What are flaxseeds?

Most of the health-conscious people in today’s generation are well aware of the ‘miracle’ flax seeds. If you are one of those who have been recommended to take flaxseeds and are looking to know more about its health benefits you are in the right place.

Flaxseeds are known to be a wonderful source of dietary protein for the young and old generation, it has made a place for itself in everyone’s heart. What started off as a dietary supplement, has quickly filled up the market shelves in the form of confectionery, cereals, energy bars etc. In fact, the farmers are selectively breeding flax plant for a better quality of seeds. Although science and research have succeeded in providing improved varieties of the flax seeds in the market, this 21st-century wonder isn’t as new as you may think. The earliest record of flax seeds uses dates back to the palaeolithic era. Flax seeds and fiber have also been mentioned in the bible. The Egyptians have been known to use linen and linseed in the mummifying procedures to preserve and wrap the body before it is buried. So it won’t be wrong to say that the use of flax seeds is as old as man himself.

Some basic facts about flax seeds:

  • Botanical name: Linum usitatissimum (the species name means “very useful”)
  • Family: Linaceae
  • Common name: “Alsi ke beej”, Linseed, Flaxseed, Common flax.
  • Sanskrit name: Atasi
  • Parts used: Seeds
  • Native region and geographical distribution: Flaxseed is grown in most of Europe and Asia, Canada and parts of America. Maharashtra, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh are the main producers of flax seed in India.
  • Energetics: Warming.
  1. Health benefits of flax seeds
  2. How to eat and use flaxseed
  3. Flax seeds storage and dosage
  4. Flaxseeds side effects

Flax seeds are tiny treasuries of beneficial nutrients. The amount of omega 3 fatty acids in it is higher than any other cereal, and if you are into seafood, flax seeds could be a perfect alternative for your body’s fatty acid needs. Let’s explore some of the common health benefits of flax seeds:

  • Promotes weight loss: Flax seeds are rich in fibre which is an excellent macronutrient for weight loss promotion. It makes you feel full for longer and reduces binge eating. Also, fibre increases cholesterol expulsion from body, which is the major contributor to obesity.
  • Provides essential nutrients: Flax seeds are one of the nutritionally rich plant-based foods. They provide a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A, D, F and minerals such as zinc, iron and manganese. 
  • Reduces cholesterol: Soluble fibre present in flax seeds binds to fats present in blood and help eliminate them from body. Lower cholesterol levels, in turn, prevent heart problems and keep your body weight in check.
  • Prevents brain stroke: ALA present in flax seeds has been found to improve blood circulation in brain and increases the inherent capacity of brain to recover from injury.
  • Effective anti-diabetic:  Studies done in India suggest that the omega-3 fats present in flax seeds help increase sugar uptake from blood. Thus, flax seeds could be a healthy food choice for diabetics.
  • Improves heart health: Being a good source of omega 3 fats, especially ALA, flax seeds make a healthy meal for your heart. It has been found to reduce the risk of plaque formation, thereby preventing heart attack and stroke.
  • Benefits for postmenopausal women:  Research evidence suggests that flax seeds contain lignin, which is effective in remedying postmenopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and hormonal imbalances. But more studies are needed to confirm this benefit.
  • Provides a young and fresh looking skin: Flax seeds are one of the best skincare agents you can get your hands on. Not only does it reduces inflammation and acne, but also it hydrates and nourishes your skin, making it look younger and more refreshed.
  • Long and lustrous hair: Flax seeds, when applied to hair, nourishes your hair follicles and provides much-needed hydration to your scalp. This makes your hair grow faster while at the same time shining with a natural lustre.
  • Relieves carpal tunnel pain: Clinical studies demonstrate the efficiency of flax seed gel incarpall tunnel syndrome. It has been found to be effective in reducing pain and other symptoms associated with this condition. Though, it is best to check in with a doctor before using flax gel for this condition.
  • Reduces the risk of breast cancer:  Flax seeds are a natural source of phytoestrogens (plant-based estrogen) which is suggested to reduce breast-cancer risk in postmenopausal women. The omega-3 fats present in these seeds also suppress cancer cell growth.

Flax seeds for weight loss and constipation

Are you a foodie and tend to overeat? is that making you put on more weight than you want and you just can’t lose those few extra kilos to fit into that dress? Good news guys! Exclusive research claims that regular consumption of flax seeds can help you lose weight.

