The tiny, humble golden linseed is a fantastic form of insoluble fibre; linseed or flaxseed is often also taken in supplement form, but it can be most useful added to foods as a ready supply of soluble fibre in the form of lignans, particularly effective at cholesterol regulation and hormone balance. Lignans also help to prevent gallstone formation and keep our channels of cholesterol elimination via the liver, gallbladder and bowel free from obstruction, as they bind to the bile acids to remove them, taking along the cholesterol in the bile too.
Linseed should be ground as it is almost impossible to digest the seed pods and added to cereals or smoothies, but it should be kept cool and dark to avoid damage, as the essential oils (both 3 and 6) are vulnerable to heat and light damage. Perhaps most usefully though, linseed can be soaked overnight with a little water, which opens up the tough kernels and forms a mucilage from the types of soluble fibres inside called polymucosaccharides. When drunk or added to porridge, berries, cereal or yoghurt (or just knocked back with the water) this coats the gastro-intestinal tract and works to regulate both constipation or diarrhoea by drawing water into the stool or the bowel as needed. It also helps digestion by healing the gut wall and promoting the all important mucosal lining, the microfilm of the gut, our first line of immune defence and vital in reducing the incidence of food intolerances that can lead to constipation and cholesterol build-up. Drink the water too for extra lignan benefits!
This medicinal way of using linseed may still seem more like eating, but linseed can also be used to great effect on the outside of your body. In Ayurvedic medicine, a hot poultice of linseed oil is used to treat eczema and other skin complaints. For topical use, choose organic, cold-pressed linseed oil; many varieties are roasted, which damages the sensitive essential fats, omega 3 and 6 oils in the seeds.
After dry brushing for extra elimination, you can rub linseed oil into your entire body before your bath or shower. As a regular relaxation and detoxification exercise you can also lie down (or even meditate) for 20 minutes to allow it to soak in. When you get in bath or shower the hot water will then drive the oil into your body tissues as it attempts to escape from the water. Linseed is also a great carrier for essential oils, so adding those like rosemary, cyprus, lemon and lavender is ideal for cellulite, scar prevention, stretch marks and circulation problems such as thread veins.
As an alternative, you can rub in linseed with or without essential oils after bath or shower. Do this whilst you are still warm and wet and the oil should be absorbed very quickly. Just don’t use too much; in Ayurvedic medicine, 1 tablespoon is deemed enough for the whole body – you need to get proficient in speedy coverage techniques!