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A source of fiber for linen fabric since ancient times, the slender flax plant also boasts a long history as a healing herb. First cultivated in Europe, the plant's brown seeds were regularly used to prepare balms for inflamed Skin and healing slurries for Constipation. Today, flaxseeds (also called linseeds) are best known for the therapeutic oil that is derived by pressing them. Rich in essential fatty Acids, or EFAs, flaxseed oil has earned a solid reputation for treating a range of ailments, from Heart disease to Lupus.

The essential fatty Acids in flaxseed oil are one of its key healing components. EFAs are particularly valuable because the body needs them to function properly, but can't manufacture them on its own. Essential fatty Acids work throughout the body to protect cell membranes, keeping them efficient at admitting healthy substances while barring damaging ones.

One of the EFAs in flax seed oil, alpha-linolenic Acid, is known as an omega-3 fatty Acid. Like the omega-3s found in fish, it appears to reduce the risk of Heart disease and numerous other ailments. Flax seed oil is an excellent source of omega-3s: Just 1 teaspoon contains about 2.5 grams, equivalent to more than twice the amount most people get through their diets. Flax seeds also contain omega-6 fatty Acids in the form of linoleic Acid; omega-6s are the same healthy fats found in vegetable oils. Flax seed oil only contains these alpha-linolenic Acid (Omega 3 oils), and not the fiber or lignan components. Therefore, flax seed oil provides the Omega 3 benefits, such as lipid-lowering properties, but not the Laxative or anti-Cancer properties.

Whole flax seeds (not the extracted oil) are a rich source of lignans (phytoEstrogens), substances that appear to positively affect Hormone-related problems. Lignans may also be useful in preventing certain Cancers and combating specific Bacteria, Fungi, and Viruses, including those that cause Cold Sores and Shingles.

Several studies indicate that flax seed oil, as well as ground flax seeds, can lower Cholesterol, thereby significantly reducing the risk of Heart disease. Taking flax seed oil may also protect against angina (Chest Pain) and high Blood Pressure. In addition, a five-year study done recently at Boston's Simmons College found that flax seed oil may be useful in preventing a second Heart attack. It may also help prevent elevated Blood Pressure by inhibiting inflammatory reactions that cause artery-hardening plaque and poor Circulation.Specifically, flax seed may help to:

Lower Cholesterol, protect against Heart disease and control high Blood Pressure:

Counter Inflammation associated with Gout, Lupus and fibrocystic breasts: Omega-3 fatty Acids appear to limit the inflammatory reaction associated with these conditions. In cases of Lupus, flax seed oil not only reduces Inflammation in the joints, Skin and Kidneys, but also lowers Cholesterol levels that may be elevated by the disease. Taking flax seed oil for Gout may lessen the often sudden and severe joint Pain or Swelling that is a symptom of this condition. In addition, the ability of omega-3 fatty Acids to boost the absorption of iodine (a mineral often
found in low levels in women suffering from fibrocystic breasts) makes flax seed oil potentially valuable for treating this often Painful condition.

Control Constipation, Hemorrhoids, diverticulitis disorders and gallStones: As they are high in dietary fiber, ground flax seeds can help ease the passage of stools and thus relieve Constipation, Hemorrhoids and diverticulitis disease. In those with diverticulitis disease, flax seeds may also keep intestinal pouches free of waste and thus keep potential Infection at bay. Taken for inflammatory Bowel disease, flax seed oil can help to calm Inflammation and repair any intestinal tract damage. In addition, the oil may prevent Painful gallStones from developing and even dissolve existing Stones.

Treat Acne, Eczema, Psoriasis, Sunburn and Rosacea: The essential fatty Acids in flax seed oil are largely responsible for its Skin-healing powers. Red, itchy patches of Eczema, Psoriasis and Rosacea often respond to the EFA's Anti-inflammatory actions and overall Skin-soothing properties. Sunburned Skin may heal faster when treated with the oil as well. In cases of Acne, the EFAs encourage thinning of the oily sebum that clogs pores

Promote healthy Hair and nails: The abundant omega-3 fatty Acids in flax seed oil have been shown to contribute to healthy Hair growth (in fact, low levels of these Acids may cause dry and lackluster locks). Hair problems exacerbated by Psoriasis or Eczema of the Scalp may respond to the Skin-revitalizing and Anti-inflammatory actions of flax seed oil as well. Similarly, the oil's EFAs work to nourish dry or brittle nails, stopping them from cracking or splitting.

