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Linen in Herbalist: Property of Linen

Scientific name

Linum usitatissimum





Used Parts

Drug consisting of dried ripe seeds

Chemical constituents

  • Non-volatile oil, composed of fatty acids, such as alpha-linolenic acid, linoleic acid and oleic acid;
  • mucilage;
  • Lignans;
  • Protein;
  • Cyanogenic glucosides (1%) which can release hydrocyanic acid by hydrolysis, even if subsequently inactivated at the gastric level; a very small part of glucosides is instead transformed into thiocyanate, toxic only at high doses.

Linen in Herbalist: Property of Linen

The laxative, emollient, soothing, anti-inflammatory, revulsive and resolving properties are attributed to linen.

In phytotherapy both flax seeds and the oil they extract are used. The latter, in particular, is part of the composition of different types of food supplements, since it is a natural source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Biological activity

The laxative activity attributed to flax has been widely confirmed and is due to the mucilage contained within the same plant. The mucilages, in fact, once they reach the intestinal lumen are able to absorb large quantities of liquids by swelling; in doing so they stimulate intestinal peristalsis and promote evacuation.

The linen is also endowed with interesting anti-inflammatory properties, conferred by linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid contained in it. In fact, these molecules act as substrates for the synthesis of anti-inflammatory eicosanoids. Furthermore, these fatty acids are able to suppress the formation of interleukins, TNF and leukotrienes by monocytes and granulocytes.

The lignans contained in flax seeds, on the other hand, are attributed to anticancer properties. A study carried out on animals has shown that the regular intake of flax seeds is able to reduce the size of mammary tumors in rats affected by this type of neoplastic pathology.

Furthermore, from a relatively recent clinical study (2005) - conducted on the potential antineoplastic activity of flax - it emerged that taking the seeds of the plant as a dietary supplement in breast cancer patients could reduce the development of the tumor mass.

In addition to this, it appears that regular consumption of flax seeds may be useful in preventing the occurrence of certain types of cancer.

The properties of flax seeds, however, do not end there. In fact, from some studies carried out in this regard, it emerged that flax seeds also possess the ability to reduce blood levels of both total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.

Flax against constipation

Thanks to the high content of mucilage present inside the linen, the use of this plant has been officially approved for the treatment of constipation.

To obtain the laxative effect, flax seeds must be taken internally.

Generally, we recommend taking whole or bruised seeds at a dose of one teaspoonful, to be administered with at least 150 ml of water two to three times a day, preferably after meals.

If the seeds are bruised, the lubricating action of the oil contained in them is also exploited, in which case, however, the enormous caloric weight must be considered (100 g corresponds to almost 500 calories).

Flax against skin inflammation

As mentioned, the linen is also endowed with anti-inflammatory, emollient and soothing properties. It is thanks to these activities that the plant is able to give relief in case of skin inflammation, so that this therapeutic use has been officially approved.

Of course, for the treatment of the aforementioned skin disorders, flax must be used externally.

Usually, it is recommended to prepare a poultice using 30-50 grams of flaxseed flour. The product must then be applied directly to the inflamed area.

Linen in folk medicine and homeopathy

In folk medicine, flax is used as an internal remedy for constipation, irritable bowel, diverticulitis, gastritis and enteritis. Externally, however, traditional medicine uses flax for the preparation of poultices to be used in the treatment of skin inflammation and mild rectal inflammation. Furthermore, flax seeds are also used as an external remedy to remove any foreign bodies from the eyes.

In Indian medicine, on the other hand, flax is used in infusions and herbal teas for the treatment of diseases of the respiratory system (such as bronchitis and cough), for the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders (such as diarrhea) and for the treatment of genitourinary disorders (such as urethritis and gonorrhea). Furthermore, the plant is also used as an external remedy in the treatment of skin infections. Finally, flax is also used in traditional Indian medicine in the veterinary field.

Linen is also used in homeopathic medicine, where it can be found in the form of granules. In this context, the plant is used in the case of irritable bowel syndrome, chronic constipation, diverticulitis and inflammation of the intestine caused by laxative abuse.

The dose of homeopathic remedy to be taken can vary from one individual to another, also depending on the type of disorder that needs to be treated and the type of homeopathic dilution that is intended to be used.

Side effects

If properly used, flax and its preparations should not cause any kind of unwanted effects.

However, if high quantities of flax are used for laxative purposes without adequate fluid intake, bowel obstruction may occur.


Avoid taking flaxseed in case of hypersensitivity to one or more components, in patients suffering from acute abdominal pain (caused, for example, by appendicitis or diverticulitis), occlusive and sub-occlusive intestinal syndromes, stenosis of the esophagus and in patients with inflammatory diseases of the intestine, stomach and esophagus.

Pharmacological Interactions

Flax may interfere with the absorption of orally administered drugs due to its high mucilage content.


When flax is used for its laxative effects, it is essential to take the preparations or the drug with appropriate quantities of liquids, so as to avoid the onset of unpleasant and not indifferent side effects.

Furthermore, it is very important that flaxseed therapy does not last longer than 3-4 weeks.