Flaxseed

Flaxseed for the treatment of migraine headaches: an introduction

Flaxseed and the flax plant have been used for thousands of years for health and industrial applications. Also known as linseed or Linum usitatissimum, flaxseed is often used as natural remedy and herbal treatment for many conditions, including constipation, high cholesterol, and diabetes.1

Flaxseed contains an omega-3 fatty acid called ALA. Omega-3 fatty acids are known for health benefits such as reducing heart disease. Flaxseed and omega-3 fatty acids are being studied for their possible benefit in a range of conditions, such as ulcers, psoriasis, glaucoma, Lyme disease, lupus, and migraines. However, to date, the research in migraines has shown no or little benefit for reducing the frequency or severity of migraine attacks.2

Flaxseed health benefits

Like all natural remedies, flaxseed contains a wide range of compounds that may be responsible for its health benefits. Three main ingredients in flaxseed that are believed to contribute to their helpful properties are:

  • Omega-3 essential fatty acids, the good fats help with brain function and may cut the risk of heart disease
  • Lignans, chemicals found in plants that act as antioxidants and like estrogen to protect cells
  • Fiber, the part of food the body doesn’t digest which can help ease bowel movements2,3

Formulations available

Flaxseed is available in several preparations, including:

  • Whole flax seed
  • Ground flax seed
  • Powder
  • Tablets
  • Oil (which is also available in capsules)1

Side effects of flaxseed

Flaxseed and flaxseed oil are considered generally safe when taken in limited amounts. Because of the fiber content, flaxseed may cause an increase in bowel movements, bloating, gas, or diarrhea. When using for constipation, flaxseed should be taken with plenty of water.1,4

Who should not take flaxseed

Raw or unripened flaxseeds are believed to be toxic and shouldn’t be eaten.

Women who are pregnant, may become pregnant or who are breastfeeding should not take flaxseed. Because it can have mild effects similar to estrogen, some doctors believe it may be dangerous during pregnancy.

Flaxseed may interact with some medications. Talk to your doctor about all medications, vitamins, and supplements you are taking.

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As always, the best source for advice on treating your migraines is your own migraine specialist. These descriptions of natural remedies are provided only for informational purposes. You should begin no medication or supplement without first checking with your physician.

Written by: Emily Downward | Last review date: May 2018
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