Flax is a herbaceous plant that grows around the Mediterranean basin. It is now cultivated widely in temperate and tropical climates. While it is sometimes white, the flower is usually blue. The leaves are grey-green and the plant can reach 1,5m high. Seeds are harvested after flowering, before they ripen and fall to the ground.
Flaxseeds are a good source of fibre and omega-3 fatty acids. They are used to treat several gastrointestinal disorders, to slightly lower cholesterol levels, to prevent or delay the progression of certain types of cancer. They can also be used as a poultice to treat skin inflammation. Apparently, seeds can be placed in eyes to help remove foreign objects.
The seeds can be used to produce flaxseed oil, but usually whole seeds are used.
Usual doses: 10 g (1 tablespoon) to 45 g (4.5 tablespoons) per day of whole or crushed seeds mixed in a glass of water (at least 150 mL) in 2 to 3 doses.
Usual doses: 30 to 50 g of flaxseeds daily (taken whole or crushed, or mixed in muffin batter).
Usual doses: 40 g of flaxseed per day
Usual doses: 15 g of crushed seeds twice a day, mixed with cereals, tomato or orange juice.
There is insufficient reliable information to conclude that this plant is effective in any other indication.
In 2004, Canada adopted new regulations that control the manufacturing, packaging, labeling and importing of natural health products. The new regulations also include an adverse reaction reporting system. Products that conform to the regulation's criteria are identified with a natural product number (NPN) and can be legally sold in Canada. This number indicates that the product meets specific criteria for safety and purity, not that it is effective for any indication.
Medicinal plant contents vary naturally from plant to plant - just as fruits from the same package may vary in taste and texture. There is no standard to measure the active content of each plant. Thus, efficacy of natural products should be expected to vary from brand to brand as well as from bottle to bottle of the same brand.
For more information about the Natural Health Products Regulations, or to check if a product has been assessed, visit the Health Canada website at www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/prodnatur/index-eng.php.
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