Treatment Options

Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil

Possible Harm/No Value

Flaxseed comes from the flaxseed plant. It is available as a seed, in the form of a liquid or powder and can be taken with water or juice. It is also known as linseed. It contains lignan, a plant form of estrogen, which may affect estrogen-sensitive conditions. Flaxseed has been known to work as a laxative.

Flaxseed oil comes from the flaxseed and is available as a liquid or as a softgel. It is also known as linseed oil.

Flaxseed and flaxseed oil are referred to as complimentary and alternative treatment options. They form the omega-3 fatty acid, which is believed to affect lipid levels, lower blood pressure and benefit heart disease. It is reported that they may have some benefit in the treatment of diseases such as diabetes, ADHD and HIV/AIDS, but no scientific studies were found to support these claims.

The scientific position on the beneficial or harmful effect on prostate cancer and breast cancer is controversial. Further study is necessary before a conclusion can be made.

Things to Consider

  • The liquid form of flaxseed is not the same as flaxseed oil.
  • Seek the advice of your physician when considering any kind of complementary and alternative treatment choice.

Flaxseed only:

  • Unripe flaxseed pods are poisonous and should be avoided.
  • Raw flaxseed can cause a rise in the blood levels of cyanide if more than the recommended dose is taken.
  • To prevent bowel obstruction it is suggested that for every amount of flaxseed taken, ten times that amount of water should be taken.  
  • Flaxseed should be taken with plenty of water one hour before or two hours after other drugs, vitamins, supplements and other herbs since it may negatively affect their absorption.
  • Flaxseed may increase the effects of blood pressure medicine, laxatives and stool softeners, agents that lower cholesterol, hormone therapies, and cancer drugs such as tamoxifen.

Results

Possible Harm/No Value

Will I live longer if I take flaxseed or flaxseed oil?

There is not enough scientific evidence to suggest that flaxseed or flaxseed oil will help you live longer.

Will taking flaxseed or flaxseed oil improve my quality of life?

There is evidence that flaxseed works as a laxative, which can relieve constipation and may improve your quality of life. There is no scientific evidence that flaxseed oil will improve your quality of life.

Will taking flaxseed or flaxseed oil make my symptoms better?

There is evidence that flaxseed works as a laxative, which can relieve constipation and make your symptoms better. There is no scientific evidence that flaxseed oil will make your symptoms better.

Safety

Possible Harm/No Value

How safe is this for me?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary.

Minor reported complications:

  • Flaxseed and flaxseed oil should be avoided by individuals with allergies to them. Allergic reactions may include nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

Major reported complications:

  • Allergic reactions listed above may be severe.

Flaxseed only:

  • There is a potential for bowel obstruction. It is suggested that for every amount of flaxseed taken, ten times that amount of water should be taken.
  • Unripe flaxseed pods are poisonous and should be avoided.
  • Raw flaxseed can cause a rise in the blood levels of cyanide if more than the recommended dose is taken.  

Warnings for flaxseed and flaxseed oil:

  • Caution should be used by individuals with diabetes, bipolar, bleeding disorders and by those taking blood thinners. They may cause an elevation in blood sugars, mania or hypomania and an increased risk of bleeding.
  • Due to the increased risk of bleeding, you should notify your physician when planning any medical, surgical or dental procedure  
  • Men should use caution. Some research indicates there may be an increased risk of prostate cancer.
  • There is not enough information to recommend the use by children under the age of 18.
  • If prepared as a moist compress or poultice, do not apply to an open wound.  

Warnings for flaxseed:

  • Caution should be used by individuals with high blood pressure, low blood pressure, heart disease, hypothyroidism and by those taking birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy. It may cause a further increase or decrease in blood pressure and an imbalance in hormonal affects.
  • Women should use caution. Conditions could be affected such as the menstrual cycle, endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, uterine fibroids or different cancers of the breast, uterus or ovary.
  • Due to possible laxative affects, flaxseed should be avoided by those with diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis or inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Due to the possibility of a bowel obstruction flaxseed should not be used by those with narrowing of the esophagus or intestine.

Comparison

Possible Harm/No Value

More research is needed to compare safety and effectiveness with other medically recommended treatments.

Cost

Little Value

Cost will depend on the manufacturer and form of distribution.

Seek the advice of your physician when considering any kind of complementary and alternative treatment choice.

The cost may or may not be covered by your health benefits plan.

Sources

The following are off-site links off-site link :

MayoClinic. (2012, September). Flaxseed and flaxseed oil (linum usitatissimum). Retrieved August 12, 2013 from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/flaxseed/NS_patient-flaxseed.

MedlinePlus. (2013, March). Flaxseed. Retrieved August 12, 2013 from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/patient-flaxseed.html

National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine. (2012, April). Flaxseed and flaxseed oil – linum usitatissimum. Retrieved August 12, 2013 from http://nccam.nih.gov/health/flaxseed/ataglance.htm.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2006, November). Department of Health and Human Services. Response letter for vegetarian DHA flax oil. Retrieved August 12, 2013 from http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/dockets/97s0163/97s-0163-let0912-vol27.pdf.

Next Review Date

8/22/2014

This document has been classified as public information.

Table of Findings

results:  possible harm / no value

safety:  possible harm / no value

comparison:  possible harm / no value

cost: little value


total: possible harm / no value

legend

scale

Page modified:November 9, 2012