Flaxseed oil comes from ripened flaxseeds that manufacturers have cold pressed to extract the oil. Another name for flaxseed oil is linseed oil.
Flaxseed oil is commercially available in both capsule and liquid form. It contains a type of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
The body uses ALA from flaxseed oil and converts it in small amounts to other fatty acids, including docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid.
Omega-3 fatty acids are vital to a person’s physical and mental health.
Flaxseed oil does not contain the same nutrients as the whole seed. For example, flaxseeds contain fiber, magnesium, and vitamin B, but flaxseed oil does not.
Much like flax seeds, flaxseed oil is loaded with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
In fact, one tablespoon (15 ml) contains an impressive 7,196 mg of omega-3 fatty acids.
Specifically, flaxseed oil contains alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a form of omega-3 fatty acid that is only converted in small amounts to active forms of omega-3, like EPA and DHA.
If you aren’t getting enough DHA and EPA in your diet, most guidelines recommend at least 1,600 mg of ALA omega-3 fatty acids daily for men and 1,100 mg for women.
Just one tablespoon of flaxseed oil can meet and exceed your daily ALA needs.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to health and have been associated with benefits like reduced inflammation, improved heart health and protection for the brain against aging.
If you aren’t taking fish oil or getting one to two servings of fatty fish in your diet each week, flaxseed oil may be a good solution to help supplement your diet with the omega-3 fatty acids you need.
May Help Reduce Cancer Cell Growth
Although the current research is limited to test-tube and animal studies, there is some evidence that flaxseed oil may help reduce the growth of cancer cells.
In one animal study, mice were given 0.3 ml of flaxseed oil for 40 days. It was found to prevent the spread of cancer and the growth of lung tumors.
In another small animal study, flaxseed oil was shown to block the formation of colon cancer in rats.
Furthermore, test-tube studies have produced similar findings, with several studies showing that flaxseed oil reduced the growth of breast cancer cells .
Still, while these findings are promising, more research is needed to determine how these results may translate to humans.
Could Benefit Heart Health
Several studies have found that flaxseed oil could benefit heart health.
One study in 59 people compared the effects of flaxseed oil to those of safflower oil, a type of oil high in omega-6 fatty acids.
In this study, supplementing with one tablespoon (15 ml) of flaxseed oil for 12 weeks led to significantly lower blood pressure levels than supplementing with safflower oil.
High blood pressure can harm heart health, as it places extra strain on the heart, forcing it to work harder.
Flaxseed oil may also improve the elasticity of the arteries. Both aging and increased blood pressure are generally linked to decreases in elasticity.
These benefits are likely due to the high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed oil, as supplementing with it has been shown to significantly increase the amount of omega-3s in the blood.
What’s more, numerous studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids improve heart health, with benefits such as reduced inflammation and lower blood pressure.
Flaxseed oil may be effective at treating both constipation and diarrhea.
A recent animal study showed that flaxseed oil acted as a laxative to promote regularity, all while acting as an antidiarrheal agent.
Another study gave 50 constipated patients on hemodialysis either flaxseed oil, olive oil or mineral oil.
After four weeks, flaxseed oil increased the frequency of bowel movements and improved stool consistency. Also, it was found to be as effective as both olive oil and mineral oil.
However, research on the effects of flaxseed oil on constipation and diarrhea is currently limited to animal studies and studies on people with specific conditions.
Additional studies are needed to evaluate its effectiveness in the general population.
Flaxseed oil may also help enhance skin health.
One small study had 13 women supplement with flaxseed oil for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, they experienced improvements in skin smoothness and hydration, while skin sensitivity to irritation and roughness had decreased.
A recent animal study showed that flaxseed oil had similar positive results.
Mice with dermatitis were given flaxseed oil for three weeks. The oil was shown to decrease symptoms of atopic dermatitis, such as redness, swelling and itching.
However, no studies have looked at the benefits of applying flaxseed oil to the skin of people. Nevertheless, there are numerous anecdotal reports of improvements in smoothness and reduced irritation after applying flaxseed oil.
Thanks to its omega-3 fatty acid content, some research shows that flaxseed oil may help reduce inflammation in certain populations.
However, one analysis of 20 studies showed that flaxseed oil did not have an effect on inflammation in the general population.
Nevertheless, it significantly reduced levels of C-reactive protein, a marker used to measure inflammation, in obese people.
An animal study also found that flaxseed oil has potent anti-inflammatory properties.
Some studies indicate that flaxseed oil’s anti-inflammatory effects are equivalent to those of olive oil.
For example, one study in 37 people showed that flaxseed oil supplements didn’t affect any inflammatory markers in healthy, normal-weight adults, compared to olive oil.
While it seems that flaxseed oil may affect people differently, more research is needed to determine its effects on inflammation for the general population.
One of the best things about flaxseed oil is its versatility. For starters, it can easily be swapped for other types of oil in salad dressings, dips and sauces.
You can also add one serving (one tablespoon or 15 ml) into smoothies or shakes to add some flaxseed oil into your diet with minimal effort.
Keep in mind that flaxseed oil should not be used for cooking, as it does not have a high smoke point and can form harmful compounds when exposed to high heat.
In addition to being used in food, flaxseed oil can be applied to the skin to enhance skin health and increase skin moisture.
Alternatively, some people use flaxseed oil as a hair mask to promote growth and shine.