There are many herbal supplements that have been used throughout history--flaxseed is one such herb. For centuries flaxseed has been used to treat constipation and ground flaxseed as an external balm. Currently, not only in flaxseed being used to promote good health, but also its derivative, flaxseed oil. While many of the health benefits thought to belong to flaxseed oil belong to conditions of both sexes, there are some touted benefits for women's health conditions as well.
Flaxseed oil, which is derived from flaxseed from the flax plant, a naturally occurring plant, is also referred to as linseed oil. While both flaxseed whole and flaxseed oil contain the beneficial alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), flaxseed oil does not contain the lignan and fibre of the unprocessed flaxseed. Flaxseed and flaxseed oil are categorised as herbal supplements.
Women and men alike can reap the overall benefits of flaxseed or flaxseed oil. The alpha-linolenic acid is an essential fatty acid that in your body is a precursor to omega-3 fatty acids. The following conditions, which may affect people of either sex, may benefit from the use of flaxseed or flaxseed oil:
Hypertension (high blood pressure); heart disease; hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol); gout; lupus; eczema; psoriasis; sunburn; and nerve damage.
Additionally, flaxseed or flaxseed oil may help to prevent some cancers and promote the growth of healthy nails and hair.
Flaxseed, either whole or ground---but not the flaxseed oil---may be beneficial in the treatment of constipation, gallstones and "some diverticular disorders" (Whole Health M.D.)
Benefits for Women
Among the many benefits for the use of flaxseed and/or flaxseed oil for conditions affecting women, this herb may be helpful for use in endometriosis, menstrual cramps, the symptoms of menopause and infertility.
When consuming flaxseed, either whole or ground, it is important that it is taken with a generous amount of liquid to prevent it from either obstructing your swallowing or forming an obstruction in the bowel.
Use during pregnancy is something that you must discuss with your health-care provider. There is evidence that flaxseed oil used during the last two trimesters of pregnancy can quadruple a woman's chances of premature labour. This information comes from a study reported in Science Daily from research conducted by "Professor Anick Berard of the Universite de Montreals Faculty of Pharmacy and the Sainte-Justine Hospital Research Center and Master's student Krystel Moussally.
Flaxseed oil may interact with some prescription medications; you should discuss the use of flaxseed oil with your health-care provider if you are on any prescription medications.
Depending on which sources you read, there are varying statements about the health benefits of flaxseed oil. While some sources will tell you outright that flaxseed oil has been proven to aid one condition/disease or another, the Mayo Clinic provides this information, dated March 1, 2008: "Although omega-3 fatty acids have been associated with improved cardiovascular outcomes, evidence from human trials is mixed regarding the efficacy of flaxseed products for coronary artery disease or hyperlipidemia." (Hyperlipidemia is high cholesterol).
Information from the University of Maryland Medical Center, which was last reviewed April 1, 2007, includes conditions/disease for which flaxseed oil and/or flaxseed may be helpful or in which animal studies have suggested positive results. These general conditions are coronary artery disease and hyperlipidemia.
Flaxseed oil, as is true with many natural supplements, does not yet have conclusive medical evidence---human studies with replicable results---for the medical community to endorse its use. This doesn't mean that flaxseed oil isn't beneficial to your health, but that you should be an informed person about supplements and vitamins in general, and flaxseed oil specifically.