Studies indicate that flax seeds contain about 35% dietary fiber.  A big part of this fiber is insoluble dietary fiber, which primarily adds bulk to the food and fills up your intestines. This food passes through your gut slowly, and as a result, you feel full for a longer period of time. The best part is it won’t deprive you of any of your nutritional requirements while increasing the gap between meals. This is especially effective if you want to lose weight.

Apart from that, fibre-rich foods help in easing constipation. Make sure to drink ample water with such a diet to avoid the fiber from choking up the intestines.

Studies conducted on flax drinks and flax bread suggested that the water-soluble fiber present in flax seeds is helpful in decreasing the blood cholesterol levels too.

(Read more: Weight loss diet chart)

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Flaxseeds are a rich source of essential nutrients

In the plant kingdom, flax seeds are one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are a group of essential fatty acids which are not made by the body itself. So, they must be obtained from an external source. Flax seeds, as a dietary source of these fats, is thus very helpful for the healthy functioning of the body. The fatty acid found in flax seeds is called Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and linolenic acid, it is like a plant version of the omega 3 in fishes.

These fats get metabolized in the body and play a very important role in cardiovascular (heart) health. Apart from this, flax seeds also contain a significant amount of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin F and vitamin E and minerals like potassium, iron, manganese, and zinc. Nutritionists have aptly named it a “functional food”.

Read more: What are healthy foods

Flaxseeds reduce cholesterol

Studies indicate that about one-third of the fiber in flax seeds is water-soluble. This fiber binds with the fats in blood and makes it flush out of the system with water. So, a regular intake of flax seeds would help you get rid that harmful fat and lose weight in an easy and healthy way. Additionally, a lower level of cholesterol would also reduce the risk of heart problems.

Read more: High cholesterol treatment

Flax seeds prevent brain strokes

A number of independent studies have been carried out to study the effect of alpha-linolenic fatty acids (an important component of flax seeds) in neurological conditions of the body and all of those studies it was claimed that the ALA (fatty acids) in flax seeds are very effective in reducing the chances of strokes along with alleviating the symptoms of depression. It was said that this property of the ALA is due to the fact that it helps increase the amount of a certain protein in the brain (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) which is responsible for the proper functioning of brain cells.

The ALA also helps in dilation of the neural arteries and improves the neuroplasticity of the brain. Research is still going on to find promising ways of using this fatty acid in the therapeutic treatment of strokes and other neurological diseases.

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Flaxseeds for diabtetes

A study done in India claims that regular consumption of flax seeds decreases the amount of fasting blood sugar levels in diabetic patients. It is believed that the hypoglycemic (sugar level reducing) properties of the flax seeds could be due to the presence of omega 3 fatty acids. The fatty acids present in flax seeds increase the glucose uptake by insulin thereby helping maintain the blood sugar levels in diabetic patients.

Read more: Symptoms of diabetes

Flax seeds benefits for a healthy heart

Maintaining a healthy heart should be one of the primary concerns of our lives but the fast-paced lifestyle has turned it into a luxury rather than the necessity it is. For some, it is difficult to take out 5 min out of their busy schedule to look for their health. What if someone tells you that you don’t have to work so hard? Yes, you are guessing it right the omega-3 fatty acids present in flax seeds is considered very healthy for the cardiovascular system.

Researchers say that the omega 3 fatty acids are a kind of unsaturated fatty acids which do not form plaques in the arteries thus avoiding the risk of atherosclerosis (fat deposition in arteries). A study done in Boston (USA) pointed out that consumption of ALA reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke. But remember there's some motivation needed here, you‘ll still have to walk to the kitchen and pour yourself a flax seed meal.

(Read more: Heart diseases causes and treatment)

Flax seeds decrease the risk of breast cancer

Recent studies claim that the lignans found in the flax seeds have potential anti-cancer properties, especially in postmenopausal women. The lignans found in the flax seeds are a type of phytoestrogens. These lignans function very similar to the female hormone “estrogen” in the body which is believed to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Further studies also link the omega 3  fatty acids to a reduction in the size and number of the cancer cells in the body. It was suggested these fatty acids make the cancer cells undergo certain programmed cell death (apoptosis), thereby reducing the severity of cancer.

Studies are still underway to confirm the actual mechanism and effectivity of flax seeds in fighting against this disease.

Read more: Breast cancer in men

Flaxseed benefits for post-menopausal women

A research has claimed that lignins in the flax seeds are said to be good in reducing the postmenopausal symptoms in females including hot flashes and hormonal imbalances but no proof is found yet so the certainty of this factor is still in the research levels.

