Botanical: Linum usitatissimum
Family: Linaceae (linen)
Other common names: Common Flax, Linseed, Lint Bells, Winterlien
“Wherever Flaxseeds become a regular food item
among the people, there will be better health"
Flaxseed provides all eight essential amino acids and a wealth of nutrients, including Omega-3 and Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids, digestive enzymes, protein, vitamins and minerals. Flaxseed is said to help lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels, improve circulation and immune function and also to treat inflammatory disorders. New research indicates that the use of Flaxseed may also help to significantly reduce hot flashes in menopausal women.
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
As the source of linen fiber, Flax has been cultivated since at least 5000 B.C., and its importance continues today for its fiber and as a source of oil. Flax is a hardy annual that grows from one to four feet with narrow, hairy leaves and red, white or blue flowers that are followed by spherical capsules (bols), which contain seeds that are rich in oils with linoleic acid. Its history reaches back to the earliest times as a food (the seeds when roasted) and in the making of fine linen cloth. The Flax plant was grown in Palestine before the arrival of the Israelites. The Bible tells us that Rahab in Jericho hid two spies under stems of Flax she had been drying, and Solomon, praised his wife who separated the fibers of the Flax for fine linen. The Egyptians made fine linen clothing and used it for wrapping mummies in the embalming process. The medicinal properties of Flaxseeds were known to the Greeks, as Hippocrates recommended them for inflammations of the mucous membranes and digestive disorders, and in eighth-century France, Charlemagne passed laws requiring the seeds to be consumed to keep his subjects healthy. In North America, the use of Flax dates back to 1617, when L. Hebert, the first farmer in Canada, brought it to New France, and today, the crop grows widely on the prairies of Canada for its oil-rich seeds. The seed oil (linseed) is not only an important commercial ingredient in the manufacture of paint and varnish, but Flaxseed contains a wealth of nutritional benefits. The stems are used to make a high quality paper and linen cloth. The majority of fat in Flaxseed (more than seventy percent) includes polyunsaturated fatty acids, namely alpha-linolenic acid (parent of Omega-3), and linoleic acid (parent of Omega-6), the "good fats." They are essential in the human diet, required for proper infant growth and development, and necessary for maintaining the structure of cell membranes and permeability of the skin. However, the body cannot manufacture them; their presence depends totally on dietary consumption. Flaxseed contains the linoleic and linolenic acids needed for production of hormone-like prostaglandins, which are vital for many bodily functions. Lignans are the primary source of phytoestrogen found in Flaxseeds, and they are not only rich in Omega-3 and Omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, but they are also a wealth of nutrients, such as calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, vanadium, zinc, protein, mucilage, digestive enzymes, saponin, beta carotene, B-vitamins and vitamin E.
In reducing the risk factors of coronary heart disease, recent research has shown that Flaxseed's high Omega-3 fatty acid and its soluble fiber content have helped to reduce serum triglycerides and blood pressure. It also helps to reduce the hardening effects of cholesterol on cell membranes. Most of the soluble fiber in Flax is mucilage gum, which is a thick, sticky substance that helps to block cholesterol absorption and also helps balance blood-glucose levels, thereby making it useful for reducing high blood sugar.
With regard to strokes and arteriosclerosis, the Omega-3 fatty acids in Flaxseed also appear to protect against stroke by regulating blood clotting and platelet aggregation.
Flaxseed is rich in fiber. As an important source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, it has been long used to treat constipation and promote regularity. The insoluble fiber swells in the bowel to produce a gentle, bulking laxative, and the high oil content lubricates the intestines. A high-fiber diet including Flaxseed has been linked to a reduced risk of many chronic diseases, including diverticulosis, certain malignant diseases, i.e., colon (the quicker waste is eliminated, the less time the colon is exposed to toxins and bacteria).
For improved immune function, Flaxseed's alpha-linoleic acid and lignans have demonstrated a beneficial impact by affecting immune cells and immune-response mediators, such as eicosanoids and cytokines. Through these mechanisms, Flaxseed may play an important role in the clinical management of autoimmune diseases and certain hormone-dependent malignancies (breast, endometrial and prostate).
Flaxseeds have been used as a relaxing expectorant, easing sore throats and hacking coughs. Folk healers have long used the seeds to soothe any kind of lung or throat disturbance. The mucilage in Flaxseed has been effective for inflammations of the mucous membranes, which is soothing for many conditions including pharyngitis and gastritis.
Several studies have shown that Flaxseed's anti-inflammatory and soothing properties may reduce the pain, inflammation and swelling of arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.
Data from a Mayo Clinic study suggest that using Flaxseed can decrease hot flashes in post- menopausal women who do not take estrogen. The findings, published in the Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology, indicated that the frequency of hot flashes in the subjects decreased fifty percent over six weeks, and the overall hot flash score decreased an average fifty-seven percent for the women who completed the trial. Participants also reported improvements in mood, joint or muscle pain, chills and sweating; which significantly improved their health-related quality of life.
Flaxseed is an old remedy when used topically as a poultice for inflammations and ulcers and as a drawing poultice for boils and abscesses.
Currently, there are no known warning or contraindications with the use of Flaxseed Herbal Supplement from Herbal Extracts Plus; however, Flaxseed may slow down the absorption of oral medications or other nutrients if taken at the same time; therefore, it's best to avoid taking Flaxseed at the same time of day as medications and other supplements. While the combination of aspirin and Omega-3 Fatty Acids may actually be helpful under certain circumstances (such as heart disease), they should only be taken together under the guidance and supervision of your healthcare provider.