Flax (Linum usitatissimum)

Flax (Linum usitatissimum)

Other common names: Linseed, common flaxseed, flax meal, brown flaxseed

flax

Diagram courtesy of http://www.plant-pictures.de

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Family: Linaceae

Actions:

Laxative, anti-inflammatory, nutritive, emollient, pectoral, demulcent, antitussive, antilithic, anti-cancer, lowers cholesterol, anti-tumorigenic, balances blood sugar, cardiovascular tonic, nervine, blood-thinner.

Harvest: Seeds are harvested in late summer, and allowed to ripen.

Part used: Seeds

Constituents:

Linolein, linamarin (a cyanogenic glycoside), volatile oils, acetic acid, resin, sugar, mucilage, phosphates, wax, Omega 3 fatty acids, lignan, fibre, alpha-linolenic acid, among others.

Indications:

flax

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons User:Handwerker

Used to treat constipation, coughs (especially dry coughs), burns, inflamed skin and internal tissues,  sore and swollen joints, urinary tract infections, kidney and gallstones, tumours, high cholesterol, blood sugar spikes, asthma, Parkinson’s disease, menopause symptoms, anxiety, memory loss, vaginal infections, benign prostatic hyperplasia, ADHD, arthritis, obesity and others. It has also been attributed to reducing the risk of cancer (consult with a doctor first if you are undergoing cancer treatments), heart attack, strokes and diabetes.

Medicinal preparations:

flax flowers

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons User:nickodoherty

Internal

Flaxseed can be ground up and added to food, but this use may be contraindicated in those with digestive diseases or excessive gas/bloating. The oil is often encapsulated. Check the bottle to make sure that it is prepared for internal use. Do not take more than 3 – 4 tbsp of raw seeds per day, due to the cyanogenic glycoside content. Cooking eliminates this risk.

External

Seeds can be crushed and used in a poultice. Flaxseed oil can also be used as a base for massage oils, salves and other products.

Contraindications:

Allergic reactions are possible, and high doses may cause diarrhea. Do not use more than 3 – 4 tbsp of raw flaxseed per day, as it contains cyanogenic glycosides. Cooking eliminates this risk. Ask a doctor before using flax if you are pregnant or nursing, taking hormonal supplements (including birth control pills), blood-thinners or undergoing cancer treatments, are suffering from any obstruction or kidney/gallstones, or if you have a digestive condition such as diverticulitis, IBS or Crohn’s disease. If you are taking high doses of flaxseed, be sure to drink adequate amounts of water, or you could end up with a bowel obstruction due to the high fibre content. Stop taking flax products two weeks prior to surgery, due to its blood-thinning properties.

I suggest consulting a pharmacist or physician before starting any herbal supplement if you are taking a prescription medication or have serious underlying health concerns.

Energetic/traditional use:

King Charlemagne legally required his subjects to consume flaxseed, due to his faith in its nutritive and healing powers. In ancient Egypt flax was commonly used as a textile, and as a food and medicine. In rituals it is used to symbolize money, often carried in a wallet or in shoes for this purpose. In Ireland, women refused to spin flax on the eve of a holiday, or on Saturday afternoons, as this was believed to jinx the crop. The Germans had a similar tradition around flax-spinning activities. In Scotland it was burned and used to essentially “smudge” entire villages as a protective measure. Children in several cultures were encouraged to play in flax fields to ensure they would grow up to be attractive. It is sacred to the Teutonic goddess, Hulda.  Also burned in fire ceremonies used for divination.

Disclaimer: The information on this website is intended as general education on herbs and is not intended to take the place of medical care. Please consult a health care professional before embarking on any health regime.

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