It is native to the region extending from the eastern Mediterranean to India and was probably first domesticated in the Fertile Crescent. Flax was extensively cultivated in ancient Ethiopia and Egypt. In a prehistoric cave in the Republic of Georgia dyed flax fibers have been found that date to 34,000 BC. Flax is an erect annual plant with slender stems. In addition to referring to the plant itself, the word “flax” may refer to the unspun fibers of the flax plant. Flax seeds come in two basic varieties: brown and yellow or golden. Most types have similar nutritional characteristics and equal amounts of short-chain omega-3 fatty acids. The exception is a type of yellow flax called Linola or solin, which has a completely different oil profile and is very low in omega-3. Although brown flax can be consumed as readily as yellow, and has been for thousands of years, it is better known as an ingredient in paints, fiber and cattle feed. Flax seeds produce a vegetable oil known as flaxseed or linseed oil, which is one of the oldest commercial oils and solvent-processed flax seed oil has been used for centuries as a drying oil in painting and varnishing. One hundred grams of ground flax seed supplies about 450 kilo-calories, 41 grams of fat, 28 grams of fiber, and 20 grams of protein.
Flax seeds contain high levels of lignin’s and Omega-3 fatty acids. Lignins may benefit the heart; possess anti-cancer properties and studies performed on mice found reduced growth in specific types of tumors. Flax seed may also lower cholesterol levels and cure breast cancer and prostate cancers in women. Flax may also lessen the severity of diabetes by stabilizing blood-sugar levels. There is some support for the use of flax seed as a laxative due to its dietary fiber content though excessive consumption without liquid can result in intestinal blockage. Consuming large amounts of flax seed can impair the effectiveness of certain oral medications, due to its fiber content. It is aromatic and considered soothing for the stomach, useful as a laxative, and good for health.
Ground flax seeds can also be mixed in with oatmeal, yogurt or any other food item where a nutty flavor is appropriate. Flax seed sprouts are edible, with a slightly spicy flavor. Flaxseed is called ‘Tisi’ in northern India, particularly in the Bihar region. Roasted ‘Tisi’ is powdered and eaten with boiled rice, a little water, and a little salt since ancient times in the villages. Flax seed can be used in baking however the ground flour has a different consistency than that of wheat. The oil should not be used for cooking because it will destroy the nutritional value. It should not be used for hot foods which should be cooled before it is added.