Flaxseed oil has been the subject of a lot of talk recently, but many people still have little or no idea about whatÂ it is and are unaware of the health benefits this amazing oil provides.
Flaxseeds come from flax, a food and fiber crop that is known to have been cultivated in the Mediterranean regions since centuries. From the Mediterranean it moved on to China, India and Europe.
It is a natural source of dietary fiber and omega-3 fatty acids that also contains micronutrients in abundance. Flaxseed is roughly 40% oil, which is obtained by pressing.
Flaxseed oil or simply flax oil thus obtained is 55% omega-3 fatty acids, which the body needs for functioning efficiently, and must be ingested because it cannot produce it on its own.
(read the full profile for Flaxseed Oil)
Are Flax Oil and Linseed Oil the Same?
Flax oil is also known as linseed oil and the terms are often used interchangeably. Actually, there is confusion over this because linseed oil is sold in hardware stores and used as varnish. The fact is that there is a vast difference between the two.
Flax oil refers to food grade oil extracted from flaxseeds by pressing or what is known as the cold press. Cold pressed oils are the best as they are extracted without the use of solvents. Linseed oil is obtained through solvent extraction.
Cold press refers to extraction through pressing with the use of heavy millstones, heavy flat disk-shaped stones that are rotated against oneÂ another to grind. Modern commercial cold press operations no longer utilize stainless steel presses. Pressing and grinding produces heat through friction and flax oil is easily destroyed when heated.
While producing flax oil care is taken to keep the temperature below 490C (1200F). Only oil produced under this temperature can be termed cold pressed oil. Cold pressed oil provides the maximum health benefits as it retains its nutrients as well as its original aroma and flavor.
Fresh, refrigerated and unprocessed and cold pressed flax oil is marketed as a nutritional supplement. It is part of Europeâ€™s ethnic cuisine and preferred over other vegetables oils not only for its hearty taste, but also because it is the richest source of omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Over time, breeders have developed flaxseed with higher ALA content.
What are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and necessary for metabolism. These are important constituents of all cell membranes and essential to normal growth. Omega-3, along with omega-6 fatty acids are termed as essential fatty acids as they cannot be produced within the body and must be sourced externally.
The number 3 in omega-3 refers to the three major types that are consumed as foods and used by the body:
- alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
- eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
After ingestion, chemical processes within the body convert ALA to EPA and DHA. Once consumed, the body rapidly changes ALA to EPA and DHA. DHA is a primary structural component of the human brain, cerebral cortex, skin, sperm, testicles and retina. Motherâ€™s milk is the most important source of DHA. Fish oil is another healthy source of DHA.
The importance of omega-3 fatty acids can be gauged by the fact that a Harvard study reported that every year between 72,000 and 96,000 people die because of omega-3 deficiency.
Flax oil is an excellent source of not only omega-3 but also of omega-6 fatty acids, which also fall under the same category of essential fatty acids.
Health Benefits of Flax Oil
Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids support cardiovascular health through a number of mechanisms. These include:
- Restrict inflammatory reactions that cause arterial hardening
- Prevents atherosclerotic plaque formation in arteries to support healthy blood circulation
- Normalizes heart beat and thus helps treat arrhythmia and prevent heart failure
- Prevents high blood pressure and angina (chest pain)
A study done at Bostonâ€™s Simmons College reported that flax oil may prevent occurrence of a second heart attack.
Flax oil fights inflammation that several forms of ulcerative skinÂ disease and medical conditions such as gout and fibrocystic breasts. It not only helps prevent these diseases but also checks inflammation and high cholesterol that may be caused by these diseases. Taken regularly, flax oil prevents pain and swelling associated with these conditions.
Lack of iodine in women often leads to fibrocystic breasts in women. Omega-3 fatty acids in flax oil aid in quicker absorption of iodine and may help in treating this painful condition. Flax oil helps in inhibiting the release of anti-inflammatory agents associated with age related medical conditions such as a Parkinsonâ€™s disease and asthma as well.
Checks Constipation and Prevents Gallstones
Flaxseeds are high in fiber, which helps in easy passage of stools and relieve constipation and hemorrhoids. It reduces the risk of infection in people with diverticular disease by keeping intestinal pouches clean and free of waste.
In patients of inflammatory bowel disease (learn how to help IBD with ReflexAromatherapy here), it helps repair any damage that may have occurred in the intestinal tract. . Flaxseed oil may prevent occurrence of gallstones and even help in dissolving them.
Prevention and Treatment of Skin Ailments
Omega-3 fatty acids are known for their beneficial effect on skin. Regular intake of flax oil can go a long way in preventing annoying skin ailments such as acne and psoriasis.
In this case also, it is the anti-inflammatory action of restricting inflammatory responses that is in play. Symptoms of skin conditions like eczema, rosacea and psoriasis such as red itchy patches and flushed appearance often respond to the skin soothing properties of flax oil.
It is also valuable in treating sunburn. Essential fatty acids help in opening clogged pores and promote thinning of sebum, oily secretion of the sebaceousÂ glands and prevent acne.
Promotes Hair Health
Omega-3 deficiency is one of the main causes of dry and lusterless hair. As a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, flax oil can restore hair health and contribute to hair growth.
Its skin vitalizing actions can also help in treating hair problems due to eczema or psoriasis. In a similar manner, the essential fatty oils in flax oil help in treatment of brittle nails and stop them from cracking up.
Studies on its effect of on diabetes suggest that the lignans in flaxseed may help in improving blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes type 2.
