Flaxseed, Another Great Source of Omega-3

picture of flaxseed plants.

Flaxseed, also known as linseed and Linum usitatissimum L., is derived from the flax plant, an annual herb believed to have originated in Egypt. The ancient Egyptians used flaxseed for nutritional and medicinal purposes. In addition, it has been used traditionally by other cultures as a laxative and for good bowel health.

Benefits

The active components of flaxseed include fiber, omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid, ALA), and lignan. Its high fiber content adds bulk to stool and allows it to act as a laxative for constipation. ALA has been shown to be beneficial in heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and arthritis. However, only a small amount of ALA is converted to its active counterparts. So larger quantities of flaxseed or flaxseed oil need to be taken to get the same effects from fish oils. Higher intake of ALA/omega-3 fatty acids has been associated with lower cholesterol, decreased blood pressure, and risk of a heart attack. 

Lignan mimics the action of estrogen. Some studies have compared hormone replacement therapy and flaxseed in women with mild menopausal symptoms to found them to be equally effective. In addition, one study showed flaxseed had the potential to decrease tumor growth in newly diagnosed breast cancer, although more studies need to be done.

Uses

Flaxseed and its supplements are available as whole flaxseed, flaxseed oil, powder, and capsules. Flaxseed oil should be refrigerated. Use whole flaxseeds within 24 hours of grinding. Otherwise, the ingredients lose their activity unless they are in a special mylar package. Flaxseed supplements should be taken as directed by the manufacturer. In general, children 2-12 years old can take one teaspoon of whole or ground flaxseeds daily. Adults can take 2-4 tablespoons per day, and breastfeeding moms can add it to their diet to increase the fat content in their breast milk. As a supplement for fish oil, 1 gram of fish oil is equivalent to 7.2 grams of flaxseed.

Considerations

Flaxseed is considered safe, although you should not take it at the same time as your medication (it can alter medications absorption). You should discuss all supplement use with your physician and especially for flaxseed if you are taking blood thinners (it can increase bleeding), diabetic medications (it can alter your blood sugar), and hormones (it mimics estrogen).

Sources:

Mulcahy, Nick. “’Surprising’ Result in FLAXSEED-FOR-HOT-FLASHES STUDY.” Medscape, Medscape, 25 July 2020, www.medscape.com/viewarticle/743995. 

Disclaimer: The information provided on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. You should not use the information on this site for diagnosis or treatment of any health problem or for prescription of any medication or other treatment.

Bacopa for Healthy Brain

Bacopa, also known as brahmi, water hyssop, and Bacopa manniera, is native to India. It grows in marshy areas and is a water plant. Most parts of the plant have been used traditionally In Ayurvedic medicine (traditional medicine of India) as a diuretic, nervous system health, heart health, asthma and epilepsy.

The active components of the leaves are saponins, including bacosides. Bacosides are presumed to enhance the effects of neurotransmitters acetylcholine, serotoin and GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid). Bacopa extracts appear to be strong antioxidants in the brain and may help protect brain cells. In studies bacosides have been found to enhance higher cognitive functions, memory and learning ability when taken for 3 to 12 weeks in comparison to placebo. In other studies it has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression. Bacopa has also been shown to relax the muscles in the airways of the respiratory tract, possibly explaining its traditional use in asthma.

Bacopa supplements can be found as a dried herb, in powdered form and capsules. Bacopa should always be taken as directed by the manufacturer although traditionally 5 to 10 grams per day of powdered herb have been used; and in human studies 300-450 mg per day has been used. Bacopa tends to be well tolerated when taken in the traditional amounts although there have been reports of dry mouth, nausea and muscle fatigue. Always refer to your physician before taking supplements, especially when giving supplements to children, pregnant women or breast-feeding moms.

 

Sources:

Garby, Alan, et al. The Natural Pharmacy, 3rd edition, 2006

Disclaimer: The information provided on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. You should not use the information on this site for diagnosis or treatment of any health problem or for prescription of any medication or other treatment.