Read more: Menopause symptoms

Flax seeds benefits for skin

Flax seeds have an assortment of compounds just for your skin. 

First, its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties will help you deal with any rashes, acne and skin irritation.

Then, it’ll help you fight all the first signs of ageing and finally, it helps moisturize and removes all the dead cells from your skin and gives you a healthy and positively glowing look.

Additionally, flax seeds are a good source of vitamin E aka nature’s anti-ageing vitamin, which along with its nutritive effects on the skin will make sure you look fresh and youthful.

Read more: Skincare routine for a flawless skin

Flax seeds benefits for hair and scalp

Almost everybody suffers hair damage caused due to pollution and exposure to chemicals. Hair loss and rough hairs brothers everybody and who doesn't dream of getting shiny hair and a healthy scalp. Good news is the remedy is right in your hands.

Taking flaxseed orally or applying it in the form of a gel helps nourish hair follicles and moisturise the scalp thus giving length and lustre to the hairs. Applying flax seeds oil regularly also helps in fighting dandruff and reducing hair loss.

Read more: Hair growth treatment and tips

Flaxseeds relieve carpel tunnel pains

What is carpal tunnel syndrome? It's a condition caused by a constant pressure on a nerve in your arm which can lead to symptoms like numbness, pain, and swelling of your wrist, palm, and fingers. The reasons can range from constant typing, arthritis or hypothyroidism. The usual treatments include hand splints or steroidal drugs or surgery. But, a recent study tested the effects of flaxseed oil gel on a group of 96 people and it was concluded that topical use of flaxseed oil gel is highly effective in relieving the carpal tunnel pains and other symptoms. However, you are advised to talk to your doctor about the effectivity and medical uses of flax seeds gel treating this carpal tunnel pains before trying it at home.

There is a lot of confusion when it comes to finding the best way to take flax seeds, especially with people who are starting off with it. The small brown seeds are available in two forms in the market: brown flax seeds and golden flax seeds. While there is no much substantial difference in the quality of these two seeds, according to a consumer survey, brown flax seeds taste a bit better than golden flaxseeds.

Commercially, flax seeds are available in the form of powder, capsules, tablets, flax seed oil, flour, and confectionaries. 

Flax seeds can be taken whole but it is known that our body cannot digest whole flax seeds. So, a powder form is preferred over the whole seeds.

However, there are countless tastier ways to add it into your diet. All it takes is a little bit of imagination and a dash of wit. You can knead it into a dough to make bread and paranthas, mix it in a smoothie to make your morning drink healthier and more nourishing. Some people use it in salads dressings and spreads.

Flaxseed oil is known to have therapeutic value and is used for cooking. Some naturopaths suggest not to use the oil for cooking, instead, you can put some oil directly on your food or salads for a nutty flavour.

If you are not that fond of consuming flax seeds and still want to reap its benefits, you can make for yourself a flax seed gel at home. It is very soothing for skin and has a lot of the nourishing benefits of the seeds when applied topically. Let's have a look at an easy way to make your own flaxseed gel at home.

Homemade Flaxseed "oil" or mucilage: Flax seeds gel is basically the seeds boiled in water to extract all its goodness. To make flax seeds gel :

Take a pan and boil about one cup of water with 2 tbsp of flax seeds on high heat. You‘ll notice the water turning frothy and to a gel-like consistency. Slow down the heat now and let it boil on medium heat for a while. Keep stirring to avoid clumping down of the seeds. When the flax seeds start to float at the top take the pan off the heat. Strain this solution to obtain a clear jelly.

Flaxseed gel can be stored in the freezer for about a week but you can add preservatives like vitamin E and keep it for longer. You can also add a few drops of any essential oils of your choice in it to improve its moisturizing and anti-ageing qualities.

A word of caution: Please read about the essential oil you are going to add into the gel. Always buy good grade essential oils, preferably with a certificate of purity.

Did you know?

The stem of flax plant is used to make fibers. These fibers are commercially used to make linen fabrics, threads, painting canvas. It may come as a surprise to you, but, in the automobile industry, it is slowly but gradually taking the place of carbon fibers. Additionally, flaxseed oil is used to make linoleum floorings, paints, varnishes etc.

If you want to keep your flax seeds to last longer, its best to buy them vacuum packed. Once the pack is open keep it in an airtight container. Whole flax seeds can last up to a year. Ground flax seeds, when stored in the refrigerator, can last up to six months. But if you feel an off flavour or smell, it is best to throw it away.

