Flax (Linseed) (Linum usitatissimum)
Flax is an incredibly useful plant. Not only is it attractive enough for a flower garden, it provides fibers that are spun into linen, dye, fibers that are made into paper and fishing nets, soap and medicines. All this is from a slender little plant with bright blue flowers.
Key Medicinal Uses
Internally Flax can be taken to control cholesterol, blood pressure and stress. It may help reduce the risk of breast cancer. It is frequently used with great success as a laxative and it may offer some use to diabetics in controlling blood sugar. It contains linoleic acid, which is one of the Omega-3 fatty acids that greatly help maintain a healthy body. Studies have proven this herb to be useful in treating lupus, to prevent renal transplant rejection, and it is currently being studied for its effects on rheumatoid arthritis.
Externally Flax can be used as a topical demulcent and emollient. It can also be used as a poultice on the skin to heal inflammation. The oil can help with eczema, dry skin and psoriasis. It can be applied to sores, scalds, burns, abscesses and ulcers, as it offers some pain relief as well as healing.
Other Uses Flax stems are used to spin linen. The stems must first be rotted so only the strong fibers remain. It is then broken and combed before spinning. The spun thread is used in weaving fabric.
Seeds Seeds are the part of the plant that is most frequently used medicinally. Oil is pressed from these seeds that can be taken in capsules or added to other remedies or foods.
Flax should not be taken by women who are pregnant or nursing, as it has shown to cause contractions and start bleeding. If a person has known sensitivities, they should not take it medicinally. It may interact with anticoagulants, putting patients at risk of bleeding. Do not ingest the leaves and chaff, as they contain cyanogenic glycosides.
Preparation and Dosage
Flax seed oil has been given in doses ranging from 3 to 10 grams daily. One method that was found to be effective by Dr. Johanna Budwig in the 1950s was to combine 2 to 5 tablespoons of seed oil in 1 cup of cottage cheese, along with 1 to 3 tablespoons of ground seeds and a dash of cayenne. This was taken daily by patients who were considered terminal. Many of them recovered after taking this herbal remedy.
Ground flax seeds can be added to salads and cereal.