Flax seed oil is one of nature’s most bountiful sources of alpha-linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid.
Essential fatty acids are so called because they are needed for the proper functioning of one of more processes in the human body, but the body itself cannot manufacture the fatty acid, thus it is essential that we obtain them from our diets.
In the case of alpha-linolenic acid, it is a precursory to several omega 3 fatty acids.
Omega 3 fatty acids are known to improve cardiovascular health, as well as supporting the immune and nervous systems, and have been shown in clinical trials to cause increased mental agility and memory, while raising concentration levels.
Flax seed oil fights with antioxidants
The flax seed plant is also known to contain powerful antioxidants, which are essential for combating the harmful effects of free radicals in the body.
Free radicals are oxidant chemicals produced as a by-product of energy release from carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
Left unchecked, they can attach themselves to health tissue in the body and destroy it, causing a number of health problems, including cancer.
Flax seed may also have potential as a laxative, and as a method of regulating blood sugar levels, though further investigation is needed into both of these possibilities before recommendations can be made.
Preliminary studies indicate that flax seed oil may combat the effects of unsaturated fatty acids in the body which are thought to contribute to the onset of ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, in children.
The evidence is that supplementing with flax seed oil reduced the symptoms of ADHD. Investigations are ongoing.
Can be effective for heart related issues
People who have either been treated for existing heart conditions, or may be at increased risk of developing heart problems in the future, may benefit from supplementing their diets with flax seed oil.
A number of studies have reported improved cardiovascular health as a result of taking flax seed oil, including improved blood flow which may not only reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes, but also more generally improve cognitive function.
Linked to this, it has been demonstrated under laboratory conditions that flax seed oil can have a beneficial effect in terms of lowering the level of LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream.
LDL cholesterol is known as ‘bad’ cholesterol, as opposed to HDL cholesterol which can be very beneficial. Again, research is ongoing into the potential uses of flax seed oil to remedy high blood pressure and related conditions.
Women are the most successful beneficiaries
Many women have testified that flax seed oil has helped to alleviate symptoms of menopause, including hot flushes and tiredness.
There is also some evidence to suggest that flax seed oil may reduce the rate at which bone density is decreased following the menopause, and thus delay or prevent the onset of osteoporosis.
Studies into the effect of alpha-linolenic acid, present in flax seed oil, seem to indicate that the oil can help to lower blood levels of damaging chemicals linked to the onset of prostate cancer.
However, results are mixed and there is not enough evidence currently to recommend flax seed oil as a preventative treatment for prostate cancer.
Can be more severe against chronic diseases
Additionally, investigations are ongoing into the possible use of flax seed oil to treat breast cancer, HIV AIDS and lupus.
Early results show some promise, but not enough to recommend flax seed oil yet as a treatment for any of these conditions.
Flax seed oil may also have a future use as an agent to help reverse neuropathy caused by diabetes.
Flax seed oil must be kept in an opaque container, since its active ingredients can break down when exposed to light, heat or oxygen, rendering it useless. Thus it must also be kept refrigerated when not in use.
How it can be taken?
Flax seed oil is typically supplied as a liquid or capsule, and the recommended daily amount is around 1000mg.
Some nutritionists actually recommend a version of flax seed supplement in which ground flax seeds themselves are crushed and taken with water.
This is because they believe that some of the beneficial effects of flax seed are only received when the whole seed is consumed rather than simply an extract.
Flax seeds are unsuitable for cooking, as their active ingredients break down in the heat and become worthless.
Specially recommended for-
Some people recommend flax seed applied topically to the skin as part of a poultice with hot water, which is thought to aid healing and speed recovery times.
Such preparations are also used with some success to treat eczema and similar skin conditions.
Flax seeds have also been traditionally used to remove impurities from under the eyelid, though this treatment is not recommended.
Flax seed oil is recommended particularly to those people who may be at risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as menopausal women.
Though it may confer health benefits that may be good for just about anybody.
Words of caution
There are few recorded side-effects of taking flax seed oil as a dietary supplement, or using it topically to treat skin conditions, but if you do experience any symptoms after taking flax seed oil, stop immediately and consult your doctor as soon as possible.