Binomial Name(s): Linum Usitatissimum
Genus: Linum L.
Species: Linum usitatissimum L.
Popular Name(s): Linsed
Parts Used: Flax Seeds, Flax Seed Oil, leaves & roots
Habitat: Cultivated throughout India
Flax seeds, as the name suggests, are the seeds of flax plant, which is a member of the genus Linum in the family Linaceae. They are known for producing a vegetable oil known as linseed oil or flaxseed oil. It is one of the oldest commercial oils. In fact, the solvent-processed flax seed oil has been used as a drying oil in painting and varnishing, for centuries. Flax seeds are edible and suitable for human consumption. They are also one of the most concentrated plant sources of the omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid. These seeds come in two basic varieties - brown and yellow.
Flax contains fat, protein, dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, moisture, phenolic acids, flavonoids, lignans and ash. The chemical composition of flax can vary, owing to certain factors such as genetics, growing environment and seed processing. As the oil content increases, the protein content of the seed decreases.
Uses & Benefits of Flax Seeds
- Flax seeds are internally used in case of constipation; functional disorders of the colon - resulting from the misuse of laxatives; and irritable colon.
- The seeds improve digestion, help stabilize blood glucose levels, fight tumor formation and enhance cardiovascular health.
- Flax contains anti-inflammatory properties. As such, it helps to reduce inflammation in conditions such as asthma, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, migraine headaches, and osteoporosis.
- Consumption of flax also promotes bone health, due to the presence of Omega-3 fatty acids.
- Flax seeds protect against heart diseases, by reducing the formation of blood clots. They are also effective in fighting cancer and diabetes and reduce the risk of colon cancer by protecting colon cells from cancer causing toxins and free radicals.
- Flax is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty polyunsaturated fatty acids, which help to lower blood pressure, in effect preventing and controlling high blood pressure.
- It is effective in fighting against the growth of prostrate cancer in men. This is especially true when flax consumption is combined with a low-fat diet.
- Cramping and a laxative effect may be experienced on consuming flax seeds. Therefore, it is advisable to start with a small amount. Those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome can strongly react to flax.
- The oil contained in flax seeds is highly saturated, in effect making it prone to oxidation, unless stored in the right way. It is also recommended to store flax seeds away from heat. However, the high level of antioxidants present in the seeds prevents the process of early oxidation.
- High doses of flax seeds can have an adverse effect on the hormonal balance of the body.