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Flaxseed oil and flax seeds are the favourites of every health conscious person in the modern world. Whether you want to lose weight, include more dietary proteins or need a fibre-rich food source, flax seeds cater to it all. Why should flaxseed oil be any different? Prepared from pressed flax seeds, flaxseed oil contains most of the nutritional goodness and health benefits of flax seeds. Of course, it can’t give you the benefits of flaxseed fibre but it is especially rich in alpha-linolenic acid, which is a type of omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, flaxseed oil is one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids in the plant kingdom. And if you are a vegetarian or a vegan, it might be the best substitute for fish oil.

Omega-3 fatty acids, as a lot of us know, are excellent for preventing heart diseases and help to maintain cholesterol levels. They are useful in remedying dry skin conditions and fighting against common skin and scalp problems like dandruff and eczema.

In Ayurveda, it is considered to be excellent for reducing heart ailments and promoting weight loss. But most importantly, it is useful for reducing skin ageing.

In this article, you’ll know much more about the health benefits of flaxseed oil and how to use it to get maximum benefits. You’ll also learn about some safety concerns that need to be kept in mind while using this oil.

Some basic facts about flax seeds:

  • Botanical name: Linum usitatissimum
  • Family: Linaceae
  • Common name: Alsi, Flax seed, Linseed
  • Sanskrit name: Atasi
  • Parts used: Seeds
  • Native region and geographical distribution: Flax seeds are cultivated throughout Eurasia. In India, Maharashtra, Chattisgarh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh are major cultivators of flax seeds.
  • Energetics: Warming
  1. Flaxseed oil nutrition facts
  2. Health benefits of flaxseed oil
  3. Flaxseed oil uses and dosage
  4. Flaxseed oil side effects

Since flaxseed oil is prepared from cold pressed flaxseeds, it contains all the nutritional goodness of alsi seeds. Though it misses on fibre, it retains omega-3 fatty acids and phytoestrogens from flaxseeds.

Flax oil can be easily prepared by boiling flax seeds in water.

As per the USDA database, 1 tsp of flaxseeds contain the following values.

Nutrient Value 1 Tsp
Carbohydrates 0.98 g
Protein 0.62 g
Energy 18 Kcal
Lipids 1.43 g
Minerals  
Calcium 9 g
Potassium 28 g
Phosphorus 22 g
Magnesium 13 g
Fats/Fatty acids  
Saturated 0.125 g
Monounsaturated 0.256 g
Polyunsaturated 0.977 g

Flaxseed oil is probably the best addition that you can make to your pantry. Being rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, it provides you with a big dose of the recommended healthy fats. And what’s more, it also has several cosmetic benefits. What better than a cooking oil that also takes care of your overall health. Let’s explore some of the scientifically evident health benefits of flaxseed oil.

Flaxseed oil for skin

The rising pollution and busy lifestyle make skin care an utmost necessity but you can’t book salon skin treatments each day, right? Flaxseed oil comes as a saviour in these situations. Believe it or not, it is one of the best oils for your skin. Ayurveda defines flax seeds as a moisturising, pH balancing and anti-wrinkle remedy for the skin. With natural remedies coming back from the ancient times, flaxseed oil has made a comeback and this time it’s not seeming to step down.

Studies suggest that regular application of flaxseed oil improves the barrier function of the skin, which is one of the primary reasons for skin sensitivity. As a repository of antioxidants, it combats oxidative stress due to the harmful UV rays, thus, delaying photo ageing.

Animal-based studies indicate that topical application of flaxseed oil improves dermatitis and eczema along with suppressing the inflammatory response which is responsible for causing swelling and redness. But unlike fish oil, it does not have any side effects in the form of immunosuppression (reduced immunity).

As per the findings of a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, ingesting flaxseed oil increases skin hydration and reduces dryness and scaling of skin in humans.

