Flax seeds

Chinese: 亚麻子

Pinyin: Yà Má Zi

Parts used: Dried ripe seeds

TCM category: Laxative herbs that drain downward

TCM nature: Neutral

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: StomachLarge intestineLiver

Scientific name: Linum usitatissimum

Other names: Linseed

Use of flax seeds (Yà Má Zi) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitionner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Take the whole herb and dry. Then take the seeds, remove impurities and dry again.

Dosage: 5 - 10 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Causes lubrication and dispels Wind.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which flax seeds may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Constipation Skin fissures Itching Hair loss Measles Rubella Carbuncles Erysipelas

Contraindications*: Not recommended for pregnant women and for those with a weak stomach or diarrhea

Key TCM concepts behind flax seeds' properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), flax seeds are plants that belong to the 'Laxative herbs that drain downward' category. The herbs in this category are those whose main purpose is to treat constipation. They're called 'laxative' because they're often rich in oils. This allows them to lubricate the Intestines in order to help it remove the stools from the body.

Furthermore flax seeds are plants that are Neutral in nature. This means that flax seeds typically don't affect the balance in your body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Eating too many "Hot" (Yang) ingredients can lead to an imbalance whereby one has a Yang excess. The inverse is true as well: too many "Cold" (Yin) ingredients can lead to a Yin excess. The Neutral nature of flax seeds means that you don't have to worry about that!

Flax seeds also taste Sweet. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Sweet ingredients like flax seeds tend to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what organs and meridians they target. As such flax seeds are thought to target the Stomach, the Large intestine and the Liver. In TCM the Stomach is responsible for receiving and ripening ingested food and fluids. It is also tasked with descending the digested elements downwards to the Small Intestine. The Large Intestine on the other hand receives the "impure" parts of the digested food from the Small Intestine, absorbs the remaining fluids and excrete the remainder as feces. The Liver is often referred as the body's "general" because it is in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and body fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions.

Research on flax seeds

Consuming flaxseed or its derivatives may reduce total and LDL-cholesterol in the blood, with greater benefits in women and those with high cholesterol.1

A meta-analysis has shown that consumption of more than 30 grams of flaxseed daily for more than 12 weeks reduced body weight, body mass index (BMI), and waist circumference for persons with a BMI greater than 27.2

A meta-analysis has shown that consumption of flaxseed for more than 12 weeks produced small reductions in systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure.3

Linseed oil could be effective in the management of mild and moderate carpal tunnel syndrome, especially in improving the severity of symptoms and functional status.4

Linseeds may be useful for the relief of irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.5

Sources:

1. Pan, An; Yu, Danxia; Demark-Wahnefried, Wendy; Franco, Oscar H.; Lin, Xu (2009). "Meta-analysis of the effects of flaxseed interventions on blood lipids". The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 90 (2): 288–297. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.27469.

2. Mohammadi-Sartang M, Mazloom Z, Raeisi-Dehkordi H, Barati-Boldaji R, Bellissimo N, Totosy de Zepetnek JO (2017). "The effect of flaxseed supplementation on body weight and body composition: a systematic review and meta-analysis of 45 randomized placebo-controlled trials" (PDF). Obesity Reviews. 18: 1096–1107. doi:10.1111/obr.12550.

3. Khalesi S, Irwin C, Schubert M (2015). "Flaxseed consumption may reduce blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled trials". Journal of Nutrition. 145 (4): 758–765. doi:10.3945/jn.114.205302.

4. Hashempur MH, Homayouni K, Ashraf A, Salehi A, Taghizadeh M, Heydari M. (2014). Effect of Linum usitatissimum L. (linseed) oil on mild and moderate carpal tunnel syndrome: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Daru. , 22:43. doi: 10.1186/2008-2231-22-43.

5. Cockerell KM, Watkins AS, Reeves LB, Goddard L, Lomer MC. (2012). Effects of linseeds on the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome: a pilot randomised controlled trial. J Hum Nutr Diet. , 25(5):435-43. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-277X.2012.01263.x.

Use of flax seeds as food

Flax seeds are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Flaxseeds peanut laddoos.