Oenothera biennis (Genus oenothera) -A Ethnobotanical Review


Afroz Patan*, Saranya, Vignesh, Bharathi, Vikram, Yuvaraj, Vijey Aanandhi

Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Analysis, School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Vels Institute of Science, Technology and Advanced Studies (VISTAS), Pallavaram, Chennai – 600117, Tamilnadu, India.

*Corresponding Author E-mail: afroz.sps@velsuniv.ac.in



The current context of research in the field of pharmacy is experiencing a shift towards natural medicine and to the vegetative product with curative properties. Genus Oenothera includes medicinal plants that are distributed throughout the world and are known since ancient times. Popular indications of different species of this genus include treatment of inflammation, diabetes, microbial infections, ulcer, tumors, kidney and liver problems. The plant of this genus are a botanical source for various pharmaceutically active components like sterols, alkaloids, phenolic acid, flavonoids, triterpenoids, saponins, biflavonols and tocopherols responsible for the diverse range of biological activity. In this review the activities studied anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant, anti-proliferative and hypocholesterolemic activities exhibiting a wide range of crude extracts of plants in in-vitro, in-vivo and in-silico studies.  Anti-inflammatory activity were done by using in-vivo studies towards the extract lipoxygenase and hyaluronidase aganist the stronger activity of the compound possessing the effect. Anti-bacterial activity was performed by in-vivo and in-vitro studies aganist microorganism using scavenging activity by the microorganism resistant. Anti-oxidant activity was evaluated by using Electron transfer (ET) based assay using DPPH free radical assay method and ABTS radical cation assay method. Anti-proliferative activity illustrated compounds targeting cell lines by MTT assay using in-vitro and in-silico studies. Hypocholesterolemic activity investigated the effect of six dietetic oil in cholesterol – fed rats. This review article provides an insight to the researchers regarding further exploration of unexplored species of this genus so that they can also be used as herbal drugs to cure various ailments.


KEYWORDS: Oenothera, DPPH, Anti cancer activity, MTTAsaay.




In life of humans, herbal plants plays a major role in different sources such as in pharmacology, cosmetics, perfumery, nutraceuticals, beverages and dying industries than the synthetic drugs [1]. In this review article, we are discussing about Ornamental plant Oenothera biennis or Evening primrose is a species of Oenothera belonging to family Onagraceae. It is the second largest genus with 145 species of flowering plants. The plant is a biennial weed of Onagraceae native to North America and found in parts of Asia and Europe. The yellow fragrant flower blooms all evening [2]. Other species found in India were Oenothera macrocarpa, O. rosea, O. caespitose, O. clelandii, O. drummondii, O.oclorata. Evening primrose oil is a natural product extracted by cold-pressed from OenotherabiennisL seeds [3]. The plant is a rich source of omega-6 series fatty acids [4]. Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) is a wild medicinal herd of Central American origin that is now globally widespread. Its traditional uses include treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and premenopausal pain [5]. Oenothera biennis is the most numerous species in the genus Oenothera, illustrated to biological activity on Chemical compound of various parts of plant mainly leaves, stems and seeds [6]. The seeds of this genus species have great economic properties in industrial application i.e. in medicine and in nutraceutics but it remains unexplored in development of nano-emulsion formulation [7]. It is a seed drug plant rich source in gamma-linolenic acid established and mainly important in food and component of pharmaceutical products [8].





Domain:         Eukaryotic

Kingdom:      Plantae

Phylum:         Spermatophytae

Sub-phylum: Angiospermae

Class:              Dicotyledonae

Order:            Myrtales

Family:          Onagraceae

Genes:             Oenothera

Species:          Oenothera biennis



Colour:           Yellow

Size:                5-20 cm long; 1-2.5 cm broad

Life span:       2 years

Leaves:           Lanceolate, tight rosette in first year, spiral on stem in second year.

Flowers:         Hermaphrodite, nectar guide, pollinators.

Fruits:             Capsule, containing 1-2mm long seeds.




The plant requires sunny and arid place with loamy soil. The seeds are sown in April (spring seeds) or July – August (autumn seeds). The time of harvesting is 75 to 85 days after flowering. There is no much need of water during the vegetation period. It is a biennial herb cultivated in temperate regions of the world and in Indian gardens [9].


A study has shown, that the irrigation with salt water could increase the oil yield and quality in Evening primrose seeds. Thus, the plant could be a valuable alternative oil crop in arid regions.



The plant contains linoleic acid, γ-linolenic acid, flavonoids, carbohydrates, sterols, tannins and xanthone derivatives [10]. In genus Oenothera mainly occurring constituent in plant material is Oenothein B, a dimeric macrocyclic ellagitannin [11]. Some of the compounds isolated in roots and seeds of this species used in activity are – Esters: methyl ester of procatechuic acid, methyl ester and ethyl ester of gallic acid [12]. Triterpenoids: oleanolic acid, Oenotheralanosterol A and B [13,14]. Tannins: ellagitannins OeB. Fatty acids: gamma-linolenic acid and linolenic acid [15].