Not only this, but flaxseed oil is very useful in healing wounds. It promotes the regeneration of skin collagen by increasing fibroblast (connective tissue cells) synthesis. In vivo (animal-based) studies claim that flaxseed oil stimulates skin repair and reduces the chances of further skin damage in skin wounds. It has also been found to be beneficial in improving blood circulation and promoting skin regeneration in burn wounds.

Flaxseed oil for hair

Flaxseed oil hosts a band of nutrients and minerals which makes it an effective hair oil. Studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids prevent hair loss while promoting hair growth at the same time. Flaxseed oil is rich in these. As an emollient and demulcent, it also soothes the scalp and helps to retain its moisture while it also eases scalp conditions like psoriasis and eczema.  Additionally, Omega-3 fatty acids act as antioxidants and revert free radical damage, which is one of the major causes of hair loss and greying.

So, the next time you go for a hair massage, opt for flaxseed oil and notice its benefits yourself. Alternatively, you can add a few drops of flaxseed oil in your homemade hair mask.

Flax oil for weight loss

Flaxseed oil might lack the fibre content of flaxseeds but it still is an effective laxative, which makes it an effective weight loss agent. Animal-based studies demonstrate the dual action of flaxseed oil in preventing diarrhoea as well as constipation. It softens the stools and lubricates the gut, facilitating excretion and by balancing the potassium channels, it also helps in alleviating diarrhoea.

Furthermore, omega-3 fatty acids facilitate proper digestion and absorption of nutrients from the intestines along with improving the gut microflora. This implies that you will get the right amount of nutrients from your food, which in turn will lead to a balanced metabolic function.

Not only this, the hypolipidemic properties of flaxseed oil make sure that you lose all that harmful cholesterol which is one of the major contributors to obesity.

(Read more: Diet chart for weight loss)

Flaxseed oil for heart

Flaxseed oil comprises polyunsaturated and essential fatty acids which have been found to be beneficial in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. High cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for heart diseases. Flaxseed oil helps in preventing this condition, as evident from research studies. Combined with its antioxidant properties, it aids in reducing plaque deposition in the arteries and thus prevents atherosclerosis. Further, flaxseed oil has effective anti-inflammatory properties, which are known to be useful in preventing cardiovascular diseases.

High blood pressure is yet another risk factor in heart diseases. Alpha-linolenic acid present in flaxseed oil has a relaxing effect on the arteries and it has been found to be effective in reducing both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in hypertensives.

With so many benefits for your heart, flaxseed oil is certainly the perfect choice.

Flaxseed benefits for women

Omega-3 fatty acid is not the only good thing about flaxseed oil, it also contains plant hormones namely phytoestrogens. Apt to their name, these hormones act like the female hormone estrogen and assist in balancing these hormonal levels in women. This would not only alleviate abnormalities in the menstrual cycle but also aid in reducing uterus-related problems and in improving fertility. Additionally, it may be helpful in remedying hot flashes in menopausal women.

In a clinical study, 60 women with PCOS were given 1000 mg flaxseed oil two times a day for a period of 12 weeks. Marked improvement in metabolic parameters was noted at the end of the designated period. The study did not mention any effect on the hormonal profile. However, in a single case study, the lignans present in flaxseeds were reported to improve hormone levels in PCOS along with reducing hirsutism.

In the absence of confirming evidence, it is best that you refer to a doctor to understand the benefits of flax seeds for women health.

Flaxseed oil for brain

A lot of us are aware of the cardiovascular benefits of flaxseed oil but do you know it is as good for your brain? The alpha-linolenic acids present in flaxseed oil get converted into EPA and DHA inside the body, both of which are essential in modulating brain functions and in assisting neurotransmission (transfer of signals between brain cells). Flaxseed oil is especially studied for its benefits in improving borderline personality disorders and bipolar disorder. It has been found to reduce mood changes, anxiety and depression related to bipolar disorders in children.

Animal studies demonstrate that flaxseed oil supplementation may be effective in managing brain ischemia (tissue damage due to oxygen reduction).

Flaxseed oil is also being studied for its benefits in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), though, the result isn’t conclusive.

