Seeking the health benefits from omega-3 fatty acids, many people have been purchasing fish oil caplets to add to their health regimens. Flax oil, however, is another rich source of the nutrient. Flax oil, short for flaxseed oil, is a solution from the flax plant that is used in the diet for its many health benefits.
The Linum usitatissimum, otherwise known as the flax plant, is full of both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Concentrated in flax oil, alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, is converted into eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, and and docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, by the body. These are the same fatty acids found in fish oil.
When properly converted, flax seed oil can provide a variety of health benefits. It may help reduce inflammation in the body, making it possibly helpful in preventing arthritis and chronic diseases, like heart disease. High cholesterol and high blood pressure may be treated with flax seed oil. Using flax seed oil daily may help improve the symptoms of Sjogren' s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder, such as dry eye.
Supplements containing flax seed oil are available in both softgel capsules and liquid forms. Like other oils, flax seed oil will turn rancid if not properly cared for. The oil should be refrigerated as well as kept out of the light and away from heat. If kept in a dark container, the oil will last longer. Organic flax oil is preferable, as many other non-organic varieties may contain heavy metals, such as mercury or lead.
Generally a safe supplement, flax oil should not be administered to children under the age of 18 without consulting a pediatrician. The oil can interact with certain medications. An adult taking medications should consult with a physician prior to taking this health supplement. A typical adult dose includes one to two capsules or one to two tablespoonfuls (15 to 30 milliliters) of flax seed oil daily.
Flax oil contains more concentrated omega-3 fatty acids than fish oil does per serving. Since the body is not as efficient at converting flax oil, however, studies have yet to show whether the compound is just as effective as its fish-sourced counterpart. Some people opt instead to eat whole flax seeds, or flax meal, in the form of ground flax seed or flax powder. Flax products such as these have been known to provide many health benefits.
In addition to the benefits provided by omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, ground flax seed may have the added effect of preventing cancer. Flax seed is a nutty-flavored, nutritious component that is generally considered safe for eating. It can be added to smoothies, stews, oatmeal, cereals, breads, and many other foods to boost nutritional value.