[Flax, Flaxseed Oil, Linseed Oil ] Linum usitatissimum

Origin: Seed of the flax plant, containing omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and lignans (beneficial plant compounds, similar to fiber).

Dosage: Whole seeds, ground meal or flour, capsules or oil. Whole seeds must be ground into meal or flour; 30 g (1 ounce) daily. Capsules, available in 1,000 mg to 1,300 mg, no typical dosage. Oil, 1 to 3 tablespoons daily.

Claims: Eases symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and Raynaud’s phenomenon. Lubricates joints and lessens stiffness and joint pain. Lowers total cholesterol and reduces risk of heart disease and some types of cancer. Improves hot flashes and dry skin.

What we know: Flaxseed is high in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid that can be converted to EPA and DHA (the active ingredients in fish oil). Flaxseed is a good source of fiber.

Studies: Lack of studies on whether flaxseed improves symptoms of RA, but omega-3 fatty acids are known anti-inflammatories. Mixed results about whether flaxseed or flaxseed oil can accelerate or slow progression of prostate cancer.

 Fiber in flaxseed can impair absorption of some medications, and as flaxseed acts as a blood thinner, beware when taking blood thinners, aspirin or other NSAIDs. Flaxseed should be avoided if you have hormone-sensitive breast or uterine cancer, and used with caution if you have high cholesterol and are taking cholesterol-lowering drugs.