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What’s All the Flax About?

With today’s information on the benefits of whole foods and its impact on the health of the body, I wanted to write about flaxseed. Flaxseed has a long history of use as food and as an intermediary substance in industry and in clothing production. This article will inform you of these benefits and how to use it in your daily lifestyle. The information provided is taken from a recent article found in the publication Herbgram.

Let’s begin with the history of flaxseed. Flax is the oldest continuously cultivated plant in history. The Swedish botanist Linneaus assigned flax to the Linaceae family of plant species, which means most useful. There are over 100 species of flax; and historically flax has been a source of food, fiber (linen), and oil. In ancient times the stalks were used to weave linen and the seeds, commonly called linseed, have been used in cereals and bakery products. The oil is very beneficial and has been used as an intermediate for printing ink, fine chemicals, brake linings, paint formulations, fabric treatment, and the flooring material called linoleum. One tidbit of history in which flax appears is what was called the flax tax. On clay tablets discovered in Egypt dating between 3300-3200BC references are made to the delivery of flax oil and linen as tithe to the king. Another interesting part of flax history is that in a recent discovery in Turkey a small piece of linen was found wrapped around a tool handle. The artifact dates back to about 7000BC and is believed to be the oldest piece of cloth ever discovered. The Greeks and Romans used flax to make sails and fishing nets. There are many references in the bible that show that flax was an integral part of life. Joseph’s fine robe and Jewish high priests’ robes were spun from flax. The Canaanites had knowledge of flax, and it is believed that the shroud that wrapped Jesus Christ was made of linen.

Flax has many medicinal properties that again have historical references. The first century physician Dioscorides used flax for all inflammation, internal and external. External doses were prepared by boiling flaxseed with honey, oil, and a little water. These poultices were used for sunburn, pain, and swellings.

In our modern times flaxseed is still being used according to tradition. It is used for constipation, gastritis, pharyngitis, coughs, sore throat, hardening of the arteries, and rheumatoid arthritis. Neither flaxseed nor its oil is mentioned in current U.S. Pharmacopoeias, but it was mentioned from 1820 to 1947.

It is currently widely used in Europe for treating numerous conditions. An example is the use of the oil in treating hormonally driven cysts, tumors and cancers in women. Dr. Johanna Budwig has researched the benefits of flax oil for these conditions for over 20 years, and there is a volume of documentation to the benefits derived from the ingestion of flax oil.

The health benefits of flax are believed to be caused by several factors. The oil is high in the essential fatty acids (EFA), linoleic acid and a-linolenic acid (ala). This EFA is converted to gamma linolenic acid (GLA) in the liver and is beneficial in inflammatory disorders. The fiber in flaxseed contains high levels of lignans; and finally the gums and mucilage give many of the soothing benefits of flax. These factors are currently being researched for treating cancer, lupus, high cholesterol, malaria and rheumatoid arthritis.

Let’s take a closer look as to how you can use flax in your daily diet. First we begin with the seed. Due to the fact that the essential fatty acids in flax are sensitive to heat and light, it is important to use fresh flaxseed meal. If you are using it mostly for the fiber content, then already prepared meals are ok (but be sure that they are kept refrigerated to prevent rancidity). I always like to grind my flaxseed fresh in a nut and seed grinder or a blender on grind setting. Flaxseed meal can be added to cooked cereal, granola, breads, pancakes, cookies or smoothie blender drinks. We add this to our health shake daily.

The use of flax oil is another important addition to the diet on a daily basis. We also add the oil to our health shake, plus we put it on numerous other foods. After extensive research into the benefits of flax oil, we use it as a preventive food. Dr. Budwig recommends that the oil be used in conjunction with other forms of natural fats like low fat cottage cheese, butter, or yogurt. It is not recommended to be taken on an empty stomach due to how the body processes fats and oil. We like to put it on potatoes in place of butter, and we use it in our salad dressing and apply it to steamed vegetables.

It is important that when purchasing flax oil that it be organic. This means the use of no chemicals in the growing, storage and processing of it. It will be stated on the label. Be sure that the product is dated. Due to the stability factors, it must be kept refrigerated once opened. It must be in dark glass or black plastic to protect it. You must shake the bottle before using it to distribute the lignans that have a tendency to collect on the bottom of the container.

The following recipe is one way to enjoy flax oil:

Mother Earth’s Essential Flax Oil Dressing

8 oz extra virgin olive oil

4 oz organic flax oil

2-3 oz natural vinegar (rice, balsamic, or apple cider)

3-4 cloves fresh garlic, finely chopped

4 TBL fresh basil, finely chopped

1/4 tsp Spike seasoning

1 ts. fresh lemon juice

Dash of natural soy sauce

Tarragon, parsley, rosemary to taste.


I hope you will experiment with this important food, Flaxseed.

The fact that it has been used by mankind for so long attests to its positive benefits when it comes to prevention and treatment of many chronic degenerative diseases.

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