The whole plant especially the leaves were boiled to tea and used as a stimulant to treat laziness and aganist over fatness. The roots are used externally to treat piles and boils. It is also chewed and rubbed on to the muscle to improve strength. The bark and leaves are used as astringent and sedative. A syrup made from flowers is effective in treatment for whooping cough. In food it is used as an dietary aid.





The plant is used to treat gastro-intestinal disorders, eczema, whooping cough, asthma, blood disorders, laziness, obesity, piles and boils [9]. The oil is used in the preparation of soaps and cosmetics. The plant is widely used as a dietary supplement, rheumatic, arthiritic pain, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, premenstrual syndrome, menopausal syndrome and diabetic ne neuropathy having beneficial effects [16].



Anti – inflammatory activity:

Sebastian Granica et al extracted the active Chemical Constituents from the aerial parts of the plant Oenothera biennis L and Oenothera Paradoxa, obtained after seed cultivation to study anti inflammatory and antioxidant activity. The plant extract contains 39 Chemical constituents among that macrocyclic ellagitannin is an important active constituent for activities. Anti inflammatory activity was performed by hyaluronidase and lipoxygenase in concentration dependent manner. Among these two extract Oenothera biennis shows better anti-inflammatory activity by lipoxygenase due to the presence of high content of Oenothein B [17]. Magdalena Timoszuk et al illustrated that seed oil contains mainly aliphatic alcohols, fatty acids, sterols, polyphenols, linoleic acid and γ linoleic acid. Among these constituents linoleic acid andγ-linoleic acid is the most important active chemical constituent as they are acting as precursor of eicosanoids. By Evening primrose oil supplementation theγ -linolinic acid and its metabolite dihomo- γ -linolenic acid (DGLA) were observed in Blood plasma. This compound is oxidized by LOX and COX pathway to form 15 HETrE and PGLA into series of prostaglandins. These metabolites were found to have anti-inflammatory activity shown beneficial effect in conditions like atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, siogren’s syndrome, asthma and anti - cancer therapy [6].


Anti – bacterial activity:

Javad Hamedi et.al conducted seed extraction of chloroform and methanol in ratio (2:1) and the oil extracted is evaporated under pressure and temperature. The activity were conducted against Staphylococcus aureus, S. epidermidis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Candida albicans and Aspergillus niger measured by Mueller Hinton Broth and Sabouraud Dextrose Broth under minimum Concentration level. The result showed Oenothera biennis increase the growth of C. albicans and A. niger (1mg/ml) whereas it supressed the growth in S. aureus, S. epidermidis and P.aeruginosa reporting that Oenothea biennis shown better Anti - bacterial activity of their extraction oils[18]. In Soo Choi et.al assessed antibacterial activity using leaf extract against salmonella typhimurium both in-vitro and in-vivo. The experiment were performed with 16 post-weaned pigs divided into four groups consisting of four pigs infect with salmonella typhimurium uninfected and untreated (-ve) controlled group; an untreated (+ve) control group and two groups treated with 0.1% or 0.5% of the extract and monitored their body weight, daily gains, feed conversion ratio (FCR) and feed efficiency (FE) for 21 days after infection. The result showed that the extract treated pigs exhibited positive anti-bacterial activity against Salmonella typhimurium [19].


Anti – oxidant activity:

Ivana Niklova et .al  has studied the oxidation stability by using the Evening primrose meal extract among sunflower oil and rapeseed oil by using different types of solvents like ethanol, acetone, methanol, butylated hydroxytoluene, n-butanol, ethyl acetate, distilled water and P-Anisidine value, Iodine value, peroxide value to determine the oxidative stability of these extracts. Among these solvents ethyl acetate (0.2%) extract when compared to BHT (0.01%), so it showed a better antioxidant activity against rapeseed oil than sunflower oil [20]. Anna Ratz -Lyko et .al has evaluated anti-oxidant and anti-microbial study by using seedcake extract of Oenothera biennis, Borago Officinalis and Nigella Sativa. The antioxidant substance which are present in the seed oil is tocopherols, tocotrienols, carotenoids, triterpens, and Polyphenols. Among these substance polyphenols is used as the byproduct during Oil pressing method acting as a important constituent in O. biennis as the precursor of anti-bacterial activity. The seedcake extracts were done by evaluated by using Electron transfer (ET) based assay with Synthetic DPPH free radical cation assay method and ABTS radical cation assay method. In both assays Oenothera biennis extract exhibited higher antioxidant activities with IC50=0.120mg/mL for DPPH and IC50=0.115mg/Ml for ABTS than the Borago officinalis and Nigella Sativa [21].


