Four thousand years ago, the flaxseed plant was already cultivated in Mediterranean countries to obtain textile fibers, and 2500 years ago as a medicinal herb. Hippocrates recommended it as an emollient in the 5th century B.C.
Flaxseed Plant Scientific Facts
- Scientific synonyms: Linum humile Miller, Linum humile Planch., Linum crepitans (Boenn.) Dum.
- French: Lin.
- Spanish: Lino.
- Environment: The flaxseed plant is native to the Middle East; it is cultivated in warm climate areas all over Europe and the Americas.
- Description: Herbaceous plant of the Linaceae family, growing from 40 to 80 cm high, with an upright stem and elongated, narrow leaves. Its flowers are light blue, with five petals, and its fruit is a globe-like capsule with ten brown seeds.
- Parts of the plant used medicinally: The linseed (flax seeds).
Healing Properties and Warning
Flaxseeds contain high amounts of mucilage and pectin, which give the plant emollient and laxative properties, as well as mineral salts and fats with a high biological value (essential unsaturated fatty acids). Its applications and indications are the following:
- Chronic constipation. Flax lubricates the digestive tract, making the feces softer. Moreover, it regenerates the intestinal flora, regulating the putrefaction and fermentation processes. Its effect is thus evident since feces lose their putrid odor in the case of intestinal putrefaction.
- Gastritis, duodentitis, and gastroduodenal ulcer. It presents an anti-inflammatory and emollient action, which promotes the regeneration of the harmed digestive mucosa. Flaxseeds should be taken in a decoction as a complement of any specific treatment for those processes.
- Inflammation of the respiratory and urinary ways: especially bronchitis and cystitis, due to its emollient and soothing effect on the mucosa.
Flaxseed plant seeds (linseed) can also be used as food. They are especially recommended for diabetes due to their low sugar content and high content in proteins and fats. Flaxseed must be consumed by those people wanting to gain weight or those suffering from malnutrition.
Poultices of flaxseed flour are applied whenever constant heat is required: colds and bronchitis, menstrual pain, chronic aches of the abdomen (whether kidney or gall bladder aches), intestinal spasms, insect bites, abscesses, and furuncles. They have resolvent, antispasmodic, sedative, and anti-inflammatory properties, besides retaining heat for a long time. Flaxseed oil is a skin-soothing product for eczema, dry skin, mild burns, and dermatosis.
WARNING! The oil in the flaxseed plant flour becomes rancid quite quickly, then produces skin irritation. Therefore, recently prepared flour is better for preparing the poultices.
Other Flaxseed Plant Species
All over the Mediterranean coastline of the Iberian peninsula and in the Canary Islands grows a species called wild flax, with similar properties to cultivated flax.
Cathartic flax grows in Mediterranean countries. Its laxative effect is more intense. In North America, prairie flax or Rocky Mountain flax grows another variety of flax.
How to use Flaxseed
- Decoction of 30 g of seeds per liter of water, boiling for five minutes. Drink two or three cups daily, sweetened with honey if desired.
- Cold extract. Steep for 12 hours a spoonful of seeds per glass of water. Drink two or three glasses of the liquid every day.
- Seeds. Whole seeds can be taken, chewed (a spoonful every 12 hours).
- Poultices. Ground flaxseed flour is added to boiling water until forming a thick paste. From 30 to 40 g of flaxseed flour is usually required per liter of water. When applying the poultice, it is advisable to protect the skin with a cold cloth to avoid burns.
- Lotions with flaxseed oil. Apply directly to the affected area.
George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Ed. Francesc X. Gelabert. vols. 2 San Fernando de Henares: Editorial Safeliz, 2000. 508, 509. Print.