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Flax

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  • Botanical: Linum usitatissimum
  • Family: Linaceae
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Flax

Botanical

Linum usitatissimum

Family

Linaceae

Known as

Flax, Flax Seed, Faserlein, Flachs, Flachsbeere, Flas, Flax, Gemeiner Lein, Glix, Haarlinsen, Lein, Leinbleaml, Leinsamen, Öl-Lein, Saat-Lein

Old Use

culinary; medicinal

Collection Times

August to September

Parts Used

flowers, leaves, seed

Aroma

herbaceius

Medicinal

abscess, abdominal pain, acne, asthma, bronchitis, boils, bowel cleansing, bladder disease, bladder stones, bladder weakness, bile weakness, bronchitis, bruises, cancer, colds, colic, coughs, cramps, cramps stomach, cystitis, dermatitis, diarrhea, digestion, eczema, gallstones, gastritis, gastrointestinal, hay fever, heartburn, laxative, pain relief, psoriasis, rheumatism, scars, sore throat, skin rashes, toothache, ulcers, urinary infections, hay fever, hoarseness, shingles

Hormone & Sexual Organs

cramps, vaginitis

Infection & Inflammation

infections, pyelonephritis, skin inflammation, throat infections, throat inflammation

Respiratory System

asthma, bronchitis, catarrh, colds, cough, lung weakness, pharyngitis, sore throat, throat infections, tonsillitis

Stomach & Intestinal

abdominal pain, bowel cleansing, cancer, cancer prevention, constipation, cystitis, gallstones, gastritis, gastrointestinal, gastric inflammation, laxative, intestinal inflammation, stomatitis, urinary infections

Skin & Hair

abscess, bruises, burns

Properties

analgesic, antispasmodic, anti inflammatory, expectorant, nervine

Extraction

cold pressed

Description

Flax, Linum usitatissimum, is an upright annual plant growing to 1.2 m (3 ft 11 in) tall, with slender stems. The leaves are glaucous green, slender lanceolate, 20–40 mm long and 3 mm broad.

The flowers are pure pale blue, 15–25 mm diameter, with five petals; they can also be bright red. The fruit is a round, dry capsule 5–9 mm diameter, containing several glossy brown seeds shaped like an apple pip, 4–7 mm long.

Properties & Uses

Linseed has a long history of medicinal use, its main effects being as a laxative and expectorant that soothes irritated tissues, controls coughing and relieves pain. The seed, or the oil from the seed are normally used. The seed is analgesic, demulcent, emollient, laxative, pectoral and resolvent. The crushed seed makes a very useful poultice in the treatment of ulceration, abscesses and deep-seated inflammations. An infusion of the seed contains a good deal of mucilage and is a valuable domestic remedy for coughs, colds and inflammation of the urinary organs. If the seed is bruised and then eaten straight away, it will swell considerably in the digestive tract and stimulate peristalsis and so is used in the treatment of chronic constipation. The oil in the seed contains 4% L-glutamic acid, which is used to treat mental deficiencies in adults. It also has soothing and lubricating properties, and is used in medicines to soothe tonsillitis, sore throats, coughs, colds, constipation, gravel and stones. When mixed with an equal quantity of lime water it is used to treat burns and scalds. The bark and the leaves are used in the treatment of gonorrhoea. The flowers are cardiotonic and nervine. The plant has a long history of folk use in the treatment of cancer. It has been found to contain various anticancer agents. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Linum usitatissimum for constipation, inflammation of the skin.


Other Uses

A fibre is obtained from the stem. It is of very high quality and is used in making cloth, sails, nets, paper, insulating material etc.The best quality flax fibre is used for making cloth. It is soft, lustrous and flexible, although not so flexible or elastic as cotton or wool. It is stronger than cotton, rayon or wool, but weaker than ramie. Lower quality fibre is used in manufacturing of towelling, matting, rugs, twines, canvas, bags, and for quality papers such as printing currency notes. The plant is harvested just after it flowers. The yield is 0.5 to 0.9 tonnes of fibre per hectare. When used for paper making, the stems are harvested in late summer or autumn when they are two thirds yellow and are then retted. The fibre is then stripped from the stem, cooked for two hours or more with lye and then beaten in a Hollander beater. The lower quality flax straw from seed flax varieties is used in the manufacture of upholstery tow, insulating material, rugs, twine, and paper. Some of the better quality straw is used in the manufacture of cigarette and other high-grade papers. The seed contains 38 - 40% of a drying oil. It has a very wide range of applications. The paint and varnish industries consume about 80% of all the linseed oil produced. The remainder is used in items such as furniture polish, enamels, linoleum, oilcloth, printer's inks, soap making and patent leather. It is also used as a wood preservative and as a waterproofing for raincoats, slickers, and tarpaulins. The oil is also used in a spray on concrete roads to prevent ice and snow from sticking - it has the additional benefit of helping to preserve the concrete and prevent surface cracking and wear. Yields of over 4 tonnes of seed per hectare have been recorded in N. America, but yields of 2 tonnes or less are more common. A mucilage from the soaked or boiled seeds is used as a size for linen warps.

Cautions

The seed of some strains contain cyanogenic glycosides in the seed though the toxicity is low, especially if the seed is eaten slowly. It becomes more toxic if water is drunk at the same time. The cyanogenic glycosides are also present in other parts of the plant and have caused poisoning to livestock. Contraindicated with a stricture of the oesophagus in no bowel movement conditions and acute gut inflammatory diseases. Contraindicated in pregnancy. Some suggestion it should be avoided with prostate gland diseases

Distribution

Possibly native to Europe. A rare casual in Britain, the original habitat is obscure.

Constituents

Amino acids, fiber, cyanogenic glycosides, Lignanglykoside, linoleic acid, gums, phosphatides, proteins, sterols, triterpenes, unsaturated fatty acids

For educational purposes only This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.