Scientific Name/Common Name:Linum usitatissimum/Flax

Part(s) Used:Seed and seed oil

Constituents/Active Ingredients:The seeds contain: fibre (hemicellulose, cellulose, and lignin), 2-2.5% lignans (phytoestrogens from the seed coat), fatty oils with 50-60% alpha linolenic acid (ALA, an omega-3 essential fatty acid), 15-20% linoleic acid (LA, an omega-6 essential fatty acid), 15-20% omega-9 fatty acids, albumin, linustatin, and linamarin.

Overview:Flaxseed products consist of the dried seed as well as its preparations of ground seed or pressed seed oil. The various cultivars including brown and golden flax varieties are equally acceptable as good sources of fibre and essential fatty acids. The use of flaxseed as a food dates back about 9000 years in the Middle East. Thereafter, the use of flaxseed spread to Europe. The French king Charlemagne actually passed a law requiring his subjects to eat flaxseed for their health. The genus name is derived from the Greek word linon meaning "cord" and the species name usitatissimum means "most useful."

Flaxseed has traditionally been used as a medicine for treating chronic or occasional constipation, as a soothing, non-irritating bulk laxative; the omega-3 fatty acids that flax is so rich in play important roles in the health of the immune and cardiovascular system, the eyes, and the brain.

Traditional Use/Benefits/Body Systems:To soothe the digestive system in cases of gastritis, to relieve constipation, as a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and fibre.

Clinical Studies/Scientific Research/References:

Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinkmann J, editors. 2000. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Boston (MA): Integrative Medicine Communications.

Erasmus, U. 1993: Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill. Published by Alive Books, Burnaby, B.C., Canada.

Disclaimer:This information in our Herbal Encyclopedia is intended only as a general reference for educational purposes. It is not a replacement for medical advice. This content does not provide dosage information, cautions/contraindications, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Please consult any relevant product labels for detailed information on use and with a medical practitioner for individual health advice.