Anti – proliferative activity:

Chiara Dalla Pellegrina et al stated that purified phenolic fraction of defatted seeds of Oenothera biennis promoted specific apoptasis of human and mouse bone marrow derived cell lines on k562, human erythroblastoid cells, molts, human T cells Leukemia, human colon adenocarcinoma cells WEHI-164, mouse fibrosarcoma cells. Phenolics of defatted seeds of Oenothera biennis were isolated by RP-P-HPLC to eight fractions. The fractions were tested for their biological activity on K562 cells by 3H-thymidine incorporation assay. The Fr.4(fraction4) showed more inhibitory activity comparaed to other fractions. Preliminary molecular analysis indicated Fr.4 is composed of 55% Gallic acid. By analysing the activity of Fr.4 in the treatment on human bone marrow determined cell line [PBMC (pheripheral blood mononuclear cell)]. They found that at higher concentration Fr.4 induced 20% killing against human PBMC and were evaluated by hypodiploid peak quantification [22]. Shilpi Singh etal examined anti-prolierative and anti-microbial activity from roots of Oenothera biennis. The activity were performed in human cell lines MDA-MB-231(Breast carcinoma), K562(erythromyeloblastoid leukaemia), RAW (mouse macrophage), COLO-205(colon carcinoma), HeLa (cervical carcinoma). The activity were analysed viability by MTT assay on specific cell lines and examined spectrophotometrically by targeting ODC (ornithine decarboxylase) and CATD (cathepsin D) utilizing in-vitro studies. The result showed that, Oenotheralanosterol B(3) and the mixture of Oenotheralanosterol A and Oenotheralanosterol B(4) isolated showed anti - proliferative activity and anti - microbial activity with MIC 62.5-500ug/ml and concluded that Oenotheralanosterol B(3) showed potential Antiproliferative than other compounds while Oenotheralanosterol A(1) was a intense inhibitor of ODC and CATD [23].


Hypocholesterolemia activity:

Michihiro fukushima et al. studied about hyperlipidemic effect on 8 rats by utilizing a deit containing 10% Oenothera biennis Linn oil (OBLO, linoleic acid + γ‐linolenic acid) from a wild plant, eveningprimrose oil (EPO, linoleic acid + γ‐linolenic acid) from a cultivated plant, bio‐γ‐linolenic acid oilfrom mold (BIO, palmitic acid + oleic acid + linoleic acid + γ‐linolenic acid), safflower oil (linoleic acid), palm oil (PLO, palmitic acid + oleic acid + linoleic acid), or soybean oil (linoleic acid +α‐linolenic acid) with 0.5% cholesterol for 13 weeks. Then proved that the study demonstrated that OBLO (oenothera biennis linn. oil) and EPO (evening primrose oil) inhibit the increasing of serum total cholesterol and VLDL + IDL + LDL-cholesterol concentrations as compared with the BIO, SFO, PLO, and SBO in the presence of excess cholesterol in the diet after long-term feeding [24]. Villalobos MA et al. studied the effect of hyper-lipemic diet containing Oenothera biennis oil in 10rabbits. The arotic endothelium and arterial wall were examined morphologically by scanning electron microscopy, morphometric techniques and cell nucleus counts after 6 weeks by measuring prostacyclin synthesis, and thrombogenicity of the sub-endothelium by perfusion in a Baumgartner annular chamber. The diet reduced hypercholesterolemia (from 29 +/- 3 to 12 +/- 2 nmol/l), increased HDL-cholesterol (from 0.5 +/- 0.06 to 0.8 +/- 0.09 nmol/l) and doubled prostacyclin synthesis (from 2.7 +/- 2 to 6.2 +/- 0.7 ng/mg aorta) and reduced subendothelial surface occupied by platelets (from 6.9 +/- 0.4 to 4.8 +/- 0.3%), and reduced human platelet adhesion on the sub-endothelium (from 53.3 +/- 6% to 38 +/- 8%). The result demonstrated that, the dietary supplement containing Oenothera biennis oil enhanced the antithrombotic capacity of the endothelium, reduced sub-endothelial thrombogenicity and diminished the extent of vascular wall lesions [25].



The plant of genus Oenothera have emerged as a good source of medicines for the treatment of diarrhoea, neurogenerative disorders, kidney problems and immune disorders. The crude extract of these plants have also exhibited a wide range of in-vitro and in-vivo pharmacological effects. Oenothera biennis was the most investigated species in terms of phytoconstituents and pharmacological studies in the genus Oenothera. A study has shown, that the irrigation with salt water could increase the oil yield and quality in Evening primrose seeds. Thus, the plant could be a valuable alternative oil crop in arid region [26]. The plant has an outstanding traditional model in chromosome evaluation and speciation [27]. Evening primrose is an oleaginous plant sensitive to the process of oxidation [28]. This article is a compilation of chemical composition and biological activities of the species of genus Oenothera. The plant owned to Oenothera have a wide range of medicinal properties that prompted us to compile a article on this particular genus.





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Received on 24.01.2020         Modified on 10.02.2020

Accepted on 18.02.2020  ©A&V Publications All right reserved

Res. J. Pharmacognosy and Phytochem. 2020; 12(1):. 47-51.

DOI: 10.5958/0975-4385.2020.00009.6