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Flax, Linseed Linum usitatissimum/ Linum bienne Linaceae

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Flax, Linseed Linum usitatissimum/ Linum bienne Linaceae

Linon in Greek and Linum in Latin mean linen – the fabric made from the stem fibres of the plant. Flax has been in cultivation from earliest civilization, at least 7 000 years. The oil is used to manufacture paints, putty and lino. The seed cake left over after the heat extraction of the oil is used in cattle feed as it contains protein, mucilage and oil. For culinary and medicinal purposes only the cold-pressed and unrefined oil should be used.

Part used: Seed and fixed oil from seed. Linum catharticum is a related annual – the dried aerial parts were used as a strong laxative and diuretic. Its flowers are white and held in loose forking branches, the leaves are oblong. It is found on chalky pastures, grasslands, heaths, moors and rocky ledges and in Scandinavia it is confined to the coastal fringes.

Location and cultivation, harvesting time: Can be annual, biennial or perennial. It grows up to a metre in height. It has slender lance-shaped leaves and pale blue flowers. It is native to temperate Europe and Asia. The seeds are harvested in the autumn. It can be cultivated from seed sown in the spring.


Constituents Fixed oil including linolenic and linoleic acid, Mucilage, Protein, Lignans Linamarin (a cyanogenic glycoside)

Actions Demulcent, Nutritive, Phyto-oestrogenic, Bulk laxative, Expectorant
Traditional/ current uses

  • Used internally, the mucilage in the seeds soothes irritation in the digestive tract to treat colitis, IBS, and other inflammations or irritations in the gastrointestinal tract

  • Bulk laxative – take with plenty of water

  • Grind or split seeds before eating to make essential fatty acids more available

  • Soothing to the urinary and respiratory tracts

  • Poultice used externally for chronic coughs, bronchitis, pleurisy and emphysema

  • A poultice made with the seed and red wine was traditionally used for wounds in Portugal

  • The whole seed contains phyto-oestrogens which can help to reduce menopausal symptoms and prostate symptoms

  • Soaked seed can be used in cooking and baking as a binder substitute for eggs


500g dried butter beans or chick peas (soak them overnight)

3 onions, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely minced

Large bunch of parsley (or other green herbs), finely chopped

2 heaped tspn sea salt

2 dessertspoons ground coriander seed

2 dessertspoons ground cumin seed

1 dessertspoon turmeric (optional)

3 dessertspoons linseed (soak for an hour)

80 ml lemon juice

80ml olive oil

Grind the ingredients into a coarse paste, form into balls. Place on baking trays and bake at 180C until golden brown (about 40 minutes). They can also be deep fried.

Seaweed balls

3-4 cups mung beans (soak overnight)

1 onion, finely chopped

5 cloves garlic, finely minced

2 dessertspoons ginger powder

½ cup dry seaweed, roughly chopped

40 ml tamari

1 dessertspoon linseed, soaked

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