Minimize Nerve damage that causes numbness and tingling as well as other disorders:The EFAs in flax seed oil assist in the transmission of Nerve impulses, making the oil potentially valuable in treating conditions of numbness and tingling. The oil's Nerve-nourishing actions may also help in the treatment of Parkinson's disease, a degenerative disorder of the Nervous system, and protect against the Nerve damage associated with Diabetes and Multiple Sclerosis.

Reduce Cancer risk and guard against the effects of aging Skin: The lignans in flax seed appear to play a role in protecting against breast, Colon, Prostate, and perhaps Skin Cancer. Although further studies are needed, research undertaken at the University of Toronto indicates that women with breast Cancer, regardless of the degree of Cancer invasion, may benefit from treatment with flax seed. Interestingly, the lignans may protect against various effects of aging Skin as well.

Treat menopausal symptoms, Menstrual Cramps, female Infertility and endometriosis: Because the Hormone-balancing lignans and plant Estrogen (phytoEstrogens) in flax seed help stabilize a woman's Estrogen-progesterone ratio, they can have beneficial effects on the Menstrual cycle, and relieve the hot flashes of Peri-Menopause and Menopause. Flax seed may also improve Uterine function and thus treat fertility problems. In addition, the essential fatty Acids in flax seed have been shown to block production of prostaGlandins, Hormone like substances that, when released in excess amounts during menstruation, can cause the heavy Bleeding associated with endometriosis.

Fight Prostate problems, male Infertility and Impotence: The EFAs in flax seed oil may help to prevent Swelling and Inflammation of the Prostate, the small Gland located below the Bladder in males that tends to enlarge with age. Symptoms of such enlargement, such as urgency to urinate, may lessen as a result. The EFAs also play a role in keeping Sperm healthy, which may be of value in treating male Infertility, and they can improve blood flow to the Penis, a boon for those suffering from Impotence.

Properties: Analgesic, anti-Estrogen, Anti-inflammatory, CardioTonic, Demulcent, Emollient, Expectorant, Laxative, Nervine, Pectoral, Purgative, resolvent.

Indicated for: Acne, aging Skin , angina, Arthritis and joint Inflammation, back Pain, Bacteria, Fungi, and Viruses, Cancer prevention, Cataracts, chronic Pain, Cold Sores, Constipation, Crohns disease, diverticulitis disorders, Eczema, endometriosis, fatigue, gallStones, Gout, Hair problems, Heart disease prevention, Hemorrhoids, high Blood Pressure, high Cholesterol and clogged Arteries, Impotence, Infertility (male & female), Kidney Stones, Lupus, Menopause, Multiple Sclerosis, nail problems, Osteoporosis, Parkinson's disease, Peri-Menopause, Prostate problems, Psoriasis, Rosacea, Shingles, Skin health, Stroke, Sunburn.

Notes: Flax seed oil is also called linseed oil. The industrial types of linseed oil found in hardware stores are not for internal consumption. They may contain Poisonous additives.Although one small pilot study of breast-feeding women showed no adverse effects in infants whose mothers took flax seed oil, Pregnant and breast-feeding women are not advised to use flax seed or flax seed oil. Potentially, the unpredictable Estrogenic or anti-Estrogen effects may affect developing babies before and immediately after birth.

In addition, the possible effects of flax seed or flax seed oil for young children have not been studied, so their use is not recommended for children under 12 years of age.

Women with Hormone-dependent conditions such as endometriosis, Uterine fibroid, or Cancers of the breast, ovaries, or uterus and men with Prostate Cancer should avoid taking flax seed products without prior consultation with a doctor.

Flax seed can block the Esophagus or parts of the intestinal tract. Therefore individuals who have had esophageal or intestinal blockages should not use flax seed. Side effects associated with taking flax seed are Gastrointestinal complaints such as Diarrhea, gas, Nausea, and Stomach Pain. Allergic reactions have been reported by individuals who took flax seed or flax seed oil.

In case studies, flax seed oil has been reported to increase the time blood needs to clot. When it is taken with anti-platelet or anticoagulant drugs, the effect of the drug may be increased, resulting in uncontrolled Bleeding. Anti-platelets include Plavix and Ticlid. Anticoagulants include aspirin, heparin and warfarin. Avoid taking with Danshen, Devil's Claw, Garlic, Ginger, Ginkgo, Ginseng, Horse Chestnut, PaPain, Red Clover or Saw Palmetto.

If you take flaxseed, do not take other drugs within 2 hours.