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Flaxseed Oil: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects By Dr. Smita Barode

By Dr Smita Barode +2 more

Introduction: 

Foods with great nutritional value are in high demand today as people become more health conscious.  Flaxseeds is one such crop that has grown both in cultivation and health benefits since civilisation began. Scientifically flaxseed is named Linum usitatissimum L, which literally means very useful. It belongs to the family Linaceae. The fibre present in the plant is one of the oldest fibres existing. Flaxseed oil, also known as flax oil is prepared from ground and pressed flaxseeds to extract their natural oil. Around 3000 B.C., the ancient Egyptians employed flaxseed for nutritional and therapeutic purposes. India, Canada, China, United States and Ethiopia are the major producers of flaxseed. Flaxseeds contain a large number of lignans, fibre, α-linolenic acid and omega-3 fatty acids.1,2 Let’s read more about flaxseed oil benefits and properties.  

flaxseed oil benefits

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Nutritional Value of Flaxseed Oil:  

The nutritional value of flaxseed oil per 100g is as follows: 

Nutrient Percentage Content 
Protein  0.11g 
Total lipid (fat) 100g 
Water 0.12g 
Energy 884kcal 
Calcium  1mg 
Phosphorus  1mg 
Zinc  0.07mg 
Choline 0.2mg 
Fatty acids (total saturated) 8.98g 
Fatty acids (total monosaturated) 18.4g 
Fatty acids (total polyunsaturated) 67.8g 
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) 0.47mg 
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) 0.0093mg 

Table 1: Nutrient values present in 100g of flaxseed oil3 

Together with these, flaxseed oil contains omega-3 fatty acids such as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), oleic, palmitic, linolenic and lignans.1 

Properties of Flaxseed Oil: 

Flaxseed oil may possess the following properties: 

  • It might have antioxidant properties.1 
  • It might be an anti-inflammatory agent.1 
  • It may act as a diuretic.1 
  • It might help in maintaining bone health.2 
  • It might have anti-platelet activity.4 
  • It might be an anti-fungal agent.2 

Potential Uses of Flaxseed Oil for Overall Health: 

Potential uses of flaxseed oil for cancer 

Flaxseed oil contains alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which may control breast cancer growth. It may help to lower the estrogen receptor, which might help stop the growth of cancer cells in the breast. Flaxseed also contains lignans which show antioxidant properties. Due to their estrogen-like activity, lignans resemble the effects of the hormone estrogen. These are helpful in estrogen metabolism, which is related to ovarian cancer and improved health. It may also be helpful in colon and skin cancer.1,2 As cancer is a severe condition, kindly consult the doctor for proper treatment. Do not self-medicate.  

Potential uses of flaxseed oil for wound healing 

Generally, a deficiency of essential fatty acids results in poor wound healing. Flaxseed oil is a rich source of essential fatty acids with linoleic acid (omega-6) and α-linolenic acid (omega-3). These components may regulate prostaglandin synthesis, which may fasten wound healing.1 Even so, kindly consult a doctor for diagnosis and treatment, and do not self-medicate as it may cause pain. 

Potential uses of flaxseed oil for hair 

The anti-inflammatory activity and omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed oil may help hair growth. It may moisturise the damaged hair after application. It may also help increase the volume of hair. In addition, it may help soothe the scalp.4 However, more research is needed on the benefits of flaxseed oil for hair. Kindly consult a professional for better results. 

Potential uses of flaxseed oil for skin 

Flaxseed oil contains polyunsaturated fatty acids, linolenic acids, gamma-linolenic acid, and alpha-linolenic acid. These molecules are an essential part of our skin but are usually deficient in our diet. A healthy intake of flaxseed oil with a proper consultation from a nutritionist may help you fix these deficiencies.  It may be appropriate for all skin types, including oily, dry and normal.  Psoriasis and sunburns may also recover faster with flaxseed oil. 2,4 Even so, you must consult the doctor before using flaxseed oil instead of relying on flaxseed oil for solving your skin problems, as it may cause side effects. 

Potential uses of flaxseed oil for cholesterol 

Alpha-linolenic acid present in the flaxseed oil may help reduce triglycerides. It may also lower the very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) or bad cholesterol in the liver. However, more research is needed to demonstrate the effects of flaxseed oil on human cholesterol levels.2 So, please consult the doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Do not self-medicate. 

Potential uses of flaxseed oil for cardiovascular health 

Flaxseed oil contains ALA, which may lower the risk of heart disease through various biological pathways. For example, it may help regulate platelet function, blood vessel health, inflammation, and arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). In addition, a study conducted at Boston’s Simmons College shows that flax seed oil protects against heart attacks and circulation issues.2 Kindly consult the doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Do not attempt to self-medicate since conditions could worsen.  

Potential uses of flaxseed oil for haemorrhoids and constipation 

Haemorrhoids are a condition characterized by swollen and inflammatory veins located around the anus or in the lower part of the body. Flaxseed oil may facilitate stool passage in the intestines due to its fibrous structure. It may also be beneficial for constipation.2 However, more research is needed to check the effects of flaxseed oil on constipation and haemorrhoids. Kindly consult the doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment. 

