By Naini Setalvad
Tiny, inexpensive, and easily available, flax seeds have a powerhouse of properties to cure a host of ailments
Ten years ago almost every western nutrition book I read, talked about flax seeds or linseeds (it has two names) and their vital importance for body functioning. I went all over town trying to find this miraculous seed but in vain. I had to eventually ask a cousin to send it to me from America. My domestic help, fondly called mausi, inspected it carefully and wondered why I was being so protective about ‘alsi’. She said, “We use this in my village for joint pains, coughs, and colds and to make chutneys!” I was surprised! The next day she went to a local Maharashtrian grocer and got some for me. I realised that most local grocery shops stock it.
Flax may be relatively new as a health food but its history is old. According to archaeologists, flax was already being cultivated in Babylon around 5000 BC. A 15th-century abbess used flax meal in hot compresses to treat both external and internal ailments. In fact, Mahatma Gandhi observed, “Wherever flax seed becomes a regular food item among people, there will be better health.”
I was elated and proceeded to read all I could about it and soon I was talking about it everywhere. It is unbelievable that it is not only easily available but also comes at an affordable price. Its healing properties are amazing.
Once I had a bad bout of sore throat and sinusitis. My mom remembered the old folklore and took a handful of flax seeds, roasted it on the pan, wrapped it in a muslin cloth and gave it to me to put on my chest. Her grandmother used this technique all the time. It really worked. On the other hand, mausi took two tablespoons of flax, boiled it in water, strained the liquid, and asked me to drink it. I could not. It smelt fishy, quite literally! However, a couple of my clients have happily drunk up this concoction and swear by its mucus reducing properties.
For joint pains, the same method of roasting, wrapping it in muslin, and applying it on the area helps relieve pain.
Adding it to your diet is good for those suffering from arthritis and joint pains.
Flax seeds are great for lowering cholesterol levels because of its high omega-3 anti-oxidant properties. Sprinkling it on your salad is an easy method, which I recommend to my clients who wish to reduce cholesterol levels. I was surprised when a Maharashtrian client of mine mentioned that her mom every day gave her and the entire family chutney made of flax, sesame, and herbs. In the Maratha region, this is a common practice. The Gujarati community enjoys it as an after-dinner mouth freshener mixed with their fennel (saunf).
Whatever the method, flax should be a daily part of the diet as it is a powerful brain food, rich in omega-3 fatty acid, important for optimum brain function. This essential fatty acid also helps prevent depression.
The omega-3 fatty acid properties work as a powerful anti-ageing agent and prevents degenerative diseases.
Flax seeds are tiny but mighty. They are:
• A good source of protein, minerals, and vitamins
• A good source of fibre and therefore helps prevent constipation. Keeps the digestive tract from getting clogged with mucus, toxic materials, and metabolic wastes. They are a natural laxative
• Useful to increase the metabolic rate, stimulate oxidation by which energy is produced thus producing warmth in the body
• Used to extract flax oil which is wonderful for treating dry skin, dandruff and sun-sensitive skin
• Known to help relieve asthma and allergies
• Known to have anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties
• Useful in increasing energy and stamina
• Known to help prevent cancer As writer Ehm Welk exclaims, “Truly, flax oil lubricates our way into eternal life.”
Naini Setalvad is an obesity and health food consultant, columnist forleading newspapers, and conducts workshops on healthy eating
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