Flax or flaxseed is called linseed in some countries, both names refer to the same plant. Flax seeds contain oil, mucilage and protein. The mucilage is soothing to the digestive system having a mild cleansing and laxative action.

Flax seeds and their oil are an excellent source of essential fatty acids, providing omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids in optimum ratios. However, whilst alpha linolenic acid (ALA) and linoleic acid have the potential to provide the important Prostaglandin series 1 and 3 their production relies the ability of the body to convert them successfully.

In some people with inefficient enzyme function, the benefits of flax oil may be limited and they may obtain better levels of the omega oils from fish oil sources.

What it does

  1. Brain Health: ALA is a source of the omega 3 fatty acid DHA, a major component of the brain. ALA deficiency can lead to low DHA formation in the brain which may be a cause of early senility and poor cognitive function. As the enzymes that allow ALA to be converted to DHA decline with age, it may be better to use fish oils rather than flax oil. Flax also contains linoleic acid, a potential precursor of arachidonic acid, another major structural fatty acid of the brain.
  2. Skin Health: Essential fats contribute to the overall health of skin as well as ensuring a balance between inflammatory and anti-inflammatory prostaglandins, which is an important factor in inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema.
  3. Cholesterol: ALA, when metabolised into series 3 prostaglandins, has potent cholesterol lowering effects as well as preventing platelets sticking together.
  4. Inflammation: The omega 3 and 6 fatty acids in flax oil help produce anti inflammatory prostaglandin series 1 and 3, acting on the joints, skin and digestive system.
  5. Essential fats help to maintain the integrity of cell walls allowing nutrients to pass into and wastes to pass out of the cell whilst inhibiting the passage of undesirable compounds and invaders.

Potential Uses

Eczema & dermatitis Psoriasis Osteo-arthritis
Allergic rhinitis Prostate problems Gout
Cardiovascular health Menorrhagia PMS
High blood pressure Constipation (flaxseeds) Ulcerative colitis (flaxseeds)

Flaxseeds are best soaked overnight in water and then added (with the water) to porridge or breakfast muesli. Make sure that you drink plenty of water when using flaxeeds.

Flaxseed oil can be taken as capsules or liquid and is best kept refrigerated to prevent the oil from going rancid. Extra vitamin E is useful to protect the fats in the body.


Take flaxseeds separately from drugs as they my slow down absorption.

Generally, there are no side effects or contra-indications from using flaxseeds.

At the time of writing there were no well known negative drug interactions with flaxseeds.

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