Linseed oil is the oil extracted from flax seeds. Now, you may be wondering that isn’t the oil from flax called flaxseed oil. Yes, that’s true. Both flaxseed oil and linseed oil start out from the same source – the flax seeds. However, the processing is quite different which leads to marked differences between these oils. Linseed oil is used for various industrial purposes and paint jobs whereas flaxseed oil is fit for human consumption.
( Photo courtesy : Wikipedia )
Linseed oil comes from flax seeds. Flax is commerically important crop grown in cooler climates of the world. In fact, it is the oldest crop to be grown on earth. Flax is named Linum usitatissimum , second part of which translates into ” the most useful”. Flax plant was revered in ancient civilizations for its diverse uses. Flax seeds make a healthy inclusion to diet. They are rich in omega 3 fatty acids and in dietary fiber, great for people with constipation issues.
Flax seeds are of two types – the brown ones and the yellow ones. Linseed oil is extracted from both types of seeds. It is yellowish in color.
( Photo courtesy : Wikipedia )
( Photo courtesy : Wikipedia )
Linseed Oil vs Flaxseed Oil
Linseed oil is obtained from dried flax seeds by pressing, but it is not cold pressing. In most cases, flax seeds are boiled and this heat treatment leads to changes in the structure of healthy oils. After that, the seeds are passed through solvents ( harmful chemicals ) to extract every drop of oil from the cake. This improves efficiency but this linseed oil is edible. Linseed oil is thus used only as paint binder or wood finish.
Flaxseed oil is the more “natural” kind of oil and it is extracted by cold pressing. This keeps its nutrients in their original form, making it fit for human consumption,
Both linseed oil and flaxseed oil are extremely vulnerable to rancidity. They have poor shelf lives and must be refrigerated and kept away from sunlight at all times.
Food grade linseed oil – It is an alternative to flaxseed oil. Food grade linseed oil can be used as an ingredient to your dishes. You can add it to recipes, as a binder and even for drinking.
CAUTION – Never use linseed oil as cooking oil. It is one of those oils which should be used only for prepared food, but not while preparing food. The oil has a smoke point of 225 º F, which is low. The oil gives smoke quickly and this turns healthy nutrients in very dangerous chemicals. Cooking with linseed oil or flaxseed oil is bad.
Linseed oil has some special properties which make it suitable for industrial use.
- Drying – Linseed oil dries up slowly, but uniformly. This makes it suitable for use as drying agent in paint formula, wood finish products etc.
- Water resistance – this oil keeps the material protected from water. This helps to safeguard metal products from corrosion and furniture from water damage.
- Glow – Linseed oil adds glow to wood
- Binding agent – Linseed oil binds together ingredients in many products. It creates a rich, smoothy emulsion when all ingredients are mixed with it. This is very helpful.
Linseed oil may lead to a slight yellowing of the product over which it is used, but this diminishes after some time. The intensity of this yellowing varies from product to product, and there may be some where such an effect is not seen at all.
Linseed oil grabs up many uses for itself because of its properties. Here is how you can use it at home.
- Bicycle repair – Is your bicycle rusting and showing signs of age. Give it a lift with linseed oil. Apply a thin coat of linseed oil on the metallic parts and let it dry in shade, not the sun. You should see a mild shine on its metaland corrosion is checked.
- Wood finish – Linseed oil makes an excellent home wood finish. For this use, one should get boiled linseed oil. This oil is prepared from pre boiled seeds, and it dries faster. Apply a thin coat of this oil on any wooden product. Let it dry for a few hours and then it is done. Best thing about this finish is that it is not evident on surface, like a slicky oily substance on top. Linseed oil penetrates inside wood and strengthens the material.
- Anti – Termite : If you suspect woodworm or termites in your lovely furniture, linseed oil comes to rescue. All by itself, it doesn’t kill termites. But, if you add a few drops of orange peel oil to linseed oil, termites are definitely killed. It also protects wood from future invasions by termites.
- Oil Painting – Linseed oil is a popular binder used to make oil paints from powdered colors.
- Oil cloth – You can make your home-made waterproofing material. Get a finely woven linen cloth and dip it in linseed oil. Use generous amounts of oil. Now this cloth can be used to keep anything inside it protected from water damage, like because of moisture.
