The Health Benefits of Flaxseed Oil

by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM Published on , Last Updated on June 12, 2014


There has been a lot of talk about the health benefits of flaxseed oil but many people don’t know exactly what it is and what it specifically does. Flax is a good source of plant omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fiber and other nutrients. It’s nutrient composition differs from that of other major oil seeds such as canola and sunflower. It’s important to get the facts straight to make the best choice when purchasing flaxseed oil.

What is Flax and Flaxseed Oil?

Flaxseed oil comes from the seeds of the flax plant. According to the Thomas Jefferson Agricultural Institute, a flax seed is about 40% oil by weight. Of this oil, 55% of it is omega-3 fatty acid.

Flax is unique because, traditionally, the oil hasn’t been used much. The seed, however, has been used whole, cracked, or ground into flour then used in baked products. Flax has attracted nutritionists and those seeking a healthier diet because it has a high fiber content and it is rich in potassium. Flax is often sprinkled on breakfast cereals and salads and is found in some fruit juice drinks.

After the oil is extracted from the flax seed, the “leftovers” are often fed to livestock. An interesting side note is that the use of whole flax seed as food for chickens has increased in recent years because of the omega-3 properties.

Is Flaxseed Oil the Same as Linseed Oil?

There has been some confusion between these. Flax oil is also called linseed oil which is sold in hardware stores as varnish. Flaxseed and linseed are often used interchangeably but there is an important difference. North Americans use flaxseed to describe flax when used for human consumption and linseed to describe when it has been processed for industrial purposes.

Importance of Omega-3

The “3” in Omega-3 refers to the major types of fatty acids that are ingested in foods and used by our body: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Once eaten, the human body converts ALA to EPA and DHA which are more readily used by the body. Omega-3 is an important component of almost all cell membranes; therefore, sufficient amounts of these fatty acids are necessary and need to be balanced to maintain good health.

A Harvard study titled, “The Preventable Causes of Death in the United States: Comparative Risk Assessment of Dietary Lifestyle and Metabolic Risk Factors” revealed that an omega-3 deficiency causes an alarming 72,000-96,000 deaths annually.

Flaxseed Oil Benefits

According to the Flax Council of Canada, there are numerous benefits of which omega-3 is at the top of the list. ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) constitutes 57% of the total fatty acids in flax, making flax the richest source of ALA in the North American diet. Every tablespoon of flaxseed oil contains 8 grams of ALA, and this is a polyunsaturated fatty acid.

Flaxseed oil has been found to be beneficial for those who suffer from Crohn’s Disease and Colitis. Several studies have found that this oil seems to be able to calm the inner lining of the inflamed intestines. Another benefit exists as there is a high content of mucilage in flax and this is an effective natural laxative.

Flaxseed oil is beneficial in helping to reduce high cholesterol. It’s important to keep in mind however, that this alone cannot be totally effective in reducing cholesterol levels, an overhaul of overall diet must work in conjunction with flaxseed oil.

The risk of heart disease is lower in individuals who take flaxseed oil. Evidence indicates that those who eat a lot of ALA are less likely to suffer a fatal heart attack and it reduces high blood pressure.

Some people are afflicted with Sjogren’s syndrome, which is a dryness of the eyes. Flaxseed oil helps to improve this condition.

Flaxseed oil also helps to:

  • Reduce the risk of cancer.
  • Aid in the growth of healthy hair and nails.
  • Promote healthy skin.
  • Reduce menopause symptoms.
  • Play a role in burning body fat.

Benefits of Omega-3 Supplements

Taking Flaxseed Oil

Flaxseed oil is available in liquid and soft gel capsules. This oil requires special packaging because it is easily destroyed by heat, light and oxygen. Some forms of flaxseed oil may require refrigeration.

There is a potential for side effects and interactions with medications or other dietary supplements. Flaxseed may slow down the rate your body absorbs oral medications or other nutrients if taken at the same time. It is highly advisable to seek the advice of a trained natural health practitioner before taking this supplement.

It’s also important to know the source of the flaxseed oil because some plants grown today are not what they appear to be. There are lot of genetically engineered plants that make their way into our homes and GE foods are not good for human consumption.

The Verdict Is In

Natural flaxseed oil is packed with health benefits that you can’t go wrong with. A daily intake of this healthy oil offers a lot of goodness. Talk to a natural health specialist and make organic flaxseed oil a part of your daily regime.

Is flaxseed oil part of your day? Let’s discuss, in the comments below!

  • Eric Worthington

    I’ve been doing this every morning for a few weeks now and I really enjoy it. I started by adding butter and have since switched to flax oil. My one concern is that flax loses something when heated but I don’t know if the few minutes in hot coffee affect it?

  • glenda neely

    Can flax seed oil help the breathing as well

  • kristine

    Eat Cherries… the antioxidants in cherries clears up gout flare-ups. Try it and you’ll be amazed.

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  • Nimesh Nambiar

    I use Flaxseed oil. Its amazing. I get organic variety (cold pressed)
    You can use them up in these:
    – Simple wholewheat toasts with cheese (low fat variety)
    – In salads
    please make sure to use it generously. Its good fat. About a cuple of teaspoons wouldn’t harm.
    It remarkably brings down triglycerides.
    You can also get flaxseeds and add in your salads. but i recommend the organic, cold-pressed oil more.

  • SmokingReb

    Not an expert, BUT some 30 years ago I was reading a monthly woman’s health newsletter from Harvard about the same time I had just gone through a couple of hot flashes. They had done a research study on Korean Ginseng and had found that it bound to T-cells the same way estrogen did. I didn’t want to do HRT, so I took about 800mg a day of Korean Ginseng for the next 4 or 5 years. Seemed to help, I didn’t have any more hot flashes. Didn’t have a lot of them before I started taking it, they were mild, but I didn’t have any after I started taking it. Just my experience. Good luck

  • Diane

    Is flaxseed oil helpful for someone with lupus?

  • Shaan Louise

    I’m taking 2 1000mg flaxseed oil capsules, 2 1500mg vitamin C, and 2 B complex tablets, daily. Should I be worried about any negative interactions?

  • Anandi

    I was prescribed flaxseed oil for asthmatic symptoms by a naturopath. After I had an episode of vaginal dermatitis, in desperation I decided to start taking the flaxseed oil again. I take on tablespoon every day but now I’m worried with all of the mixed reviews.

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  • nordia bideau

    I am taking flax see oil in liquid form.. And I also take gnc vitamin pills along with gnc hair skin and nails . Will this have a negative reaction on my body.

  • Abhishek

    Flaxseed oil tastes bitter. Is this the natural taste of flax or the oil has gone rancid? Well the bottle was well packed!
    Is this safe to consume?

  • L

    I have read that the body does not break down whole flax seeds very well and most of them go right on through and out, which is why whole flax seed is a good laxative. If you grind them up in a coffee grinder and eat freshly ground seed, you won’t have to worry about rancidity and your body will absorb all the beneficial nutrients from it.

  • LAM8

    J, I’m curious did you consume the flax seeds whole or did you grind them first? I’ve read that if you eat them whole, they act as a laxative because your body doesn’t break them down and therefore won’t absorb the nutrients. I grind mine fresh in a coffee grinder and don’t have that problem.


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  • James

    Great article except for 1 statement…”There are lot of genetically engineered plants that make their way into our homes and GE foods are not good for human consumption”. Absolute, pseudoscience nonsense.

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