What is flaxseed?
The tall, slender, blue-flowering flax plant has been cultivated for thousands of years. Cloth made from flax (the basis for linen today) was found in Egyptian tombs. And so was flaxseed—the small, hard, shiny seeds of this plant, which have been valued for their health benefits since ancient times. back to top
What it used for?
Flaxseed is rich in natural dietary fiber, making it a useful remedy for constipation
. In addition, flaxseed is the best plant source of essential fatty acids
, a type of "good" fat that protects your heart. It also helps keep your skin, hair, and nails looking healthy, even if you have acne
or dry skin
. Essential fatty acids found in flaxseeds may soothe painful period cramps
as well. back to top
What's the best form to use?
You can find bags of whole flaxseed in health food stores. (They should be kept in the refrigerator.) Flaxseed is also available as an oil, but whole flaxseed is generally a better option because it is inexpensive, provides fiber, and won't spoil as quickly as flaxseed oil. Whole flaxseed also contain an ingredient that the oil doesn't—a type of plant-based estrogen
that may help regulate women's menstrual cycle
s. back to top
How do I prepare it?
Whole flaxseeds have to be ground up before you swallow them, or they will pass through your body undigested. Some people buy a simple coffee grinder and use it only for grinding flaxseed. You can grind about a quarter-cup of flaxseed at a time and store what you don't use in a covered, light-proof container in the refrigerator. Ground flaxseed (flax meal) should last in the refrigerator for about 30 days when stored properly. You'll know if it's gone bad because it will smell like oil paint. back to top
Do I eat it plain?
Flaxseed has a sweet, nutty flavor, but it's pretty dry. You'll probably want to add ground flaxseed to a food item such as yogurt, cereal, soup, juice, a fruit smoothie, or applesauce. back to top
How much should I take?
If you've never taken flaxseed, you may want to start with a small amount—say, a quarter teaspoon—and gradually work your way up to the doses suggested below. Some people have a serious allergy to flaxseed, although it is rare. If you get a rash, a swollen face, or have trouble breathing after taking flaxseed, call 911 or your local emergency number. This is a life-threatening reaction and needs treatment right away.
- For constipation: A typical dose is one tablespoon of ground flaxseed two or three times a day with an eight-ounce glass of water until your symptoms subside. You should see results in a few days.
- For period cramps, acne, dry skin, and healthy hair and nails: A typical dose is one tablespoon of ground flaxseed a day (along with an eight-ounce glass of water). Flaxseed takes about six to eight weeks to work for these problems. back to top
Be sure to take flaxseed with plenty of water. Don't use flaxseed if you are taking any kind of medication, as flaxseed may interfere with your body's ability to absorb the drug.
The use of herbs is not recommended during pregnancy and breast-feeding except under the guidance of a health professional. back to top