Flax seeds or linseeds as they are also known have been used in Ayurvedic preparations for ages, because of their therapeutic properties. They are the seeds of a plant that is grown all over the world, and that comes in many varieties. Oil is extracted from seeds, and fiber from the stems. The fiber is used to make thread and for linen cloth. The seeds are sweet and oily with a mild smell. According to Ayurveda these seeds have hot, pungent, heavy, purgative and strengthening properties.
Flaxseed has a nutty flavor and is used in bread and bakery products. The seeds from the flaxseed plant are also used to make linseed cakes and in liniments Generally speaking, though, linseed grown in hot climates is considered to be the best for medicinal purposes. In Kerala, a state in South India where the purest form of Ayurveda has been practiced for thousands of years, linseeds play a key role in several Ayurvedic protocols like Virechana which is medicated purgation therapy. Virechana cleanses the sweat glands, small intestine, colon, kidneys, stomach, liver and spleen. A number of effective and safe herbs, including Linseed, are used for this purpose.
Benefits of Flaxseed
Flaxseed oil is a potent source of essential fatty acids which the body cannot make on its own. Apart from having Omega-6 fatty acids in the form of linoleic acid – the same good fats that are present in most other edible vegetable oils- , flaxseed oil has Omega-3 fatty acids in the form of alfa- linoleic acid. Omega-3 fatty acids offer protection against heart disease by getting to the membrane of body cells and acting as guards that admit only healthy substances and bar damaging ones. Thus flaxseed oil helps to lower bad cholesterol which causes heart disease, angina and high blood pressure.
The essential fatty acids present in flaxseeds also help in the transmission of nervous impulses. This makes flaxseed oil very useful for numbness and tingling as well as for preventing serious nerve ailments like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Flaxseed oil also helps in speeding up the healing of skin lesions, and has proved very effective for everything from acne to psoriasis, to eczema and to sunburn. It promotes the health of hair and nails and contains substances called lignans, which have beneficial effect on the hormonal system of the body. .
Another important benefit is that flaxseeds contain phyto-oestrogens that can mimic the human sex hormone estrogen. In this capacity the oil is useful for infertility, impotence, menstrual cramps, endometriosis and menopausal problems. Crushed flaxseeds are an excellent source of fiber and absorb water 10 to 14 times their weight. As a result crushed flaxseeds are effective in cases of constipation. The crushed seeds have a bulking effect, reduce hunger in those trying to eat less and help in binding with and removing fats and cholesterol. The high fibre content also makes flaxseeds a good ingredient in foods that would control blood sugar.
Ayurvedic Home Remedies
There are many home remedies with flax seeds that are simple and effective. Take one tablespoon of ground flaxseeds mixed with 5 to 10 ounces of water to curb hunger between meals or as a therapy to reduce cholesterol or blood sugar. Ayurvedic physicians suggest a hot poultice of flaxseed oil to treat eczema and other skin complaints. For headaches, grind seeds in cold water and apply on forehead..This is also good for insect bites. For reddish eyes, grind seeds and apply pulp around the eyes. Linseeds ground with Isagbol and applied on painful joints can bring welcome relief while a poultice of linseed oil is helpful in cases of arthritis too. A word of caution though… linseed imparts a lot of heat and so in cases of prolonged use, it is best that it is used under the guidance of an Ayurvedic physician or ‘vaidya’.