Herb-Alsi

Alsi (Flax Seed)
(Linum usitatissimum)

Part Used: Seed

Habitat:
Extensively cultivated throughout India, up to an altitude of 6000 ft for its oil yielding seeds.

Introduction:
The seeds are commonly consumed in one of three ways: whole seed, ground seed (powder or meal), or flaxseed oil. In the last decade, flaxseed has garnered attention due to its reported health benefits. The American Botanical Council reported a 177% increase in sales of flax products in 1999 alone. Most of the benefits reported from flaxseed consumption are believed to be due to the following three important components found in flaxseeds, α-linolenic acid (ALA), lignans, and fiber.

Canada is the world’s largest producer of flax.

Mechanism of Action:

  • Free radicals, reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (ROS/RNS) are continuously generated in the human body during metabolic processes; and are essential for energy supply, detoxification, chemical signaling and immune function. 
  • Overproduction of these free radicals causes the exposure of external oxidant substances or a failure in the body’s own defense mechanisms such as endogenous enzymes (superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase, catalase) leads to damage of valuable biomolecules such as DNA, lipids and proteins.
  • These damages are associated with an increased risk of various degenerative diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer etc.
  • Phenolic compounds are excellent natural antioxidants. They are known to counteract with the excess free radicals, ROS; and nullified their pathological effects. 
  • The antioxidant capacity of phenolic compounds is mainly due to their redox properties, which allow them to act as reducing agents, hydrogen donors, singlet oxygen quenchers or metal chelators. 
  • Flax seed has high content of essential omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linoleic acid, dietary fiber and natural phenolic antioxidants. Therefore, it helps to reduce oxidative stress and the damage or diseases associated with it, like cardiovascular disease etc. International Food Research Journal 20(1): 27-34 (2013)


Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to suppress oxygen free radicals from neutrophils and monocytes, as well as the production of interleukin-1, tumour necrosis factor, and leukotriene B4 (LTB4). Lignans can act as platelet activating factor receptor antagonists and inhibit the production of oxygen free radicals by neutrophils.

Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology, Summer 2007, volume 5, Number 3


Medicinal Uses:
Flaxseed is used for the treatment of many diseases like hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, hormone-sensitive cancers, stress and for immunocompromised patients.
• Phenolic compounds are excellent natural antioxidants. They are known to counteract with the excess free radicals, ROS; and nullified their pathological effects.

• The antioxidant capacity of phenolic compounds is mainly due to their redox properties, which allow them to act as reducing agents, hydrogen donors, singlet oxygen quenchers or metal chelators.

• Flax seed has high content of essential omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linoleic acid, dietary fiber and natural phenolic antioxidants. Therefore, it helps to reduce oxidative stress and the damage or diseases associated with it, like cardiovascular disease etc.
International Food Research Journal 20(1): 27-34 (2013)

Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to suppress oxygen free radicals from neutrophils and monocytes, as well as the production of interleukin-1, tumour necrosis factor, and leukotriene B4 (LTB4). Lignans can act as platelet activating factor receptor antagonists and inhibit the production of oxygen free radicals by neutrophils.

Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology, Summer 2007, volume 5, Number 3


Medicinal Uses:
Flaxseed is used for the treatment of many diseases like hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, hormone-sensitive cancers, stress and for immunocompromised patients.

Pharmacological Actions:

Hypertensive – The ALA and lignin content of flaxseed provides this antihypertensive effect.
(Hypertension. 2013;62:1081-1089.) DOI: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.113.02094

Antioxidant - Flaxseed represent valuable source of phenolic antioxidant. Flaxseed is a rich source of natural antioxidants. The antioxidant potential of flaxseed and their phenolic constituents have been extensively studied for the treatment of many diseases including cardiovascular diseases.
Kasote, D.M./IFRJ 20(1):27-34

Lipid Lowering Effects – The fiber component of flaxseed significantly reduces the levels of total cholesterol and low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) and triglycerides. This can be done by enhancing gastric emptying time, altering transit time, interfering with bulk-phase diffusion of fat, and increasing excretion of bile acids. The antioxidant properties of lignans and omega-3 fatty acids exert a beneficial effect on atherosclerotic plaque formation.

Platelet Aggregation Effects – Flaxseed has decreasing effect with platelet aggregation.

Inflammation/ Immune Function – Flaxseed and flaxseed oil may possess anti-inflammatory properties owing to the presence of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and docosahexaenoic acid which inhibit neutrophil inflammatory responses in humans. It has been found that ALA decreases the production of arachidonic acid, thereby causing a reduction in inflammation. ALA may suppress cell-mediated immunity/T-cell function without affecting humoral immunity /B-cell function (shown in immunocopromised patients).

Hormone Effects – Flaxseed is a rich source of plant lignans. Lignans are often referred to as phytoestrogens and may possess estrogen receptor agonist or antagonist properties which may have beneficial effects on the hormone-sensitive cancers such as breast, uterine and prostate cancer.

Anti-inflammatory/ Immunosuppressive – Flaxseed possess anti-inflammatory properties, and it may suppress cell-mediated immunity/T-cell function without affecting humoral immunity/B-cell function.
Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology, Summer 2007, volume 5, Number 3

Stress – The rise in blood pressure during mental stress, a strong predictor of atherosclerosis progression, is ameliorated by flaxseed. According to studies, it is also found to decreases plasma cortisol values.
Can J Cardiol Vol 26 No 9 November 2010

Clinical Studies:
According to a clinical study published in the Romanian Journal of Medicine in 2005, the flaxseed improves lipid profile in hyperlipidemic patients and may favourably modify cardiovascular factors.
Rev Med Chir Soc Med Nat Iasi. 2005 Jul-Sep;109(3):502-6.

Conclusion:
Flaxseed and its derivative are rich sources of the essential fatty acid alpha-linoleic oil, are rich sources of the essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is a biologic precursor to omega-3 fatty acids. According to various animal and human studies this improves cardiovascular conditions or hyperlipidemia.