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Herbs: Linum usitatissimum



COMMON NAMES: flaxseed, linseed, alashi, brazen, flachssamen, flax, leinsamen, hu-ma-esze, linen flax, lini semen, lino, lino usuale, lint bells, linum, keten, etc.

FAMILY: Linaceae
PART USED:
--seeds, yellow (preferred in Europe) or brown
--oil (does not contain fiber or as much lignan)

HISTORY
--may have been first domesticated in fertile crescent
--used in food in Europe and Asia since 5000–8000 bce
--extensively cultivated in ancient Egypt
--linseed oil = one of the oldest commercial oils/solvents, used for centuries as drying agent in painting and varnishing
--used for the production for linen for the last 5,000 years
--first brought to North America for stem fiber to use in making linen and paper
--linseed oil meal (LSOM) by-product of oil extraction is used as animal feed
--fiber is used in cigarette paper, erosion control mats, reinforcement in plastics and particle composite products

HABIT/DESCRIP:
--native in eastern Med to India
--grows wild in waste ground, disturbed sites, roadsides, railroads
--New Zealand flax is not related, but named for flax dt both produce fiber
--erect annual up to 1.2 m tall
--leaves alternate, linear, entire, glabrous, glaucous, sessile
--leaves slender lanceolate to 3cm long, 3mm broad
--flowers 5-petaled, pale blue, sometimes bright red
--fruit is round dry capsule containing several seeds shaped like apple pip
--production on praries: Canada(~34%), China(~25.5%), India(~9%), USA(~8%), Ethiopia(~3.5%), Europe
--in the US: North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota have dominate production since the early 1900's

DOSAGE:
--cracked or coarsely ground seeds unless otherwise prescribed, 1-2 TBS/day on salads, in smoothies, however you can get it down
--whole or bruised seeds, 1 TSP with 150 ml liquid 2-3x/day
--as gruel, soak 2-3 TBS of milled seed in 200-300 ml water, strain after 30 mins

COOKING:
--seeds or meal are delicious on salads or casseroles
--can add to diet in disguise by mixing with yogurt, oatmeal, etc.
--cold-pressed flaxseed oil not suitable for frying at high temperatures
--used for low-temperature stir-frying in China

CONTITUENTS:
--fixed oil 30-45%
--rich source of the unsaturated EFA alpha-linolenic acid, which is a biologic precursor to omega-3 fatty acids such as eicosapentaenoic acid
--in addition to linolenic, contains many short chain omega 3 fatty acids in triglyceride form: linolenic, linoleic, oleic, stearic, palmitic, myristic acids
--proteins 20-25%
--mucilage 3-10% (increasing amounts of each: galactose, arabinose, rhamnose, xylose, galacturonic/mannuronic)
--sterols & triterpenes (cholesterol, campesterol, staigmasterol, sitosterol
--cyanogenic glycosides
--secoisolariciresinol glycoside (precursor of lignans in mammals)

ACTIONS:
increases sex hormone binding globulin, decreasing total active hormone burden
lowers E2 in estrogen dominant females
bulks stool, increasing fecal clearance
demulcent, soothing to gut mucosa
beneficial fats??

SCIENCE:
--lignan constituents of flaxseed (not flaxseed oil) possesses in vitro anti-oxidant and possible estrogen receptor agonist/antagonist properties, prompting theories of efficacy for the treatment of breast cancer. However, there is not sufficient human evidence to make a recommendation. (Mayo clinic)
--As a source of fiber mucilage, oral flaxseed (not flaxseed oil) may possess laxative properties, although only one human trial has been conducted for this indication.
--effects of flaxseed on blood glucose levels are not clear, although hyperglycemic effects have been reported in one case series.

Flaxseed oil contains only the alpha-linolenic acid component of flaxseed, and not the fiber or lignan components. Therefore, flaxseed oil may share the purported lipid-lowering properties of flaxseed, but not the proposed laxative or anti-cancer abilities.

--aids regular elimination


Flax is harvested this way (pulled up by the roots) to maximize fiber length.

INDICATIONS:
--chronic constipation
--colon damaged by laxative abuse, irritable colon, diverticulitis
--gastritis, entertitis
--estrogen sensitive cancers: breast, prostate, etc
--estrogen dominant conditions: pms, fibrocystic breasts, PCOS, etc
--diabetes (stabilizes blood sugar)
--ADHD
--dry eyes in Sjogren's
--cardiovascular dz
--high BP
--high cholesterol
--kidney dz
--menopausal symptoms
--menstrual breast pain
--obesity
--Mayo clinic rates this seed a C for scientific verification of all uses: does not recommend, but does mention a few favorable studies for most of the indications listed above

CI's:
--ileus of any origin
--excessive consumption-->diarrhea or if consumed w/o liquids, intestinal blockage
--do not take with other meds, it may block or absorb them
--found no info either way on usage during breastfeeding/pregnancy

SOURCES:
--course notes
--http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/flaxseed/NS_patient-flaxseed
--wikipedia but of course
--http://www.missouriplants.com/Bluealt/Linum_usitatissimum_page.html
--http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/ncnu02/v5-358.html

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