Gamma Linolenic Acid

Other Name(s):

Acide Gammalinolénique, Acide Gamma-Linolénique, Ácido Gama Linolénico, AGL, Gamolenic Acid, GLA, Gammalinolenic Acid, Gamma-Linolenic Acid, (Z,Z,Z)-Octadeca-6,9,12-trienoic acid.


Gamma linolenic acid is a fatty substance found in various plant seed oils such as borage oil and evening primrose oil. People use it as medicine.

Gamma linolenic acid (GLA) is used for conditions that affect the skin including systemic sclerosis, psoriasis, and eczema. It is also used for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), polyps in the mouth, high cholesterol and other blood fats, heart disease, metabolic syndrome (Syndrome-X), diabetic nerve pain, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, depression after childbirth, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), and hay fever (allergic rhinitis). Some people use it to prevent cancer and to help breast cancer patients respond faster to treatment with the drug tamoxifen.

How does it work?

Gamma linolenic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid, which the body can convert to substances that reduce inflammation and cell growth.

Uses & Effectiveness

Possibly Effective for...

Possibly Ineffective for...

  • Allergic skin conditions (eczema). Some early research suggests that taking gamma linolenic acid by mouth for 4 weeks might improve symptoms in children with allergic skin conditions such as itching and redness. However, combined results from 11 studies show that gamma linolenic acid from borage oil or evening primrose oil does not improve allergic skin conditions.
  • Scleroderma, a condition in which skin hardens. Some research suggests that taking gamma linolenic acid by mouth does not reduce symptoms of scleroderma.
  • Ulcerative colitis. Some research suggests that taking a combination of gamma linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) for 12 months does not reduce symptoms of ulcerative colitis.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of gamma linolenic acid for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).


What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)? Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis See Slideshow

Side Effects

Gamma linolenic acid is POSSIBLY SAFE for most adults when taken by mouth in amounts of no more than 2.8 grams per day for up to a year. It can cause digestive-tract side effects, such as soft stools, diarrhea, belching, and intestinal gas. It can also make blood take longer to clot.

Special Precautions & Warnings

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking gamma linolenic acid if you are pregnant or breast-feeding . Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Bleeding disorders: Gamma linolenic acid might slow blood clotting. There is some concern that it might increase the risk of bruising and bleeding in people with bleeding disorders.

Surgery: Since gamma linolenic acid might slow blood clotting, there is concern that it might increase the risk of extra bleeding during and after surgery. Stop taking gamma linolenic acid at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.


Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

Gamma linolenic acid might slow blood clotting. Taking gamma linolenic acid along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.

Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others.

PhenothiazinesInteraction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

Taking gamma linolenic acid with phenothiazines might increase the risk of having a seizure in some people.

Some phenothiazines include chlorpromazine (Thorazine), fluphenazine (Prolixin), trifluoperazine (Stelazine), thioridazine (Mellaril), and others.


The following doses have been studied in scientific research:


  • For nerve pain due to diabetes: 360 to 480 mg of gamma linolenic acid per day.


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Leng, G. C., Lee, A. J., Fowkes, F. G., Jepson, R. G., Lowe, G. D., Skinner, E. R., and Mowat, B. F. Randomized controlled trial of gamma-linolenic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid in peripheral arterial disease. Clin Nutr 1998;17(6):265-271. View abstract.

Leventhal, L. J., Boyce, E. G., and Zurier, R. B. Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis with blackcurrant seed oil. Br.J.Rheumatol. 1994;33(9):847-852. View abstract.

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van Gool, C. J., Thijs, C., Henquet, C. J., van Houwelingen, A. C., Dagnelie, P. C., Schrander, J., Menheere, P. P., and van den brandt, P. A. Gamma-linolenic acid supplementation for prophylaxis of atopic dermatitis--a randomized controlled trial in infants at high familial risk. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;77(4):943-951. View abstract.

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Barham, J. B., Edens, M. B., Fonteh, A. N., Johnson, M. M., Easter, L., and Chilton, F. H. Addition of eicosapentaenoic acid to gamma-linolenic acid-supplemented diets prevents serum arachidonic acid accumulation in humans. J.Nutr. 2000;130(8):1925-1931. View abstract.

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Booyens, J., Dippenaar, N., Fabbri, D., Engelbrecht, P., Louwrens, C. C., and Katzeff, I. E. Some effects of linoleic acid and gamma-linolenic acid on the proliferation of human hepatoma cells in culture. S.Afr.Med.J. 4-14-1984;65(15):607-612. View abstract.

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Brzeski M, Madhok R, and Capell HA. Evening primrose oil in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and side- effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Br J Rheumatol 1991;30(5):370-372. View abstract.