To get all of its benefits, one tbsp. Of flax seeds can be taken daily on empty stomach. 

myUpchar doctors after many years of research have created myUpchar Ayurveda Kesh Art Hair Oil by using 100% original and pure herbs of Ayurveda. This Ayurvedic medicine has been recommended by our doctors to more than 1 lakh people for multiple hair problems (hair fall, gray hair, and dandruff) with good results.
  • Consuming too much flax seeds might choke your gastrointestinal tract and cause constipation and diarrhoea. (Read more: stomach pain medicine)
  • Always consume a good amount of water when you are taking flax seeds because the fiber in it needs the water to easily pass through your intestines.
  • Raw or unripe flaxseed is considered unsafe for consumption.
  • Due to the estrogen-like effects of flax seeds, it is not advisable to take it during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
  • If you are on prescribed medicine, it is always suggested to refer to your doctor for the possible drug interactions before adding flax seeds in your diet. Especially in case of diabetes as flax seeds are known to decrease blood sugar levels.

Medicines / Products that contain Flaxseed


  1. Priyanka Kajla, Alka Sharma, Dev Raj Sood. Flaxseed—a potential functional food source. J Food Sci Technol. 2015 Apr; 52(4): 1857–1871. Flaxseed—a potential functional food source. PMID: 25829567
  2. Danielle Swanson, Robert Block. Omega-3 Fatty Acids EPA and DHA: Health Benefits Throughout Life. Adv Nutr. 2012 Jan; 3(1): 1–7. PMID: 22332096
  3. Slavin JL. Position of the American Dietetic Association: health implications of dietary fiber. . J Am Diet Assoc. 2008 Oct;108(10):1716-31. PMID: 18953766
  4. Kristensen M1, Jensen MG, Aarestrup J, Petersen KE, Søndergaard L, Mikkelsen MS, Astrup A. Flaxseed dietary fibers lower cholesterol and increase fecal fat excretion, but magnitude of effect depend on food type. [link]. . Nutr Metab (Lond). 2012 Feb 3;9:8. PMID: 22305169
  5. Priyanka Kajla, Alka Sharma, Dev Raj Sood. Flaxseed—a potential functional food source. J Food Sci Technol. 2015 Apr; 52(4): 1857–1871. Flaxseed—a potential functional food source. PMID: 25829567
  6. Blondeau N et al. Alpha-linolenic acid: an omega-3 fatty acid with neuroprotective properties-ready for use in the stroke clinic?. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:519830. PMID: 25789320
  7. Blondeau N et al. The nutraceutical potential of omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid in reducing the consequences of stroke. . Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:519830. PMID: 25789320
  8. Campos H, Baylin A, Willett WC. Alpha-linolenic acid and risk of nonfatal acute myocardial infarction.. Circulation. 2008 Jul 22;118(4):339-45. PMID: 18606916
  9. Ana Calado, Pedro Miguel Neves, Teresa Santos, Paula Ravasco. The Effect of Flaxseed in Breast Cancer: A Literature Review. Front Nutr. 2018; 5: 4. PMID: 29468163
  10. Ana Calado, Pedro Miguel Neves, Teresa Santos, Paula Ravasco. The Effect of Flaxseed in Breast Cancer: A Literature Review. Front Nutr. 2018; 5: 4. PMID: 29468163
  11. Mani UV, Mani I, Biswas M, Kumar SN. An open-label study on the effect of flax seed powder (Linum usitatissimum) supplementation in the management of diabetes mellitus.. J Diet Suppl. 2011 Sep;8(3):257-65. PMID: 22432725
  12. Silke K. Schagen, Vasiliki A. Zampeli, Evgenia Makrantonaki, Christos C. Zouboulis. Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging. Dermatoendocrinol. 2012 Jul 1; 4(3): 298–307. PMID: 23467449
  13. Mark G Rubin, Katherine Kim, Alan C Logan. Acne vulgaris, mental health and omega-3 fatty acids: a report of cases. Lipids Health Dis. 2008; 7: 36. PMID: 18851733
  14. Setayesh M, Sadeghifar AR, Nakhaee N, Kamalinejad M, Rezaeizadeh H. A Topical Gel From Flax Seed Oil Compared With Hand Splint in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A Randomized Clinical Trial.. J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2017 Jul;22(3):462-467. PMID: 27909031
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