Flax seeds and flax seed oil has been consumed by humans since ancient times. The oil and oil rich seeds used to provide valuable calories in labour intensive societies. The plant is also since long cultivated for its fibres, since these fibres can be used to create strong and beautiful fabrics, fish-nets and a wide range of other fibrous products. In addition to this, the versatile flax seed oil is suitable for leather treatment and skin ailments and is utilized in paint and wood varnish.
The Common flax plant, Linum usitatissimum, is also known as Linseed. You might have heard about another flax species, Phormium tenax, commonly known as New Zealand flax. Even though they have similar common names, these two plant species are not at all closely related. They belong to two different families and originate from different parts of the world. The Common flax belongs to the family Linaceae, while the New Zealand flax is found in Hemerocallidaceae. The New Zealand flax is native to New Zealand where it is called Harakeke. The Common flax is most likely native to Europe and/or Asia, but we can not know for sure exactly where this plant developed since it has been cultivated and spread by man since ancient times. It is however reasonable to assume that the Common flax can trace its ancestry back to south-eastern Europe and/or south-western Asia.
The Common flax is an annual plant that can reach a height of 120 centimetres. It is an erect plant with a slender stem. The leaves have a glaucous green colour and can grow up to 4 centimeters long and 3 mm broad. The flax leaves are lanceolate, i.e. they are shaped like a lance-head with a broad base and narrow apex. They are several times longer than wide. The Common flax will produce beautiful pale blue flowers with five petals. The flowers typically reach a size of 1.5 to 2.5 centimetres in diameter. If the plant is allowed to mature, it will produce dry and round capsules with a diameter of 5-9 millimetres. Each flax capsule will be filled with several seeds of shape that looks a bit similar to apple pips. They are 4-7 millimetres long and have a glossy brown shade.
Flax, flax seeds and flax seed oil have a long tradition of being used in herbal ailments and remedies. It has been used in balms for inflamed skin and the oil has been commonly used to treat try skin and chapped lips. Flax has also been used internally, e.g. in drinks to treat constipation and other digestive problems. Flax seed is a rich source of fibre and many people still use them today to prevent or treat constipation. Flax seeds and flax seed oils are however even more famous for their high levels of beneficial fatty acids and they are believed to promote a healthy heart function. Flax seeds contain fatty acids that the body can not manufacture. Since the human body can not produce these fatty acids from other components, they must be included in the diet, and flax seeds are one of the richest sources. You will also receive plenty of beneficial fatty acids by consuming oily fish and fish oils.
You only need a small amount of flax seed oil each day to provide your body with enough of the beneficial fatty acids found in these seeds. Do not over-use flax seed oil, since it is a very calorie rich food. It is true that it is very healthy form of fat, but is still contains 900 kilocalories (roughly 3,800 kilojoules) per 100 grams.
More information about flas seeds [http://www.flaxseeds.ws] and flax seed oil [http://www.flaxseedoil.ws].