Echium Oil health benefit by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
September 4 2016


Echium oil is obtained by refining oil extracted from the seeds of Echium plantagineum. Members of the genus Echium from Macaronesia have a very high amount of gamma-linolenic acid, providing healthy long chained fatty acids.



Echium oil is a vegetable oil rich in omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, including stearidonic acid.


J Nutr. 2014. Dietary echium oil increases long-chain n-3 PUFAs, including docosapentaenoic acid, in blood fractions and alters biochemical markers for cardiovascular disease independently of age, sex, and metabolic syndrome.


Food uses
Croda Chemicals wants to use its refined echium oil as an ingredient in a range of food products (including milk and yoghurt based drinks, breakfast cereals and nutrition bars) and in food supplements.


Echium oil and blood lipids
It appears that echium oil could be beneficial in reducing certain blood lipids.


J Nutr. 2014. Dietary Echium Oil Increases Long-Chain n-3 PUFAs, Including Docosapentaenoic Acid, in Blood Fractions and Alters Biochemical Markers for Cardiovascular Disease Independent of Age, Sex, and Metabolic Syndrome. Dietary supplementation with echium oil (EO) containing stearidonic acid (SDA) is a plant-based strategy to improve long-chain (LC) n-3 (ω-3) polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) status in humans. We investigated the effect of EO on LC n-3 PUFA accumulation in blood and biochemical markers with respect to age, sex, and metabolic syndrome. Overall, daily intake of 15-20 g EO increased EPA and DPA in blood but had no influence on DHA. EO lowered cardiovascular risk markers, e.g., serum TG, which is particularly relevant for individuals with metabolic syndrome. Natural EO could be a noteworthy source of n-3 PUFA in human nutrition. This trial was registered at as NCT01856179.


Dietary echium oil increases plasma and neutrophil long-chain (n-3) fatty acids and lowers serum triacylglycerols in hypertriglyceridemic humans.
J Nutr. 2004.
The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of dietary echium oil, a plant oil containing the 18-carbon (n-3) PUFA stearidonic acid, on tissue fatty acid content and serum triacylglycerol concentrations in hypertriglyceridemic humans. Asymptomatic subjects with mild-to-moderate hypertriglyceridemia were enrolled in an open-labeled study. Subjects underwent a 4-wk lead-in period and were then instructed to follow the National Cholesterol Education Program Step 1 diet. Subjects whose serum triacylglycerol concentrations remained between 300 and 450 mg/dL were instructed to consume 15 g of echium oil daily for 4 wk. During the treatment period, serum triacylglycerol concentrations decreased by 21% compared with baseline. There were no significant changes in any other clinical laboratory variables. Concentrations of long-chain (n-3) PUFA, including EPA, increased in plasma and neutrophils when subjects consumed echium oil. In conclusion, dietary plant oils rich in stearidonic acid are metabolized to longer-chain, more unsaturated (n-3) PUFA. These oils appear to possess hypotriglyceridemic properties typically associated with fish oils.

Echium oil reduces plasma lipids and hepatic lipogenic gene expression in apoB100-only LDL receptor knockout mice.
J Nutr Biochem. 2007. Section on Lipid Sciences, Department of Pathology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC, USA.
We tested the hypothesis that dietary supplementation with echium oil, which is enriched in stearidonic acid (SDA; 18:4 n-3),  will decrease plasma triglyceride (TG) concentrations and result in conversion of SDA to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in the liver. Mildly hypertriglyceridemic mice were fed a basal diet containing 10% calories as palm oil (PO) and 0.2% cholesterol for 4 weeks, after which they were randomly assigned to experimental diets consisting of the basal diet plus supplementation of 10% of calories as PO, echium oil or fish oil (FO) for 8 weeks. The echium oil and FO experimental diets decreased plasma TG and VLDL lipid concentration, and hepatic TG content compared to PO. Echium oil fed mice had plasma and liver lipid EPA enrichment that was greater than PO-fed mice but less than FO-fed mice. In conclusion, echium oil may provide a botanical alternative to fish oil for reduction of plasma TG concentrations.


Echium Oil Research

Occurrence and characterization of oils rich in gamma-linolenic acid Part I: Echium seeds from Macaronesia.
Phytochemistry. 2000
Nineteen species of the genus Echium (Fam. Boraginaceae) collected in Macaronesia were surveyed in a search for new sources of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA, 18:3omega6). High amounts of this acid were found in all of them, ranging from 9% (Echium plantagineum) to 26% (callithyrsum) of total seed fatty acids. The amounts of GLA related to total seed weight were also significant, ranging from 1.7% (sventenii) to 5% (nervosum). In addition, considerable amounts of stearidonic acid (SA, 18:4omega3) were detected, ranging from 3% (auberianum) to 13% (plantagineum) of total fatty acids.


Q. I have just been reading your web page on echium oil and was interested in your comments about "pyrrolizidine alkaloids and their N-oxides." being present in the refined oil. Now, like most members of the Boraginaceae (including borage), echium contains these alkaloids in the plant parts but I wasn't aware that they were present in the oil, and I would anticipate that, even if they were, they would be removed by even a simple refining process. In their Novel Foods application in 2000, Kings wrote: "Pyrrolizidine alkaloids are not lipophillic and, therefore, would not be expected to be present in any substantial quantity in the oil. Tests carried out on several samples of both Super Refined and unrefined Echium oil shows that levels of Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids were either extremely low (<15ng/g) or below the lowest detectable level of 4ng/gram. The product specification stipulates that pyrrolizidine alkaloids should not be greater than 15ng/gram which is considered to be well below levels that would cause harm. There are other plants that are known to contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids in their foliage, one such example being Borago officinalis. Borage oil is currently widely used as a health supplement." The Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes which assessed the application raised no concerns about the level of alkaloids (although they had other concerns). Do you have any literature references to a problem with these alkaloids in echium oil, or any personal experience which could shed some light on it?
   A. Thanks, we removed the reference to pyrrolizidine alkaloids in the section on composition of echium oil. Is it okay to use your name as the person who let us know about this?
      Q. I'm happy for you to use my name Dr. Peter Lapinskas.


I was wondering many grams of Echium from a pharmeceutical grade source would someone take to get enough EPA. I am taking nordic naturals ProEPA. I get 850mg weight of EPA's from two capsuls, which is the recommended amount to take and I have gotten muscle tested by my Naturopathic doctor for it to. On the site they say: 2 X Capsule of Echiomega 1 g SDA and GLA rich Echium Oil = potentially 300mg of EPA. So, would that mean I would really need to take 6 capsules to get 900mg of EPA to equivalent to NN ProEPA?
   I have not studied this topic in detail but I don't see how one can make an easy extrapolation or conversion from the ingested SDA stearidonic acid to EPA. Each person has a different metabolism and different levels of enzymes that convert these fatty acids. Therefore echium oil, in my opinion, is not a direct substitute for fish oils.