Know the basics
What is Flax used for?
People use flaxseed for many conditions related to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, including ongoing constipation, colon damage due to overuse of laxatives, diarrhea, inflammation of the lining of the large intestine (diverticulitis), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or irritable colon, sores in the lining of the large intestine (ulcerative colitis), inflammation of the lining of the stomach (gastritis), and inflammation of the small intestine (enteritis).
Flaxseed is also used for disorders of the heart and blood vessels, including high cholesterol, “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis), high blood pressure (hypertension), and coronary artery disease.
Flaxseed is also used for acne, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), kidney problems in people with a disease called systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), symptoms of menopause, and breast pain. It is also used for diabetes, obesity and weight loss, HIV/AIDS, depression, bladder infections, malaria, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Other uses include treatment of sore throat, upper respiratory tract infections (URTI), and cough.
Some people use flaxseed to lower their risk of getting weak bones (osteoporosis) and to protect against breast cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer.
How does it work?
There are not enough studies about how this herbal supplement works. Please discuss with your herbalist or doctor for more information. However, there are some studies that show anticancer action might be from a high intake of equol, one of the flavone components, and enterolactone, a substance formed by the breakdown of flax.
Flaxseed is a good source of dietary fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. The fiber in flaxseed is found primarily in the seed coat. Taken before a meal, flaxseed fiber seems to make people feel less hungry.
Know the precautions & warnings
What should I know before using Flax?
Refrigerate flax products to prevent fatty acid breakdown.
Raw or unripe flaxseed is possibly unsafe. Flaxseed in these forms is thought to be poisonous.
Monitor for hypersensitivity and overdose reactions. If present, discontinue use of this herb and administer an antihistamine or other appropriate therapy.
Flaxseed can lower blood sugar levels and might increase the blood sugar-lowering effects of some medicines used for diabetes. If you have diabetes and use flaxseed, monitor your blood sugar levels closely.
Because flaxseed might act somewhat like the hormone estrogen, it can make some hormone-sensitive conditions worse. Some of these conditions include breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer; endometriosis; and uterine fibroids.
Flaxseeds might lower diastolic blood pressure. Theoretically, taking flaxseeds might cause blood pressure to become too low in individuals with low blood pressure.
The regulations for an herbal supplement are less strict than the regulations for a drug. More studies are needed to determine its safety. The benefits of taking this herbal supplement must outweigh the risks before use. Consult with your herbalist or doctor for more information.
How safe is Flax?
Flax should not be used during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It should not be given to children.
This herb should not be used by persons with bowel obstruction or dehydration, or by persons with hypersensitivity to it. Flax poultice should not be used on open wounds.
Flaxseed might slow clotting. Don’t use it, if you have a bleeding disorder.
Know the side effects
What kind of side effects may I have from Flax?
Flax can cause several side effects, including death:
- Nausea, vomiting, anorexia, diarrhea, flatulence;
- GI obstruction;
- Hypersensitivity reactions;
- Weakness, incoordination, dyspnea, tachypnea, paralysis, seizures.
Not everyone experiences these side effects. There may be some side effects not listed above. If you have any concerns about side effects, please consult your herbalist or doctor.
Know the interactions
What interactions may I have with Flax?
This herbal supplement may interact with your current medications or medical conditions. To ensure your safety, it is important to always tell your doctor and pharmacist what other drugs and supplements you are currently taking. Some interactions may include:
- All oral medications: Absorption of medications may be decreased if taken concurrently with flax.
- Anticoagulants, antiplatelets: Flax may increase risk of bleeding.
- Anti-diabetics drugs, laxatives: Flax may increase the action of laxatives, resulting in diarrhea, and antidiabetics.
- Cholesterol, triglycerides: Flax can decrease cholesterol and increase triglycerides.
- Glucose: Flax may decrease blood glucose.
Understand the dosage
The information provided is not a substitute for medical advice. ALWAYS consult your herbalist or doctor before using this medication.
What is the usual dose for Flax?
For type 2 diabetes: 600 mg of a specific flaxseed lignan extract three times daily, providing 320 mg lignans, for 12 weeks.
For high cholesterol: Baked goods such as muffins or bread containing flaxseed and ground flaxseed to provide a daily dose of 40-50 grams of flaxseed.
For improving kidney function in people with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE): 15 grams of ground flaxseed twice daily with cereal, or tomato or orange juice.
For improving mild menopausal symptoms: 40 grams of crushed flaxseed or flaxseed in bread daily.
The dose for this herbal supplement may be different for every patient. The dose that you take depends on your age, health, and several other conditions. Herbal supplements are not always safe. Please discuss with your herbalist or doctor for your appropriate dosage.
What form does Flax come in?
This herbal supplement may be available in the following dosage forms: capsules, oil, powder, and softgel capsules.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Skidmore-Roth, Linda. Mosby's Handbook Of Herbs & Natural Supplements. St. Louis, MO: Mosby, 2001. Print version. Page 269.
Flaxseed. http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-991-flaxseed.aspx?activeingredientid=991&activeingredientname=flaxseed. Assessed August 7, 2016.
Flax. http://www.drugs.com/sfx/flax-side-effects.html. Assessed August 7, 2016.
Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017