Burke, A., Lawson, J. A., Meagher, E. A., Rokach, J., and FitzGerald, G. A. Specific analysis in plasma and urine of 2,3-dinor-5, 6-dihydro-isoprostane F(2alpha)-III, a metabolite of isoprostane F(2alpha)-III and an oxidation product of gamma-linolenic acid. J.Biol.Chem. 1-28-2000;275(4):2499-2504. View abstract.

Cai, J., Jiang, W. G., and Mansel, R. E. Inhibition of angiogenic factor- and tumour-induced angiogenesis by gamma linolenic acid. Prostaglandins Leukot.Essent.Fatty Acids 1999;60(1):21-29. View abstract.

Cai, J., Jiang, W. G., and Mansel, R. E. Inhibition of the expression of VE-cadherin/catenin complex by gamma linolenic acid in human vascular endothelial cells, and its impact on angiogenesis. Biochem.Biophys.Res.Commun. 4-29-1999;258(1):113-118. View abstract.

Cantrill, L. C., Overall, R. L., and Goodwin, P. B. Cell-to-cell communication via plant endomembranes. Cell Biol.Int. 1999;23(10):653-661. View abstract.

Cantrill, R. C., Patterson, P. P., Ells, G. W., and Horrobin, D. F. Exogenous gamma-linolenic acid alters hormone stimulated cyclic AMP levels in U937 cells. Cancer Lett. 2-27-1996;100(1-2):17-21. View abstract.

Chapkin, R. S., Somers, S. D., and Erickson, K. L. Dietary manipulation of macrophage phospholipid classes: selective increase of dihomogammalinolenic acid. Lipids 1988;23(8):766-770. View abstract.

Chenoy R, Hussain S, Tayob Y, et al. Effect of oral gamolenic acid from evening primrose oil on menopausal flushing (abstract). BMJ 1994;308:501-3. View abstract.

Cheung KL. Management of cyclical mastalgia in oriental women: pioneer experience of using gamolenic acid (Efamast) in Asia. Aust N Z J Surg 1999;69:492-4.. View abstract.

D'Almeida A, Carter JP, Anatol A, Prost C. Effects of a combination of evening primrose oil (gamma linolenic acid) and fish oil (eicosapentaenoic + docahexaenoic acid) versus magnesium, and versus placebo in preventing pre-eclampsia. Women Health 1992;19:117-31. View abstract.

de Bravo, M. G., Tournier, H., Schinella, G., Viaggi, M., and Quintans, C. [Effect of dietary supplementation with gamma-linolenic acid on the growth of a human lung carcinoma implanted in nude mice]. Medicina (B Aires) 1995;55(6):670-674. View abstract.

Deferne, J. L. and Leeds, A. R. The antihypertensive effect of dietary supplementation with a 6-desaturated essential fatty acid concentrate as compared with sunflower seed oil. J Hum.Hypertens. 1992;6(2):113-119. View abstract.

Dippenaar, N., Booyens, J., Fabbri, D., Engelbrecht, P., and Katzeff, I. E. The reversibility of cancer: evidence that malignancy in human hepatoma cells is gamma-linolenic acid deficiency-dependent. S.Afr.Med.J. 10-30-1982;62(19):683-685. View abstract.

Dokholyan RS, Albert CM, Appel LJ, et al. A trial of omega-3 fatty acids for prevention of hypertension. Am J Cardiol 2004;93:1041-3. View abstract.

Fan YY, Chapkin RS. Importance of dietary gamma-linolenic acid in human health and nutrition. J Nutr 1998;128:1411-4. View abstract.

Fan, Y. Y., Ramos, K. S., and Chapkin, R. S. Dietary gamma-linolenic acid modulates macrophage-vascular smooth muscle cell interactions. Evidence for a macrophage-derived soluble factor that downregulates DNA synthesis in smooth muscle cells. Arterioscler.Thromb.Vasc.Biol. 1995;15(9):1397-1403. View abstract.

Fan, Y. Y., Ramos, K. S., and Chapkin, R. S. Modulation of atherogenesis by dietary gamma-linolenic acid. Adv.Exp.Med.Biol. 1999;469:485-491. View abstract.

Fiocchi, A., Sala, M., Signoroni, P., Banderali, G., Agostoni, C., and Riva, E. The efficacy and safety of gamma-linolenic acid in the treatment of infantile atopic dermatitis. J.Int.Med.Res. 1994;22(1):24-32. View abstract.

Fujiwara, F., Todo, S., and Imashuku, S. Antitumor effect of gamma-linolenic acid on cultured human neuroblastoma cells. Prostaglandins Leukot.Med. 1986;23(2-3):311-320. View abstract.

Fujiwara, F., Todo, S., and Imashuku, S. Fatty acid modification of cultured neuroblastoma cells by gamma linolenic acid relevant to its antitumor effect. Prostaglandins Leukot.Med. 1987;30(1):37-49. View abstract.