The may also have some use in the treatment of Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), schizophrenia and anxiety disorders. However, more studies are needed to draw any satisfactory evidence.

(Read more: How to improve brain power)

Flaxseed oil for diabetes

Diabetes is an endocrine disorder characterised by an inability of the body to produce or utilise insulin which leads to high blood sugar levels. When it comes to the anti-diabetic effects of flax oil, the evidence is quite contradictory. While some studies claim that regular consumption of flax oil aids in reducing blood glucose levels, others suggest that it does not have any significant effect. Omega-3 fatty acids are known to reduce the risk of diabetes in both normal and pre-diabetics. Though it has been suggested to improve insulin resistance, the exact mechanism remains unknown.

Furthermore, flaxseed oil is claimed to reduce the breakdown of sugars in the intestines, slowing its absorption and maintaining the blood sugar levels.

Not only this, as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, flaxseed oil assists in reducing diabetes complications. In pre-clinical studies, flax oil administration has been found to improve diabetes-associated brain dysfunction and foot ulcers.

However, due to lack of clinical studies, it is advisable that you refer to a doctor to know about the benefits and safety of flaxseed oil for diabetes.

Flaxseed oil for cancer

Cancer is one of the major causes of mortality and morbidity. Essentially an overstimulation of cell growth, cancer can disrupt the normal body functions and weaken the immune system making them more prone to diseases. Recently there is an increased trend towards cancer prevention with the help of dietary interventions.

Several studies suggest the benefits of flax oil in preventing cancer and tumour formation. Flax oil consumption has been found to inhibit the spread of lung cancer and breast cancer and promote apoptosis (cell death) in breast cancer cells. It also reduces the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women.

Preclinical studies suggest that flaxseed oil reduces ovarian cancer risk by inhibiting the expression of the inflammatory genes that play a crucial role in the pathogenesis of ovarian cancer. Additionally, the omega-3 fatty acid in flaxseed oil is found to reduce the size of colon tumours much better than corn oil.

Flaxseed oil is a healthy substitute as a marinating oil and for preparing dips but it does not have a high smoke point which means it is not good for frying or cooking.

You can drizzle flax oil over salads and use it in green smoothies.

Flax oil can also be used as a massage oil for improving skin condition and to get long and lustrous hairs.

Flaxseed oil is the best source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids. If you are not fond of fish oil or are a vegan, flax oil capsules and tablets are also available commercially to be used in the form of supplements.

However, if you are not fond of commercial products, you can easily make flax oil at home. Here is a recipe to make your own flax oil:

  1. Boil flax seeds with 2-3 cups of water in a pan.
  2. As the water starts to form a froth, slow down the heat to low and let it boil on medium heat.
  3. Stir constantly to keep the seeds from making clumps.
  4. Take the pan off the burner as the seeds start to float instead of remaining settled.
  5. Strain the solution in a clear and dry bottle.

Though it is known as an oil, it will appear in a gel-like form. You can store this oil for about a week in the fridge or add some preservatives like vitamin E to increase its shelf life.

If you want it to be more fragrant, just add a few drops of your favourite essential oil.

Dosage

Flax oil dosage depends on the individual physiology and symptoms or the product being used. However, a 1000 mg dose of flaxseed oil has been used in clinical trials without significant side effects. To know the right dosage of flax oil for you it is recommended that you refer a nutritionist.

  • Flaxseed oil reduces blood pressure. If you suffer from low blood pressure or if you are a hypertensive on medication, it is best that you avoid flax oil or refer a nutritionist to know the right dosage.
  • Flaxseed oil is speculated to be a hypoglycemic (reduces blood sugar) agent. It is recommended that diabetics talk to a doctor before adding it to the diet.
  • Due to lack of scientific evidence and the estrogen-like activity of flax oil, pregnant and breastfeeding women should stay away from it.
  • If you have an allergy to flax seeds, it is important to avoid flaxseed oil as well.
  • Flaxseed oil has been found to inhibit blood clotting if you are on a blood thinning medication or if you are about to go for a surgery, you are recommended to not consume flax oil.
  • Regular consumption of alpha-linolenic acid is associated with a higher risk of prostate cancer as per some studies, though, the evidence is not confirmatory.

