The flax plant is a pretty herb with flowers, and it's grown in cooler regions around the world. The oil used in food and to make medicine, and it’s thought to help treat rheumatoid arthritis, high cholesterol, osteoarthritis, heart disease, and other conditions.
Flaxseed oil is a natural source of polyunsaturated fatty acids, including alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA, along with other chemicals in flaxseed oil, seem to fight off inflammation and swelling. The oil also seems to play a role in hormone regulation, although scientists aren’t clear on the mechanism. “I typically prescribe flaxseed oil as a part of a comprehensive plan to help with hormone modulation in perimenopausal women,” says Janelle Louis, a functional medicine practitioner at Focus Integrative Healthcare in Overland Park, Kansas. “When taking it, patients have told me that they experience a decrease in hot flashes and other perimenopausal symptoms.”
A number of online articles and blog posts suggest that men who take flaxseed oil are increasing their risk of prostate cancer, but the latest meta-analysis showed that the fat actually protects against the disease. And while a few (criticized) studies have linked ALA from dairy and meat sources with prostate cancer, the kind from flaxseeds appears to be totally safe.
How to Use It
Flaxseed oil is available in both liquid and capsule form. “Some people don’t like the taste, so I recommend that they mix it into a smoothie or even a little bit of juice,” Louis says. To prevent it from oxidizing and becoming rancid, she also advises patients keep their oil refrigerated and avoid heating it.