Potential uses of flaxseed oil for gout 

Gout is a form of arthritis with symptoms such as pain, redness, tenderness and swelling in one or more joints, especially in one or both of the big toes. Alpha-linolenic acid in flaxseed may help reduce inflammation in the joints. It may also reduce the cholesterol level raised by gout. Flaxseed oil in gout may reduce swelling and joint pain.2 However, more research is required to study the effects of flaxseed oil on gout. Do not self-medicate, as it may cause serious adverse effects. Kindly consult the doctor for better health results. 

Though there are studies that show the benefits of flaxseed oil in various conditions, but these are insufficient and there is a need of further studies to establish the true extent of the benefits of flaxseed oil on human health.  

Flaxseed oil has many health benefits. It is a rich source of fibre. Because of this, it may be extremely useful for various digestive diseases like constipation, diarrhoea, irritable bowel syndrome, etc.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, B.A.M.S, M.D (Ayu)

How to Use Flaxseed Oil?  

Flaxseed oil can be used as follows: 

  • You can use it in various dairy products.1 
  • You can use it to prepare ready-to-eat breakfast.1  
  • You can apply it as a moisturising cream.4 
  • You can apply it as hair oil.4  

You must consult a qualified doctor before taking flaxseed oil in large quantities or any herbal supplements. Do not discontinue or replace an ongoing treatment of modern medicine with an ayurvedic/herbal preparation without consulting a qualified doctor.   

Flaxseed oil is a rich source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. According to some results, omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation. Due to these properties, flaxseed oil may have a beneficial effect in correcting dry eyes, especially in Sjogren’s syndrome.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

Side Effects of Flaxseed Oil: 

Avoid flaxseed oil if you are allergic to it. It may show as symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and intestinal or abdominal pain.5 

Precautions to Take with Flaxseed Oil:  

Following are the precautions to take with flaxseed oil: 

  • Men with prostate cancer or at risk of developing it should avoid flaxseed oil. Flaxseed oil may contribute to the disease because of the presence of ALA. 
  • You must avoid flaxseed oil in pregnancy and lactation.5  
  • Please consult the doctor before giving flaxseed oil to infants less than four months.5 

Interactions with Other Drugs: 

The interactions of flaxseed oil with some drugs are as follows: 

  • Flaxseed oil interacts with anti-coagulants and prostaglandins. As, it can increase the risk of bleeding due to a reduction in process of formation of blood clots.5  
  • It counters the effects of oral hypoglycemic agents. It can cause hyperglycemia due to the impact of omega-3 fatty acids.5   
  • It may interact with mood stabilizers and cause mania and hypomania in patients with bipolar disorder.5 

Frequently Asked Questions: 

Does flaxseed oil have any benefit in migraine? 

No. However, more research is needed to know the effects of flaxseed oil on migraine. Kindly consult a doctor. 

Is flaxseed oil good for vision? 

No. However, more research is required to determine the impact of flaxseed oil on the eyes. 

Is flaxseed oil helpful in leprosy? 

No. However, more studies are needed to prove the effects of flaxseed oil in leprosy. So, please consult the doctor for diagnosis and treatment.  

State the properties of flaxseed oil. 

Flaxseed oil may have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-platelet, anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-cancer, and cardioprotective properties.1-3 However, these effects need to be confirmed by further researches. Kindly consult a doctor for better health results. 

Is flaxseed oil safe for pregnant women? 

No. You must consult a gynaecologist before using flaxseed oil and do not try to self-medicate.5 

References: 

  1. Goyal A, Sharma V, Upadhyay N, Gill S, Sihag M. Flax and flaxseed oil: an ancient medicine & modern functional food. Journal of food science and technology. 2014 Sep;51(9):1633-53. Available from: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13197-013-1247-9 
  1. Moghaddasi MS. Linseed and usages in Human life. Advances in Environmental Biology. 2011 May 1:1380-93. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/279624127_Linseed_and_Usages_in_Humanlife 
  1. FoodData Central. Flaxseed oil. [Internet]. Department of Agriculture. [Cited 2022, Oct 11] Available from: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1103860/nutrients 
  1. Fale SK, Umekar MJ, Das R, Alaspure MR. A comprehensive study of herbal cosmetics prepared from flaxseed. Multidisciplinary International Research Journal of Gujarat Technological University. 2022;4:106-2. Available from: https://researchjournal.gtu.ac.in/News/10.PCP349.pdf 
  1. Basch E, Mphil SB, Collins J, Dacey C, Harrison M, Szapary P. Flax and flaxseed oil (Linum usitatissimum): a review by. J Soc Integr Oncol. 2007;5(3):92-105. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/6079415_Flax_and_Flaxseed_Oil_Linum_usitatissimum_A_Review_by_the_Natural_Standard_Research_Collaboration 

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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