Treats Menopausal Symptoms
A study published in 2007 revealed that flax oil can be valuable for menopausal women. Fresh unrefined flax oil taken on regular basis can cut menopausal symptoms like hot flashes by half. Also, the study reported a reduction of more than 50% in the intensity of hot flashes.
Being a plant based product, Omega-3 in flax oil is valuable for maintaining the ratio of estrogen and progesterone in women. This is particularly helpful in preventing menstrual cramps, promoting fertility by improving uterine function and in regularizing the menstrual cycle.
Repairs Nerve Damage
The nerve nourishing action of essential fatty acids helps repair nerve damage, which makes it particularly valuable for conditions such as numbness and tingling.
As facilitators of transmission of nerve impulses, omega-3 fatty acids also help in maintaining health of the nervous system and delay symptoms of degenerative disorders such as Parkinsonâ€™s.
Flax oil may help in preventing or delaying enlargement of the prostate gland or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a part of the aging process in males.
Enlargement of this small gland located below the bladder in men often causes embarrassing symptoms such as inability to control urination, incontinence and sometimes, impotence. Delay in onset of BPH improves blood flow to the penis, which in turn keeps the sperm healthy and promotes male fertility.
Reduces Cancer Risk
Flaxseed oil helps in reducing the risk of cancers such as breast, colon and prostate and to some extent, skin cancer. While there is a need of more research to establish the mechanism, studies undertaken in the University of Toronto suggest women with breast cancer can benefit from flax oil regardless of how deep the cancer has penetrated.
Flax Oil and Dr Johanna Budwig Anti-Cancer Diet
Multifold health benefits of flaxseed oil led Dr. Johanna Budwig to develop an anticancer diet that has over the years has been helping people with cancer as well as a number of chronic ailments including acne, arthritis, asthma, blood pressure, diabetes, eczema, fibromyalgia, heart disease, multiple sclerosis and psoriasis.
Nominated for the Nobel Prize more than once, Dr. Johanna Budwig was one of Germanyâ€™s top researchers and biochemists. Born in 1908, she died at the age of 95 and used her diet and protocol for fifty years with 90% success rate.
Dr. Johanna Budwigâ€™s anti cancer diet is a healing plan with a focus on improving body cells. The diet is based on the theory is that degenerative diseases and cancer cause damage to cells in the body. The body is continuously producing new copies of the original cells, a process known as cell division and replication.
Since the parent cells are damaged, the new cells produced are also likely to be lacking in some way. Dr. Johanna Budwigâ€™s diet, flaxseed oil and cottage cheese and a highly nutritional formula, attempts to correct the original DNA of cells.
The Budwig flaxseed oil and cottage cheese recipe involves mixing three tablespoons of cold pressed flax oil with six tablespoons of low fat cottage cheese in a mixer until it looks like whipped cream with no oil visible.
Two tablespoons of freshly ground flaxseeds and one teaspoon of raw honey are added to the mixture to make Budwig Muesli. Sugar free apple sauce, cinnamon, vanilla, lemon juice, chopped almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts may be added for variety and for making it more palatable.
Budwigâ€™s flax oil based diet and protocol is an anti cancer diet and Budwig Center in Spain is officially approved as a cancer clinic. The location of the cancer is of no significance, neither is the extent of its invasiveness.
The flax diet attempts to improve cell health, which eventually helps in treatment of cancer and other chronic medical conditions.
How to Take Flax Oil
Flax oil is available as a liquid as well as soft get capsules. Flax oil is easily destroyed on exposure to heat, light and oxygen, which makes packaging an important issue. While buying flax oil make sure to check the instructions on the label as it is easily oxidized and gets rancid pretty quickly and must be refrigerated.
For deriving full health benefits of flax oil it is also important to know the source. It may be from the flax plant but many plants these days are not actually what they look like and may be genetically engineered, which is not a good thing. The reference here is to natural flax oil sourced organically and extracted without the use of synthetic chemicals.
Even the Dr. Johanna Budwig diet that has successfully helped people with cancer and chronic conditions lays stress on eating foods in the same form that nature made them. Herbs and other natural food products including flaxseed and flax oil are most beneficial in their original and unprocessed form.
The Final Word
One of the reasons for the increase in inflammatory disorders in the U.S. population is that the average American diet contains more than 20 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids. A balanced diet should consist of roughly two to four times fewer omega-6 than omega-3.
The flax crop originated in the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean diet is based on fish and healthy fats such as olive oil and flax oil that have omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in the correct proportions. The other constituents of the Mediterranean diet include whole grains, green and roots vegetables, fruit, fish and poultry.
An unbalanced diet can play havoc with your health. Natural flax oil has multiple health benefits and you cannot go wrong with it. Make organic flax oil a part of your daily diet, no matter that you follow Dr. Johanna Budwigâ€™s anti cancer diet or any other diet. The keyword here is organic and eating what Mother Nature intended you to eat.
The Importance of Omega 3s for Your Health
Scientists have established the effectiveness of Omega 3 in a number of health areas, including your Heart, Brain, Joints, Skin, Immune system, Vision, and Digestion.
Like any product on the market today there are â€˜good fish oilsâ€™ and there are â€˜bad fish oilsâ€™! With a bad one you may be unwittingly introducing substances into your body that you DO NOT want… such as Mercury and PCBâ€™s for example. We impose tougher standards on the purity of our fish oil than any other known manufacturer.
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