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What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

Flaxseed Usage

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Effect of Flaxseed on Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Like fish oil (which is also prescribed at times for polycystic ovarian syndrome) flaxseed (and flaxseed oil) are rich in omega-3s; an essential fatty acid. Supplementing omega-3sis thought...

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Effect of Flaxseed on Lipid Disorders

It has been suggested that flaxseed might help reduce cholesterol and slow the progression of atherosclerosis. There are at least three flaxseed components with potential health benefits:

  • The...

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What Is Flaxseed Used for Today?

The fiber in flaxseed binds with water, swelling to form a gel which, like other forms of fiber, helps soften the stool and move it along in the intestines. One study found that flaxseed can help with chronic constipation in irritable bowel disease. 1 Germany's Commission E authorizes the use of flaxseed for various digestive problems, such as chronic constipation , irritable bowel syndrome , diverticulitis , and general stomach discomfort . 2 Flaxseed may be slightly helpful for improving cholesterol profile , according to some but not all studies. 3 Purified alpha linolenic acid or lignans alone have not consistently shown benefits. 4 It may be the generic fiber and not the other specific ingredients in flaxseed that benefit cholesterol levels.

Flaxseed, its lignans, and its oil have undergone a small amount of investigation for potential cancer prevention or cancer treatment possibilities. 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Flaxseed has shown some promise for treating kidney disease associated with lupus (lupus nephritis). 12 Because it is believed to have soothing properties, flaxseed is sometimes used for symptomatic relief of stomach distress and applied externally for inflammation of the skin. 13 However, research on these potential uses is essentially nonexistent.

Although flaxseed is often advocated for the treatment of symptoms related to menopause , a sizable 12-month study failed to find it more helpful than wheat germ placebo. 14 Besides failing to improve immediate symptoms such as hot flashes, flaxseed did not appear to provide any protection against loss of bone density. A previous, much smaller study by the same researchers found it equally effective for menopausal symptoms as hormone replacement therapy, but due to the absence of a placebo group and the high rate of placebo response in menopausal symptoms, these results cannot be taken as indicating much. 15 Another study tested flaxseed without comparing it to placebo and reported a 50% reduction in hot flashes. 16 The researchers went on to state that this reduction in hot flashes was “greater than what would be expected with placebo,” a rather curious claim since because menopauseal women given placebo typically experience almost exactlya 50% decrease in hot flashes. 17 In a preliminary double-blind trial of 78 older men, flaxseed extract modestly improved the urinary symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia (prostate enlargement) after four months of treatment. 18 Use of essential fatty acids in the omega-3 family has also shown some promise for the treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver. 19


  1. Tarpila S, Kivinen A. Ground flaxseed is an effective hypolipidemic bulk laxative [abstract]. Gastroenterology. 1997;112:A836.
  2. Blumenthal M, ed. The Complete German Commission E Monographs, Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicine.  Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications; 1998, 132 [footnote].
  3. Arjmandi BH, Khan DA, Juma S, et al. Whole flaxseed consumption lowers serum LDL-cholesterol and lipoprotein(a) concentrations in postmenopausal women. Nutr Res. 1998;18:1203-1214.
  4. Hallund J, Ravn-Haren G, Bügel S, Tholstrup T, Tetens I. A lignan complex isolated from flaxseed does not affect plasma lipid concentrations or antioxidant capacity in healthy postmenopausal women. J Nutr. 136(1):112-6.
  5. Adlercreutz H, Mazur W. Phyto-oestrogens and Western diseases. Ann Med. 29(2):95-120.
  6. Thompson LU. Experimental studies on lignans and cancer. Baillieres Clin Endocrinol Metab. 12(4):691-705.
  7. Thompson LU, Rickard SE, Orcheson LJ, Seidl MM. Flaxseed and its lignan and oil components reduce mammary tumor growth at a late stage of carcinogenesis. Carcinogenesis. 17(6):1373-6.
  8. Serraino M, Thompson LU. The effect of flaxseed supplementation on the initiation and promotional stages of mammary tumorigenesis. Nutr Cancer. 17(2):153-9.
  9. Yan L, Yee JA, Li D, et al. Dietary flaxseed supplementation and experimental metastasis of melanoma cells in mice. Cancer Lett. 1998;124:181-186.
  10. Sung MK, Lautens M, Thompson LU. Mammalian lignans inhibit the growth of estrogen-independent human colon tumor cells. Anticancer Res. 18(3A):1405-8.
  11. Bougnoux P, Koscielny S, Chajès V, Descamps P, Couet C, Calais G. alpha-Linolenic acid content of adipose breast tissue: a host determinant of the risk of early metastasis in breast cancer. Br J Cancer. 70(2):330-4.
  12. Clark WF, Parbtani A, Huff MW, Spanner E, de Salis H, Chin-Yee I, Philbrick DJ, Holub BJ. Flaxseed: a potential treatment for lupus nephritis. Kidney Int. 48(2):475-80.
  13. Fascicule 1. Lini semen, linseed. In: European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy. Monographs on the medicinal uses of plant drugs. Dusseldorf, Germany: IDW-Verlag. 1997:1-5.
  14. Dodin S, Lemay A, Jacques H, Légaré F, Forest JC, Mâsse B. The effects of flaxseed dietary supplement on lipid profile, bone mineral density, and symptoms in menopausal women: a randomized, double-blind, wheat germ placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 90(3):1390-7.
  15. Lemay A, Dodin S, Kadri N, Jacques H, Forest JC. Flaxseed dietary supplement versus hormone replacement therapy in hypercholesterolemic menopausal women. Obstet Gynecol. 100(3):495-504.
  16. Pruthi S, Thompson SL, Novotny PJ, Barton DL, Kottschade LA, Tan AD, Sloan JA, Loprinzi CL. Pilot evaluation of flaxseed for the management of hot flashes. J Soc Integr Oncol. 5(3):106-12.
  17. MacLennan A, Lester S, Moore V. Oral estrogen replacement therapy versus placebo for hot flushes: a systematic review. Climacteric. 4(1):58-74.
  18. Zhang W, Wang X, Liu Y, Tian H, Flickinger B, Empie MW, Sun SZ. Effects of dietary flaxseed lignan extract on symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia. J Med Food. 11(2):207-14.
  19. Spadaro L, Magliocco O, Spampinato D, Piro S, Oliveri C, Alagona C, Papa G, Rabuazzo AM, Purrello F. Effects of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in subjects with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Dig Liver Dis. 40(3):194-9.


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