Flax Seed Oil
Source of Essential Fatty Acids
Flax has been one of the most significant plants in the development of Western civilization. This beautiful plant produces many tall, thin stalks from a single rootstock, each topped with a delicate blue blossom. As one watches the plants swaying gently in the wind, it takes one to the days of sailing ships, when the fibers from flax stalks were used to make the linen needed for sails, fishnets, ropes and many other useful items.
The seeds also yielded linseed oil, which was used as waterproofing for the ships and a base for paints. Today, the oil from flax seeds is known to be one of the most nutritious oils on the planet. It is rich in the Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, necessary for many body processes.
Flax has been cultivated for at least 5,000 years, making it one of the first domesticated crops. The Egyptians mummified their rulers in wraps made of flax fiber. It is likely that the fine linens mentioned in the bible were made of spun flax. The fiber as also been used to make clothing, strings, lamp wicks and sheets.
Flax seeds have long been used for food and for medicine. In fact in the 700s AD, Charlemagne passed laws requiring his subjects to consume flax seeds in order to maintain their health. For cooking, they are ground into a nutty flavored flour and sprinkled over hot dishes. when the flour is mixed with water, it can be used as an egg substitute in baked goods.
The seeds have also been used for digestive system troubles. Flax seeds are high in mucilage content and act as a bulk laxative when taken wit a lot of water. They are similar to psyllium seeds in their action though they are not as strong. In a recent study, participants increased the number of bowel movements 30% while supplementing their diet with flax seed. Flax also has anti-tussive properties and was used by the Cherokee for colds, coughs and fevers. Externally, flax is a major ingredient in poultices used to treat burns, boils, and abscesses.
Recent Findings: Flax seed oil is a natural source high in lignan. Researchers found a low incidence of breast cancer and colon cancer in populations that have high high amounts of lignan in their diet. Scientist attribute this to the anti-estrogenic effect of lignan. Flax is 100 times richer in lignan content than most whole grains.
Flax seed oil is about 55% Omega-3 fatty acid and 20% Omega-6 fatty acid. Although there is no established recommended daily allowance, it has been proposed that the body needs 1-2% of its energy intake be of these two essential fatty acids.
Omega-3 is important in preventing heart disease because it thins the blood and lowers cholesterol. It also aids the production of prostaglandins which regulate many functions of every body cell including nutrient intake, division, pain sensations and blood clotting. Omega-6 fatty acid tones the arteries.
Flax seed oil is a source of calcium, iron, niacin, phosphorus and Vitamins A, B, D, and E. Recommended intake is one to two capsules three times daily with meals.
Flax Seed Oil is also known as linseed oil from the Latin name Linum usitatissimiim L. The flax plant grows erectly, up to three feet and has narrow leaves. The fruit is a pod or capsule which contains the seeds used in the extraction of the oil, which is done through a cold pressing method. Flax was used by the ancient Egyptians and Romans and might have been one of the first crops domesticated for food 10,000 years ago. For centuries in Turkey, fresh squeezed flax seed oil has been used for cooking. It was only until this last decade, however, that research has discovered the benefits of flax seed in the human diet.
The two most important fatty acids for human health and nutrition are Omega-3 linolenic acid (LNA) and Omega-6 linoleic add (LA). These are called the essential fatty adds and cannot be manufactured in our bodes, they must be obtained through the food we eat.
Most people consume a diet very low in Omega-3 or ultra polyunsaturated fatty adds. This is due partly to high consumption of beef, while less fish, fowl, pork, and game are consumed. Modern processing methods of grains and oil hydrogenation further deplete Omega-3 availability. One of the richest sources of Omega-3 is ocean plankton consumed by marine animals. This is why fish is a good source of Omega-3. Soybean, walnut, and wheat germ oil are also high in Omega-3. The very best source of Omega-3, however, is flax seed oil. It is 60% Omega-3, which is twice as much as contained in marine sources. Other advantages of flax seed oil over marine oils are flax seed oil is a plant source alternative to an animal source, and is the only oil being extensively studied in clinical pilot studies as a remedy for a wide range of illnesses.
Flax seed oil also contains Omega-6 or polyunsaturated fatty adds at about 20% of the total oils. Meeting the requirement for our bodies of Omega-6 is not as much of a problem as Omega-3, as trends have turned away from saturated fats and more towards unsaturated fats containing Omega-6 oil.
The key is to maintain a proper balance of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty adds. The required amount of Omega-3 needed and the balance between Omega-3 and Omega-6 varies from person to person. Most people require about one to two percent of their daily calories from Omega-3 and about six to eight percent as Omega-6. Since most people consume less than one percent Omega-3, supplementation with flax seed oil is a very good alternative.
Omega-9 or monounsaturated fatty adds are found in flax seed oil as oleic add, at approximately 20%. Oleic add helps to keep arteries supple, because of its fluidity as an oil. If this fatty add is consumed in excess, however. it interferes with the functions of linolenic and linoleic add, the two essential fatty adds.
A diet high in Omegas fatty adds has been linked to many health benefits. Studies involving people and cultures who traditionally consumed high amounts of fish and little red meat or hydrogenated oils such as Eskimos, the Japanese. and South Sea Islanders show a much lower rate of heart disease and some forms of cancer. These groups of people also show lower incidence of arthritis, diabetes. and other diseases. Omega- 3 helps In the prevention of heart disease, by thinning the blood and removing cholesterol. The National Cancer Institute is currently studying flax seed for Its potential ability in preventing cancer.
One of the major health benefits of adequate Omega-3 consumption is production of prostaglandins which are hormone-like substances and leukotrienes. They direct the activities of every cell in the body including division, nutrient uptake and waste expulsion, when to form a clot, when to feel pain, stimulation of inflammation responses, when to lay down or absorb bone, when to wake up or sleep, and many other basic activities. An essential fatty acid deficiency interferes with the bodies' ability to produce prostaglandins, limiting normal cellular activity.
Increased consumption of Omega-3 has also been linked to increased emotional stability (most likely due to the balance and regulation of the hormones in conjunction with fat consumption), control of dry skin and related problems, improvement of osteoarthritis and bursitis and other joint degeneration diseases, relief from headache. urinary, cardiovascular, menopausal, irritable bowel syndrome, and such problems, as well as greatly improving the immune system.