Medicines / Products that contain Linseed oil

References

  1. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Basic Report: 12220, Seeds, flaxseed. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release [Internet]
  2. Neukam K et al. Supplementation of flaxseed oil diminishes skin sensitivity and improves skin barrier function and condition. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2011;24(2):67-74. PMID: 21088453
  3. Tülüce Y, Ozkol H, Koyuncu I. Photoprotective effect of flax seed oil (Linum usitatissimum L.) against ultraviolet C-induced apoptosis and oxidative stress in rats. Toxicol Ind Health. 2012 Mar;28(2):99-107. PMID: 21665902
  4. Park HJ et al. Dietary fish oil and flaxseed oil suppress inflammation and immunity in cats. Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2011 Jun 15;141(3-4):301-6. PMID: 21440312
  5. Joonhyoung Yang, Sangyeon Min, Seungug Hong. Therapeutic Effects of Fermented Flax Seed Oil on NC/Nga Mice with Atopic Dermatitis-Like Skin Lesions . Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017; 2017: 5469125. PMID: 28197211
  6. Wendy O'Neill, Sharyn McKee, Andrew F. Clarke. Flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum) supplementation associated with reduced skin test lesional area in horses with Culicoides hypersensitivity . Can J Vet Res. 2002 Oct; 66(4): 272–277. PMID: 12418783
  7. Eryvelton de Souza Franco et al. Effect of a Semisolid Formulation of Linum usitatissimum L. (Linseed) Oil on the Repair of Skin Wounds. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012; 2012: 270752. PMID: 21747895
  8. Katiba Beroual et al. EVALUATION OF CRUDE FLAXSEED (Linum usitatissimum L) OIL IN BURN WOUND HEALING IN NEW ZEALAND RABBITS. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2017; 14(3): 280–286. PMID: 28480439
  9. Le Floc'h C et al. Effect of a nutritional supplement on hair loss in women. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2015 Mar;14(1):76-82. PMID: 25573272
  10. Mori TA. Omega-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease: epidemiology and effects on cardiometabolic risk factors. Food Funct. 2014 Sep;5(9):2004-19. Food Funct. 2014 Sep;5(9):2004-19.
  11. Paschos GK et al. Dietary supplementation with flaxseed oil lowers blood pressure in dyslipidaemic patients. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2007 Oct;61(10):1201-6. Epub 2007 Jan 31. PMID: 17268413
  12. Hilden T. The influence of arterial compliance on diastolic blood pressure and its relation to cardiovascular events. J Hum Hypertens. 1991 Jun;5(3):131-5. PMID: 1920336
  13. Hanif Palla A, Gilani AH. Dual effectiveness of Flaxseed in constipation and diarrhea: Possible mechanism. J Ethnopharmacol. 2015 Jul 1;169:60-8. PMID: 25889554
  14. Lara Costantini et al. Impact of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on the Gut Microbiota . Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Dec; 18(12): 2645. PMID: 29215589
  15. Debra A. Nowak et al. The Effect of Flaxseed Supplementation on Hormonal Levels Associated with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: A Case Study . Curr Top Nutraceutical Res. 2007; 5(4): 177–181. PMID: 19789727
  16. Debra A. Nowak et al. The Effect of Flaxseed Supplementation on Hormonal Levels Associated with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: A Case Study . J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol. 2015 Sep 1; 25(7): 526–534. PMID: 26288263
  17. Paola Bozzatello et al. Supplementation with Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Psychiatric Disorders: A Review of Literature Data . J Clin Med. 2016 Aug; 5(8): 67. PMID: 27472373
  18. Soleimani Z et al. Clinical and metabolic response to flaxseed oil omega-3 fatty acids supplementation in patients with diabetic foot ulcer: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Diabetes Complications. 2017 Sep;31(9):1394-1400. PMID: 28716357
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