Fujiyama-Fujiwara, Y., Ohmori, C., and Igarashi, O. Metabolism of gamma-linolenic acid in primary cultures of rat hepatocytes and in Hep G2 cells. J.Nutr.Sci.Vitaminol.(Tokyo) 1989;35(6):597-611. View abstract.

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Giamarellos-Bourboulis, E. J., Grecka, P., Dionyssiou-Asteriou, A., and Giamarellou, H. In-vitro inhibitory activity of gamma-linolenic acid on Escherichia coli strains and its influence on their susceptibilities to various antimicrobial agents. J.Antimicrob.Chemother. 1995;36(2):327-334. View abstract.

Graham, J., Franks, S., and Bonney, R. C. In vivo and in vitro effects of gamma-linolenic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid on prostaglandin production and arachidonic acid uptake by human endometrium. Prostaglandins Leukot.Essent.Fatty Acids 1994;50(6):321-329. View abstract.

Guivernau M, Meza N, Barja P, Roman O. Clinical and experimental study on the long-term effect of dietary gamma-linolenic acid on plasma lipids, platelet aggregation, thromboxane formation, and prostacyclin production. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 1994;51:311-6. View abstract.

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Harris, N. M., Crook, T. J., Dyer, J. P., Solomon, L. Z., Bass, P., Cooper, A. J., and Birch, B. R. Intravesical meglumine gamma-linolenic acid in superficial bladder cancer: an efficacy study. Eur.Urol. 2002;42(1):39-42. View abstract.

Horrobin DF. The use of gamma-linolenic acid in diabetic neuropathy. Agents Actions Suppl 1992;37:120-44. View abstract.

Horrobin, D. F. The effects of gamma-linolenic acid on breast pain and diabetic neuropathy: possible non-eicosanoid mechanisms. Prostaglandins Leukot.Essent.Fatty Acids 1993;48(1):101-104. View abstract.

Hrelia, S., Bordoni, A., Biagi, P., Rossi, C. A., Bernardi, L., Horrobin, D. F., and Pession, A. gamma-Linolenic acid supplementation can affect cancer cell proliferation via modification of fatty acid composition. Biochem.Biophys.Res.Commun. 8-14-1996;225(2):441-447. View abstract.

Hrelia, S., Pession, A., Buda, R., Lorenzini, A., Horrobin, D. F., Biagi, P. L., and Bordoni, A. Concentration- and time-dependent effects of gamma-linolenic acid supplementation to tumor cells in culture. Prostaglandins Leukot.Essent.Fatty Acids 1999;60(4):235-241. View abstract.

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Jamal GA, Carmichael H. The effect of gamma-linolenic acid on human diabetic peripheral neuropathy: a double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Diabet Med 1990;7:319-23. View abstract.

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Jiang, W. G., Bryce, R. P., and Mansel, R. E. Gamma linolenic acid regulates gap junction communication in endothelial cells and their interaction with tumour cells. Prostaglandins Leukot.Essent.Fatty Acids 1997;56(4):307-316. View abstract.

Jiang, W. G., Bryce, R. P., Horrobin, D. F., and Mansel, R. E. gamma-Linolenic acid blocks cell cycle progression by regulating phosphorylation of p27kip1 and p57kip2 and their interactions with other cycle regulators in cancer cells. Int.J.Oncol. 1998;13(3):611-617. View abstract.

Jiang, W. G., Hiscox, S., Hallett, M. B., Horrobin, D. F., Mansel, R. E., and Puntis, M. C. Regulation of the expression of E-cadherin on human cancer cells by gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). Cancer Res. 11-1-1995;55(21):5043-5048. View abstract.

Jiang, W. G., Hiscox, S., Hallett, M. B., Scott, C., Horrobin, D. F., and Puntis, M. C. Inhibition of hepatocyte growth factor-induced motility and in vitro invasion of human colon cancer cells by gamma-linolenic acid. Br.J.Cancer 1995;71(4):744-752. View abstract.

Jiang, W. G., Hiscox, S., Horrobin, D. F., Bryce, R. P., and Mansel, R. E. Gamma linolenic acid regulates expression of maspin and the motility of cancer cells. Biochem.Biophys.Res.Commun. 8-28-1997;237(3):639-644. View abstract.

Jiang, W. G., Redfern, A., Bryce, R. P., and Mansel, R. E. Peroxisome proliferator activated receptor-gamma (PPAR-gamma) mediates the action of gamma linolenic acid in breast cancer cells. Prostaglandins Leukot.Essent.Fatty Acids 2000;62(2):119-127. View abstract.

Johnson MM, Swan DD, Surette ME. Dietary supplementation with gamma-linolenic acid alters fatty acid content and eicosanoid production in healthy humans. J Nutr 1997;127:1435-44. View abstract.

