Latin: Linum usitatissimum
WHAT IT DOES: Flaxseed oil is sweet and sour in taste and warming in action. It nourishes and moistens cell membranes and reduces inflammation.
SAFETY ISSUES: None known. Whole seeds should be taken with sufficient fluids.
• Oil: one tablespoon per day
• Capsule: quantity equivalent to one tablespoon of oil per day
Flaxseed oil is nature's richest vegetable sources of omega-3 fatty acids, absolutely essential nutrients found insufficiently in most people's diets. Flaxseed oil helps the body produce hormones, energy and moisture, while simultaneously slowing biochemical pathways that lead to inflammation. These oils end up in the membranes surrounding every cell in the body. This is why it is found in many, many natural medicine protocols.
The historical record supports use of flaxseed for health, and even though research says that most patients seem to do better with fish oils, which are easier for the body to incorporate into the membranes, I use it for my vegetarian patients whenever I see signs of dryness, inflammation and fatigue pointing to a dietary-caused omega-3 deficiency. But you need to differentiate your oils. Evening primrose oil, seems to work better with diabetics (Murray, 1996). Ayurvedic doctors use flaxseed oil in the form of cooking oil for treatment of urinary diseases, and also as a massage oil to calm the nerves, or Vata. Some authorities suggest grinding fresh flaxseed to ensure purity, quality and sufficient volume for efficacy.
• Dietary flaxseed has been shown to help lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels (Jenkins et al., 1999).
• There is some evidence that lignans in the oil may be active in cancer prevention, due in part to the effect on estrogens (Nesbitt et al., 1997).