Herb of the Month – Flax

August 10, 2013

 

LINUM USITATISSIMUM (Flax)

FlaxUnless a person has been living under a rock this last decade, just about everyone will have heard of flax seeds. These small seeds pack a nutritional punch, and are an excellent source of Omega 3 (anti-inflammatory) fats.

Flax seeds can be taken whole (i.e. mixed into home-made granola or bread and other baked goods), however unless soaked sufficiently before using in cooking or ingesting, the digestive system has a very difficult time breaking down the whole seeds. They do, however, impart a mild “scrubbing” effect on the wall of the digestive tract (especially the large intestine), thereby helping removal of waste build-up without causing damage to the lining. (Note: with some inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Ulcerative Colitis, whole flax seeds should be avoided; ground flax and flax oil are usually okay to use).

The best way to take flax is to crush or grind it before adding to baking, smoothies, and shakes. That way, the nutrients are better exposed and better utilized by the body. Ground flax is also very helpful for keeping the digestive system clean of waste matter; the ground flax absorbs fluids, expands, and helps move waste matter out of the body. To crush, use a mortar and pestle; to grind, a coffee grinder or food processor works well.

Flax oil is one of the best ways to utilize the benefits of flax, especially with regards to accessing the Omega 3 fats. Flax oil helps to reduce inflammation anywhere in the body, lubricates joints and skin, and is one of the best herbs available that helps to increase peristalsis – the “pumping” action of the intestines that helps to move waste matter along and out of the body. I said earlier that whole flax should be avoided in inflammatory bowel conditions – yet the flax oil will be beneficial and will help to reduce inflammation without causing further irritation. * (consult with a professional health practitioner before taking anything new).

So let’s summarize how different flax preparations can be used:

Whole flax:   gently “scrubs” clean the intestinal wall

Ground flax:  bulks up in the intestines and along with promoting regularity, it helps move waste matter along and out of the body.

Flax oil: acts as an anti-inflammatory throughout the body (including the lungs), and stimulates peristalsis thereby further facilitating removal of waste out of the body.

Can a person take all three forms of flax on a daily basis? Absolutely – except for whole flax with certain bowel conditions.

 

USES:   

To ease chronic or acute atonic (i.e. very sluggish) or spastic constipation and promote regularity.
Use as a tea to soothe rasping, dry irritable cough.
Apply locally to draw boils and pustules, and to ease chest pains of a bronchial or pulmonary origin. In both of these cases, the crushed seeds can be used as a poultice and applied directly to the affected area.

 

DOSE:   

Crushed or ground seeds:  1-4 tablespoons, 1-3 times daily (more palatable if mixed into food e.g. porridge, yoghurt, unsweetened apple sauce, or smoothie).

Oil: 1-3 tablespoons daily (NEVER cook with flax oil as the heat will destroy its nutritional value).

Tea (for lungs):  Use 1 teaspoon crushed seeds to 1 mug of boiled water; steep for 10 mins, and drink 1-3 cups, 1-3 times daily.

 

STORING FLAX:   

Whole flax is pretty stable and doesn’t need refrigeration if you’re using it regularly. It is best stored in a glass container (never plastic), in a cool, dark place.

Ground flax loses it’s oils much more quickly than whole flax, so it should be ground as needed, and any unused portions stored in the fridge.

Flax oil should always be refrigerated and used before it’s “best by” date.

 

NOTE:   

Intake of too much flax seeds (not flax oil) without sufficient water intake may cause bowel obstruction and/or constipation. This can be easily avoided if a good amount of water is consumed daily and flax seed (not oil) doses don’t exceed the recommended daily amount.

 

 

(images via: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Flax_flowers.jpg and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Brown_Flax_Seeds.jpg)

2 Comments

  1. Dennis Barnett
    Sep 8, 2013

    I see no recommendation as to the type of flax. I was told many years ago to only use golden flax for human consumption. This is because the oil in the dark flax is not great for us whereas the golden flax is completely beneficial .

    • radka
      Sep 10, 2013

      Dennis, I’d heard that somewhere too but am not 100% convinced one is necessarily better than the other — essentially they both contain the good Omega 3 oils. I would imagine quality and quantity of oil would depend on the area they are grown in, soil quality, nutrients, processing, etc.

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