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Menendez JA, Colomer R, Lupu R. Omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid (18:3n-6) is a selective estrogen-response modulator in human breast cancer cells: gamma-Linolenic acid antagonizes estrogen receptor-dependent transcriptional activity, transcriptionally represses estrogen receptor expression and synergistically enhances tamoxifen and ICI 182,780 (Faslodex) efficacy in human breast cancer cells. Int J Cancer 2004;10;109:949-54. View abstract.

Menendez JA, del Mar Barbacid M, Montero S, et al. Effects of gamma-linolenic acid and oleic acid on paclitaxel cytotoxicity in human breast cancer cells. Eur J Cancer 2001;37:402-13. View abstract.

Mengeaud, V., Nano, J. L., Fournel, S., and Rampal, P. Effects of eicosapentaenoic acid, gamma-linolenic acid and prostaglandin E1 on three human colon carcinoma cell lines. Prostaglandins Leukot.Essent.Fatty Acids 1992;47(4):313-319. View abstract.

Miles, E. A., Banerjee, T., Dooper, M. M., M'Rabet, L., Graus, Y. M., and Calder, P. C. The influence of different combinations of gamma-linolenic acid, stearidonic acid and EPA on immune function in healthy young male subjects. Br.J.Nutr. 2004;91(6):893-903. View abstract.

Mills, D. E. and Ward, R. Attenuation of psychosocial stress-induced hypertension by gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) administration in rats. Proc.Soc.Exp.Biol.Med. 1984;176(1):32-37. View abstract.

Mpanju, O., Winther, M., Manning, J., Craib, K., Montaner, J., O'Shaugnessy, M., and Conway, B. Selective cytotoxicity of lithium gamma-linolenic acid in human T cells chronically and productively infected with HIV. Antivir.Ther. 1997;2(1):13-19. View abstract.

Nelson, J. L., DeMichele, S. J., Pacht, E. R., and Wennberg, A. K. Effect of enteral feeding with eicosapentaenoic acid, gamma-linolenic acid, and antioxidants on antioxidant status in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome. JPEN J.Parenter.Enteral Nutr. 2003;27(2):98-104. View abstract.

Pacht, E. R., DeMichele, S. J., Nelson, J. L., Hart, J., Wennberg, A. K., and Gadek, J. E. Enteral nutrition with eicosapentaenoic acid, gamma-linolenic acid, and antioxidants reduces alveolar inflammatory mediators and protein influx in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome. Crit Care Med. 2003;31(2):491-500. View abstract.

Pullman-Mooar S, Laposata M, Lem D. Alteration of the cellular fatty acid profile and the production of eicosanoids in human monocytes by gamma-linolenic acid. Arthritis Rheum 1990;33:1526-33. View abstract.

Puolakka J, Makarainen L, Viinikka L, and Ylikorkala O. Biochemical and clinical effects of treating the premenstrual syndrome with prostaglandin synthesis precursors. J Reprod Med 1985;30(3):149-153. View abstract.

Reddick, R. L., Zhang, S. H., and Maeda, N. Atherosclerosis in mice lacking apo E. Evaluation of lesional development and progression. Arterioscler.Thromb. 1994;14(1):141-147. View abstract.

Robinson, K. M. and Botha, J. H. Effects of gamma-linolenic acid, dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid and ethanol on cultured human mammary carcinoma cells. Prostaglandins Leukot.Med. 1985;20(2):209-221. View abstract.

Rose DP, Connolly JM, Liu XH. Effects of linoleic acid and gamma-linolenic acid on the growth and metastasis of a human breast cancer cell line in nude mice and on its growth and invasive capacity in vitro. Nutr Cancer 1995;24:33-45. . View abstract.

Seegers, J. C., Lottering, M. L., Panzer, A., Bianchi, P., and Stark, J. H. Comparative anti-mitotic effects of lithium gamma-linolenate, gamma-linolenic acid and arachidonic acid, on transformed and embryonic cells. Prostaglandins Leukot.Essent.Fatty Acids 1998;59(4):285-291. View abstract.

Segarnick, D. J., Mandio, Cordasco D., Agura, V., Cooper, N. S., and Rotrosen, J. Gamma-linolenic acid inhibits the development of the ethanol-induced fatty liver. Prostaglandins Leukot.Med. 1985;17(3):277-282. View abstract.

Stainforth JM, Layton AM, Goodfield MJ. Clinical aspects of the use of gamma linolenic acid in systemic sclerosis. Acta Derm Venereol 1996;76:144-6. View abstract.

Takeda, S., Horrobin, D. F., Manku, M., Sim, P. G., Ells, G., and Simmons, V. Lipid peroxidation in human breast cancer cells in response to gamma-linolenic acid and iron. Anticancer Res. 1992;12(2):329-333. View abstract.

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