Flax is a flowering plant with many diverse uses and has been around for thousands of years. The seeds have been used for food, food supplements and oil. The fibers of this ancient plant have been used to make cloth, rope and paper. The true blue color of the flax plant produces a blue fabric dye, and when the flower is boiled, it produces a range of colors from tan to apricot.

Flax was first used as a thread and made into linen cloth. Flax fibers were the main source of cloth until the growth of the cotton industry in the 1800s. Many of today’s blue jeans are still made from flax and a blend of cotton. Flax, one of the strongest fabrics, also provides a cooling factor with its absorption of moisture. Consider this additional information about flax:

Flax can be made into lamp oil and wicks. The strong wicks produced from the fiber absorbed the oil that was burned in lamps until the 18th century. Flax is used in soaps, cosmetics and hair gels. When used with soap, it is a gentle exfoliater that aids the skin in softness. Flax products can strengthen the hair and the Omega 3 oils add shine and body. Flax is an eye cleaner that helps keep moisture in the eye.

Flaxseed oil is also known as linseed oil, which is used in paints, varnishes, linoleum and wood treatments. Flax is one-third oil and two-thirds protein and fiber (both soluble and insoluble). It contains lignans, fiber and Omega 3 fats. Lignans are phytoestrogens (plant-derived molecules that can act like the hormone estrogen) and powerful antioxidants. Flax can be used in seed, ground seed and oil form and has a nutty flavor. The seed, ground or whole, is used in baking breads, cookies, scones and is used with many meat dishes. It is sprinkled on salads, in salad dressings, cereal, cottage cheese or yogurt. The oil is used as an alternative to fish oil and is taken most often in capsule form. Flaxseed and flax oil are significantly different. Flaxseed oil contains little or no dietary fiber and does not contain lignans. Flax oil must be refrigerated in a dark bottle. Shelf life is 3-4 weeks. It takes approximately 3 tablespoons of flaxseed to equal 1 tablespoon of oil. The use of flax to promote health is currently being explored. The American Heart Association has released a scientific statement and dietary guidelines for healthcare professionals that note the beneficial effects of adding flaxseed and flaxseed oil to an individual’s diet. However, few flax studies have been conducted on humans — most studies have been on animals.


By: Carolyn Washburn - Jul. 25, 2006