What is Flaxseed good for?
Flaxseeds are a source of essential fatty acids (EFAs) - fats and oils critical for health which the body cannot make on its own. One EFA found in flaxseeds, alpha-linolenic acid or ALA, is known as an omega-3 fatty acid; it is also found in many other seed oils, including rape, Soya, blackcurrant and Walnut. However, ALA is not as potent as the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils, which have been acclaimed in recent years for protecting against heart disease and for treating many other ailments.
Flaxseeds also contain omega-6 fatty acids (in the form of linolenic acid), the same healthy fats that are present in many vegetable oils. In addition, flaxseeds provide substances called lignans which appear to have beneficial effects on various hormones and may help to fight cancer, bacteria, viruses and fungi. Weight for weight, flaxseeds contain up to 800 times the lignans found in most other foods.
Flaxseeds contain plant-based oestrogens, called phytoestrogens, which mimic the female sex hormone oestrogen, so the oil can have beneficial effects on the menstrual cycle, balancing the ratio of oestrogen to progesterone. It helps to improve uterine function and can therefore treat fertility problems. It may help to reduce menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes. Also, possibly because of anti-inflammatory action, flaxseed oil can reduce menstrual cramps or the pain of fibrocystic breasts. The oil can promote well-being in men as well: it has shown some promise in treating male infertility and prostate problems. In some studies flaxseeds were also found to possess antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties, which may partly explain why flaxseed oil is effective against ailments such as Cold Sores and shingles.