There are many linseed oil uses in alternative and complimentary medicine. Linseed oil, also called flax seed or flaxseed oil, is an oil derived from the flax plant. Like many other plant and fish oils, it contains an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids which are thought to reduce inflammation.
Linseed Oil Uses
Linseed oil comes from the flax plant. The oils used for human consumption are cold pressed from the plant and are used either as an additive, such as sprinkling linseed oil over a salad, or in a capsule or pill form. It has a strong flavor, so many people prefer taking it in capsule form.
Linseed oil is rich in both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, but it is higher in omega-3's. It's often recommended as a source of omega-3 fatty acids for vegans and vegetarians who don't want to take fish oil capsules or krill oil capsules, the richest source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Like many other foods rich in these healthy fats, linseed oil uses tend to focus around cardiovascular health.
Individuals diagnosed with high cholesterol levels may be advised to adopt the so-called Mediterranean diet or a plant-based diet in which linseed oil and other healthy oils such as olive oil are an important component. Although it may seem counterintuitive to add oils to your diet when you've already been told you have high cholesterol, plant-based oils do not contribute to high cholesterol levels. It's the saturated fat and cholesterol in meat and similar foods that can add to your overall cholesterol level and increase the LDL or so-called 'bad' cholesterol. Plant-based oils such as flaxseed (linseed) and olive oil, on the other hand, may raise the 'good' HDL cholesterol level along with a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, only a small number of studies on linseed oil and its effect on cholesterol levels have been done. Whether or not supplements will make the same difference as food based sources is unknown. Since linseed oil has virtually no known side effects and is a food, you may want to start sprinkling some on your salad as a dressing instead of a commercial dressing.
Sjorgen's Syndrome and Arthritis
Sjorgen's Syndrome is an autoimmune disease affecting the tear ducts and salivary glands. People with Sjorgen's Syndrome suffer from dry eyes among other symptoms. A few experiments conducted with people with this disease show that by taking small amounts of linseed oil as food supplements, the dry eye syndrome associates with Sjorgen's was reduced.
It's an interesting experiment, since one of the folkloric uses of linseed oil has been to reduce inflammation, and chronic inflammation is one of the hallmarks of many autoimmune diseases. Researchers aren't completely sure why it works, but the various components that make up the omega-3 fatty acids may act like 'fire extinguishers' to put out the 'flames' of chronic inflammation. Many holistic health practitioners recommend linseed oil for people with arthritis pain for this very reason.
How to Use Linseed Oil
You can purchase bottles of linseed oil at health food stores nationwide. It will either be marked 'flaxseed oil' or 'linseed oil.' Look for cold-pressed oils, which contain more beneficial ingredients. Some may be kept in the refrigerated section. It's a good idea to refrigerate linseed oil since heat degrades the oil quickly. Light can also degrade linseed oil, so higher quality brands are sold in dark or opaque glass or plastic containers.
You can also purchase linseed or flaxseed oil supplements at the health food or vitamin store. Follow the label directions when taking supplements and do not exceed the recommended daily amount.
There are few side effects of using linseed oil. People who are taking medications for diabetes or schizophrenia should not take linseed oil; medications for these conditions may make it impossible for your body to convert the ingredients in the oil into the beneficial compounds used by the body. Linseed oil can slow how oral medications are absorbed, so talk to your doctor if you take any medication; he may recommend taking the linseed supplements at different times from your other medication.
Lastly, one unpleasant side effect of taking too many linseed oil supplements is loose stools or diarrhea. If you find yourself with either problem, stop taking the supplements. It should clear up in a day or two. If not, see a healthcare practitioner. And of course, pregnant or nursing women should not take supplements without the advice and consent of their physician.
Linseed oil uses are many, but most are focused on reducing inflammation. It's a fairly safe food additive to try and not too expensive. If you don't have any preconditions that make it inadvisable to take it, it may be worth a try.