- Seasoning Cookware – Teflon coated cookware is non sticky. But what if you want to season that old cookware from decades back ? Linseed oil can be used to season old cookware and make it fit for cooking. Use food grade linseed oil to coat the cookware and let it dry. Then it doesn’t stick to food, making it as easy to clean as modern anti stick utensils.
- Leather conditioning – Take a cotton rag cloth. Put a few drops of linseed oil on it and then use it to clean your leather products. It cleans and seals the leather, making it softer and protected from mildew. Your shoes, or jacket should look as good as new.
( Photo courtesy : nirak )
Health Benefits of Food Grade Linseed Oil
The food grade oil can be used a dietary supplement. Flax seed oil is superior to this oil in terms of nutritional quality, but nevertheless, one can use linseed oil also. It promises many health benefits.
Consuming a teaspoon size of linseed oil acts as mild laxative. One can take it with milk, smoothie or any other liquid food for this effect.
Linseed oil pack
Linseed oil can be used as pack to relieve inflammation and pain. Although the omega 3 concentration in linseed oil is slightly less than flaxseed oil, it is still enough to lower inflammation. Apply it in the form of a pack over painful skin, and leave it for few hours. The pain subsides.
Drinking some linseed oil has been noted to help in balancing abnormal hormonal values, especially in women. That is because linseed oil is a great source of lignans, a class of nutrients which resemble estrogen.
Protects from Osteoporosis
Eating flax seed, or drinking either flaxseed oil or linseed oil can help in reducing the risk of osteoporosis, a condition in which bone density decreases substantially. The effect is most powerful when flaxseed oil is used, but linseed oil also has some effect.
Based on the above health benefits and modern research, it is clear that flaxseed oil is slightly better than food grade linseed oil. So, for human consumption, one should go for flaxseed oil. It has higher amounts of omega fatty acids, and is therefore strongly anti-inflammatory.
Side Effects And Toxicity Issues
Both flaxseed oil and food grade linseed oil are generally safe. Do not use other kinds of linseed oil for personal use, not even as topical agent or massage oil. The chemicals in that oil can percolate through our skin and act as toxins. The liver has a hard time removing these solvents.
Linseed oil should be avoided by pregnant or nursing women. It is also not safe for people with bleeding disorders. It should not be taken in case you are severely injured and there is risk of bleeding. Flax is known to promote bleeding. If you are going to get a surgery, avoid flax and its oils. This should be done at least 2 weeks prior to the surgery.
Always check linseed oil for rancidity before using, as it is highly possible that the oil is rancid if it has been kept improperly at the heath store. Rancid oils are very harmful and can directly aggravate the risk of cardiovascular disease, quickly.
Linseed oil is also spontaneously flammable in certain cases. Therefore, care must be taken to keep it away from hot temperatures.
For details on the safety of industrial grade linseed oil, refer the MSDS of linseed oil ( Material Safety Data Chart )
Even if you are drinking food grade linseed oil, there is a cap on the upper limit. Dosage upto about 20 ml are safe. But beyond this it can become harmful and lead to food poisoning like symptoms.
Flax crops have been cultivated since the start of civilization. It has been noted in the paintings of ancient Egypt as well as in China. The practice of extracting its oil may have been a very ancient practice too. In ancient Greece, oil of flax was used to alleviate stomach troubles. In those times too, it was more used for waterproofing, drying and binding purposes.
( Photo courtesy :dhwright )
Medical and Nutritional Information
The nutrient composition of food grade linseed oil is similar to flax seed oil. It is rich in omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids. Plus it also contains lignans that are powerful antioxidants.
Linseed oil has high amounts of alpha linoleic acid and linoleic acid. Here is a chart showing major fatty acids found in food grade linseed oil. These can vary depending upon the crop type and the processing method.
|Alpha Linoleic Acid||47.4||Anti-inflammatory|
|Oleic Acid||19||Decreases cholesterol|
|Stearic Acid||2.5||Assist cholesterol lowering effect|
|Palmitic Acid||6||Mild antioxidant|
( Source : Wikipedia )
Other fatty acids found in smaller amounts are palmitoleic acid, arachidic acid and eicosenoic acid. There is lot of debate on the harmful effects of palmitic acid. It seems that in larger amounts, palmitic acid increases the risk for heart disease, but in small amounts it acts as mild antioxidant which is good for the body.
Linseed oil is nice for paint work and for protecting your wooden furniture. It is inexpensive in comparison to other costly products used to finish wood. Use it to prolong the life of your furniture.