From the April 2004 Idaho Observer:

Flax Hull Lignans

This month's Back to Basics column addresses one of nature's most complete superfoods: Flax seed and flax lignan -- the hull. Flax is extremely beneficial for the digestive tract and a marvelous, natural remedy to correct hormone imbalances.

by Pam Klebs

During my 12-year bout with Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities and Environmental Illness, I had often come across compelling information about the benefits of flax. Most of the time, it had been part of my regimen which ultimately led me towards my final recovery. However, not until recently did I ever truly understand why flax was so beneficial.

Over four years ago, I met someone whom I consider an entrepreneur of a relatively new technology in the area of flax. I met Joe at a “meeting of the minds” in a small town in the Midwest. Most of the people who attended this meeting were concerned patriots discussing matters relevant to common law, the constitution, organic farming, health and wellness. Unbeknownst to me, Joe had been undertaking a project to isolate the hull from the flax seed. Eventually, he brought me a bag of flax hulls in their entire form. Later, he was able to render the hulls into a powder. Initially, I was both intrigued and a little confused. Why would anyone want to isolate such a perfect, natural food? I stopped grinding my own flax and opened my mind to this new technology.

In all my years searching for answers towards my wellness, I had concluded that nutrient-dense, organic, whole foods were the answer to achieving balanced health. Similarly, if I were taking supplements, I concluded that the best ones would be of the same philosophy: Nutrient-dense, organic, whole food supplements. Synthetic supplements from isolated nutrients were eliminated from my regimen. I always wondered how I could even digest a pill that took 10,000 lbs. of pressure to make.

One of the first, true healing foods I consumed was flax. I'm not saying it is a panacea (cure-all), but rather, it did help balance my gut ecosystem (which was in an extreme state of imbalance) and my hormones. One key reputation that flax has earned is that it is a tremendous laxative.

Unlike other herbal laxatives, which can be very harsh on the gut lining, flax is very soothing and gentle. While it is helping the elimination process, it does other wondrous things to the gut ecosystem.

Specifically, the lignans of the flax help balance hormonal levels. There is a powerful lignan within the hull called secoisolariciresinol diglycoside (SDG). When the hull is separated, the content of SDG becomes very concentrated.

It is the SDG lignan that seems to help balance estrogen levels in the body. This is the reason why scientists have regarded it seriously by testing to see the influence of flax on cancer, an estrogenic condition.

Estrogen causes cells to proliferate, hence, during pregnancy estrogen causes a baby to grow. Excess estrogen is not necessarily a good thing (there is “good” estrogen and “bad” estrogen). For example, we are exposed to too much estrogen in the environment (pesticides) and through our diet (simple carbohydrates tend to increase insulin production, which in turn, increases the wrong kind of estrogen in our body).

Flax seems to encourage the good estrogen to be created, and at the same time discourage the bad estrogen from developing. Therefore, flax appears to help create a balance of this hormone.

During menopause, when the body may be low in estrogen, flax can help the body think it has more estrogen thus helping relieve some of the uncomfortable side effects (such as hot flashes).

Since I tend to be very skeptical about any new supplement I had to further investigate the validity of flax by visiting research scientists to find out whether flax had value as a “super food.”

When I visited North Dakota State University and spoke with Dr. Denis Weisenborn and his research staff, I was impressed with their enthusiasm about their research testing the concentration and purity of the flax hulls. They were able to put my mind at ease about any possibility of the hulls carrying any rancidity. In other words, when the hull is isolated, the small amount of fat which remains tends to remain stable.

Dr. Weisenborn told me that he had some flax hulls sitting at room temperature for over two years and that they were testing as pure as the day they first arrived. Then I visited with Dr. Lilian Thompson from the University of Toronto who has done extensive research on flax (especially in the area of cancer).

Her research is ongoing but shows promising results. Indeed, much valuable research has been done to determine the value of flax and it is encouraging to see that there is continuing research into using flax therapeutically. Initially, the research was done on whole, ground flax. Now that the hull can be successfully isolated, I have noticed that most of the research I am coming across is done using the hull (with the high SDG content).

I have noticed that people comment that they get better results using the hull versus grinding the flax themselves. It would be extremely uncomfortable for one to ingest the amount of lignans available in 1 teaspoon of the Flax Hulls as would be available in a rather large quantity of ground, whole flax. The concentrate seems to be more comfortable to the digestive tract.

The lignans in the flax are also present in other grains, however, flaxseed surpasses all of them in the amount of lignans available. Research has shown that people who consume a high intake of lignans in their diet have markedly lower cancer rates.

Lignans not only have anti-cancer properties, they have anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. Flax hulls contain potent nutrients that have the potential to enhance immune system functioning and are effective against many different diseases (such as colon cancer, breast cancer, diabetes, lupus, prostate cancer).

Flax has also shown to help reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure and is also a tremendous laxative.

Flax has been used for thousands of years to make linen and oil. As a floral symbol, flax has taken on the meaning, “I feel your kindness.”

Its botanical name is Linum usitatissimum. Linum comes from the word “lin” which means “thread” and usitatissimum means “most useful.”

Since the 1980s there has been a growing interest in the usefulness of flax, especially as a functional food.

The growth in flax as a health food is reflected in the increase in acreage used towards flax production. For example, in 1997, Americans farmed approximately 61,000 hectares (one hectare = 2.471 acres) of flax.

By 2000, this number had risen to over 270,000 hectares (FAO; U.S. Agricultural Census, 1997).

Internationally, numbers are growing as well. With more awareness now, consumers are making more choices towards buying high quality, organic, food-based supplements such as concentrated flax hulls in order to support their health.

Another objection I had when introduced to the flax hull product was the disparity in cost to the consumer. It is relatively inexpensive to grind your own flax. Using an isolated, flax hull product would cost the consumer over $1 per day. How could you justify the cost?

Since my husband is a naturopath and I had been counselling people about the importance of flax for several years, I had noticed one compelling behavior pattern. When I asked people to grind their own flax, it was rare to find anyone who would comply (maybe 1 client out of 10 would follow through with these instructions).

I had reservations about recommending pre-ground flax because it was almost always rancid. Finding this flax hull product was about the best answer I could have come across. It fulfilled my goals in terms of convenience and purity. Not only was it ready for consumption, it was also pure and without rancidity.

Also, when the SDG lignan is isolated as in this flax hull product, the body seems to have its own intelligence to use it where it is most needed (especially to help balance the hormones).

Furthermore, when it is concentrated, people tend to tolerate it better and get faster results. It seems as though the flax hull concentrate can deliver more of the necessary SDG to the body than if one were to take the whole ground flax.

For example, some people who have been grinding their own flax for years comment that, when they switch to the flax hull concentrate, they get better results. I'm sure they appreciate the convenience and the purity. When the results are so compelling to them, they don't seem to mind the cost. Ultimately, when I consider any supplement, I consider:

* Purity

* Quality

* Concentration

* Cost

* Results

To me, results are everything. Cost is irrelevant to me as long as what I am taking makes the changes in my body that I am looking for. The flax hull concentrate fulfills my goals to all of the above criteria.


1.) Flax: The genus Linum; Edited by Alister D. Muir and Neil D. Westcott, Taylor & Francis, 2003.

2.) Flaxseed Lignan: The Power of SDG in Promoting Health. Weisman, Charles A., Junker, Daniel, Weisman Publications, May, 2003.


The above article is reprinted from the Feb-Mar 2004 edition of Crusador, one of the most comprehensive health newsletters available today. Subscriptions are only $16.95 a year. Crusador Enterprises, P.O. Box 618205, Orlando, Florida 32861-8205

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