Flax Explained

Flax (also known as common flax or linseed) (binomial name: Linum usitatissimum) is a member of the genus Linum in the family Linaceae. It is native to the region extending from the eastern Mediterranean to India and was probably first domesticated in the Fertile Crescent. It is known as Λινάρι (Linari) in Greek, आलस (Aalas) in Nepali, Agasi/Akshi in Kannada, Aazhi Vidhai in Tamil, जवस (Jawas/Javas) or अळशी (Alashi) in Marathi and अलसी (Alsi) in Urdu and Hindi, তিসি (Tisi) in Bengali and అవిశలు (avisalu) in Telugu.[1] Flax was extensively cultivated in ancient Ethiopia and ancient Egypt.[2] In a prehistoric cave in the Republic of Georgia, dyed flax fibers have been found that date to 30,000 BC,[3] [4] implicating it as the first domesticated species in human history. New Zealand flax is not related to flax but was named after it, as both plants are used to produce fibers.


Flax is an erect annual plant growing to 1.2m (03.9feet) tall, with slender stems. The leaves are glaucous green, slender lanceolate, 20–40 mm long and 3 mm broad. The flowers are pure pale blue, 15–25 mm diameter, with five petals; they can also be bright red. The fruit is a round, dry capsule 5–9 mm diameter, containing several glossy brown seeds shaped like an apple pip, 4–7 mm long.

In addition to referring to the plant itself, the word "flax" may refer to the unspun fibers of the flax plant.


Flax is grown both for its seeds and for its fiber. Various parts of the plant have been used to make fabric, dye, paper, medicines, fishing nets, hair gels, and soap. Flax seed is the source of linseed oil, which is used as an edible oil, as a nutritional supplement, and as an ingredient in many wood finishing products. Flax is also grown as an ornamental plant in gardens.

Flax seed

Flax seeds come in two basic varieties: (1) brown; and (2) yellow or golden. Most types have similar nutritional characteristics and equal numbers of short-chain omega-3 fatty acids. The exception is a type of yellow flax called solin (trade name Linola), which has a completely different oil profile and is very low in omega-3 FAs. Although brown flax can be consumed as readily as yellow, and has been for thousands of years, it is better known as an ingredient in paints, fiber and cattle feed. Flax seeds produce a vegetable oil known as flaxseed or linseed oil, which is one of the oldest commercial oils, and solvent-processed flax seed oil has been used for centuries as a drying oil in painting and varnishing.

One hundred grams of ground flax seed supplies about 450 kilocalories, 41 grams of fat, 28 grams of fiber, and 20 grams of protein.[5]

Flax seed sprouts are edible, with a slightly spicy flavor. Excessive consumption of flax seeds with inadequate water can cause bowel obstruction.[6] Flaxseed is called 'Tisi' in northern India, particularly in the Bihar region. Roasted 'Tisi' is powdered and eaten with boiled rice, a little water, and a little salt since ancient times in the villages.

Whole flax seeds are chemically stable. Ground flaxseed can go rancid at room temperature in as little as one week.[7]

Even after storage under conditions similar to those found in commercial bakeries, trained sensory panelists could not detect differences between bread made with freshly ground flax and bread made with ground flax stored for four months at room temperature.[8] Ground flax is remarkably stable to oxidation when stored for nine months at room temperature[9] and for 20 months at ambient temperatures under warehouse conditions.[10]

Notes and References

  1. Alister D. Muir, Neil D. Westcot, Book: Flax: The Genus Linum. 978-0-415-30807-6. Muir. Alister D. Westcott. Neil D. 2003., page 3 (August 1, 2003).
  2. http://www.westonaprice.org/Flaxseed-and-Flaxseed-Oils-for-Omega-3-Fatty-Acids.html
  3. Balter M. (2009). Clothes make the (Hu) Man. Science,325(5946):1329. PMID 19745126
  4. Kvavadze E, Bar-Yosef O, Belfer-Cohen A, Boaretto E, Jakeli N, Matskevich Z, Meshveliani T. (2009).30,000-Year-Old Wild Flax Fibers. Science, 325(5946):1359. PMID 19745144 Supporting Online Material
  5. Web site: Flax nutrition profile. 2008-05-08.
  6. Web site: Drugs and Supplements: Flaxseed and flaxseed oil (Linum usitatissimum). 2007-07-02. 2006-05-01. Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic.
  7. Alpers. Linda. Sawyer-Morse, Mary K.. Eating Quality of Banana Nut Muffins and Oatmeal Cookies Made With Ground Flaxseed. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 96. 8. 794–796. August. 1996-08. 10.1016/S0002-8223(96)00219-2. 8683012.
  8. Web site: Storage stability of milled flaxseed. 2008-04-24. 2006-04. Malcolmson. L.J..
  9. Web site: Oxidative stability of flaxseed lipids during baking. Chen. Z-Y. JAOCS 1994;71(6):629-632..
  10. Web site: Additional data on the storage stability of milled flaxseed [letter to the editor) | last = Malcolmson | first = LJ | citation = JAOCS 2001;78(1):105-106.}].