol 227, Issue 5, pp 1075-1079 *NCBI, Iran J Psychiatry, v.5(2); 47-50, Spring 2010
Take 2 softgels per day. 

Amount Per 2 Softgel Serving 
Gamma Linolenic Acid … 234 mg (GLA) 
Oleic Acid … 130 mg, Linoleic Acid … 1,846 mg 


GLA 130 Primrose Oil by Seroyal/Genestra

Omega-6 fatty acids to maintain health*

  • Provides 1, 920 mg of LA and 260 mg of GLA per daily dose
  • Promotes skin health*

Primrose oil is derived from evening primrose, a yellow flowering herb native to the Americas. It is a source of omega-6 fatty acids, including gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and linolenic acid (LA), that helps to maintain optimal skin health. LA accounts for approximately 12% of fatty acids in the skin, and helps maintain the integrity of the epidermal barrier. Omega-6 fatty acids promote epithelial cell function and support moisture levels in the skin and eyes. In a randomized, placebo-controlled trial, daily supplementation with evening primrose oil for three months promoted skin firmness and elasticity in adults. Recent research indicates that the skin benefits from evening primrose oil supplementation may take over four weeks to develop, as skin cells must regenerate.*

Adult Dose: Take one capsule two times daily with meals or as recommended by your healthcare practitioner. 

Amount Per 1 Capsule Serving
Evening Primrose Seed Oil … 1300mg (Oenothera biennis)

  • GLA … 130mg (Gamma-Linolenic Acid)
  • LA … 960mg (Linoleic Acid)
  • OA … 70mg (Oleic Acid)
  • PA … 78mg (Palmitic Acid)

Food First!

Although this article discusses supplements in detail, don’t forget that we are absolutely committed to the “Food First” approach to nutrition. When it comes to your health, the totality of your eating habits far surpasses the impact of individual nutrients or any single supplement you consume. Even though this article doesn’t delve into the broader picture of your overall diet, it’s crucial to keep this element at the forefront of our minds. Your food needs to provide all the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals to nourish your body systems down to the cellular level.

Food choices, rather than supplements, are the most critical factors for a healthy gut microbiome. These trillions of tiny inhabitants in your gut affect your brain waves; they orchestrate your immune system. They possess the power to create molecules that can switch genes on or off and are even capable of synthesizing neurotransmitters. Opting for organic foods and steering clear of plastic packaging (including those labeled BPA-free) is a smart move to limit toxin exposure. The sum of all these parts leads to a powerful conclusion: the ultimate key to your health lies in the quality and balance of the food you consume. Supplements are secondary.

“To Sum It Up”

Gamma-Linolenic Acid, or GLA, offers a range of health benefits worth exploring. From reducing inflammation to promoting better skin health, this essential fatty acid has a lot to offer. While it’s true that your body can’t produce GLA on its own, supplements provide an effective way to get this valuable nutrient into your system. Whether you’re new to the world of supplements or looking to expand your health regimen, GLA could be a valuable addition.


This Article is Not a Substitute for Medical Advice

Dietary supplements are not designed to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The Supplement Sciences website seeks to provide comprehensive access to the most relevant supplement information along with convenient online ordering. We do not provide medical advice and cannot guarantee that every product suggested is completely without risk. Since each person is unique in their health history and medication use, it is important to discuss supplements with your personal physician. Specifically, pregnant women and individuals being treated for cancer or liver or kidney problems must consult their physician about every nutritional supplement they plan to take. People taking medications for the treatment of HIV or with a history of organ transplant must not take supplements without consulting with their physician.


About the Author

Stephanie Figon, MS, RDN, LD

Founder of NutriScape.NET. As a dietitian since 1992, Steph Figon has had experiences in consulting, 15 years in clinical, and has operated a private practice nutrition counseling office for since 2011. Connect on Linkedin

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