An herb entry from the Ancient Herbs and Modern Herbs book by James K. Sayre, Copyright, 2001. All rights reserved.


Flax - Linum usitatissimum - family Linaceae (Flax Family).

This is an annual plant that grows to about three feet high. It has lance-shaped leaves and each spring and summer it produces pretty blue flowers. The flowers are followed by capsules containing flat oval brown seeds. Flax has been cultivated for several thousand years. Its fibrous stalks are processed to create linen fabric.The seeds yield linseed oil, which is used in cooking. Flax seed contains some fatty acids (Omega 3) that are reputed by some authorities to protect against heart disease. Flax seed oil contains the two essential fatty acids, alpha linolenic acid and linoleic acid. Flax seed oil may have usefulness in the treatment of atherosclerosis, gout, low blood sugar, memory loss, rheumatoid arthritis and vaginal yeast infections. It is also asserted by some authorities that these fatty acids will also help remove heavy metals from the body. Flax seeds have been used as a traditional European folk remedy for bronchitis, constipation, coughs and sore throats. Approved by the German Commission E as a remedy for constipation and skin inflammations. Modern American folk use of Flax seeds as a remedy for diverticulosis and diverticulitis. Modern American folk use of Flax seed oil as a remedy for acne, allergies, asthma, attention deficit disorder (ADD), back pain, bronchitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, cataracts, chronic fatigue syndrome, colds, eczema, fatigue, gall bladder problems, gout, high cholesterol, impotence, lupus, male infertility, menstrual cramps, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, pre-menstrual syndrome, prostate problems, psoriasis, rashes, shingles and sunburn. Flax seed oil is thought by some to be of possible value in the prevention of the development of cancer. The essential oil may also be useful in the treatment of diabetic neuropathy (a loss of feeling in extremities such as toes). Modern American folk use of Flax seed oil as a topical remedy for cold sores, hemorrhoids, sunburn and whitlows. Flax seeds have been used as a traditional European folk poultice for abscesses, boils, and burns. Under the name Uma, Flax has been traditionally used as one of the Ayurvedic medicinal herbs. Also used as a traditional herbal tea. Note: very high doses of seeds or linseed oil may lead to respiratory failure due to the presence of linamarin, a cyanogenetic glycoside. Note: immature seedpods are toxic, livestock have been poisoned by ingesting them. Linseed oil is also used by artists and for furniture polishing. Listed in the United States Pharmacopoeias from 1840 to 1920. Native to Europe. Naturalized in eastern, central and western North America. Naturalized in California. Cultivated as a food crop and as an ornamental in North America.


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Web page last updated on 21 May 2003.