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Kinky, curly or wavy hair can be a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because it is so versatile and interesting -- an attention grabber. But when the curl or wave pattern is left undefined or interacts with humidity or rain, it can turn into an unruly mass. So, we empty our wallets in hot pursuit of the perfect hair care product, especially a finishing project, that will tame our tresses.

Many have found that hair products containing flaxseed oil can give our curls definition and firm, yet touchable, hold.

Flax is an herb that has both external and internal benefits.

When consumed, flaxseed provides a number of health benefits. Flaxseed is something we’ve been hearing a lot about because of the omega 3 enzymes it contains. According to the American Heart Association, omega 3 fatty acids help the heart of healthy individuals with high risk factors for coronary heart disorders[1]. The FDA gives omega-3’s qualified support saying, "supportive but not conclusive research shows that consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Some parents of autistic children use the oil successfully to alleviate some of the symptoms of that disorder; and it has also been used with people who have bipolar disorder and schizophrenia with success because it effects neurotransmitters in the brain.

While the oil help prevent and treat all types of ills, the seed can be processed into a curl-friendly gel. The fact that it is as useful taken internally as externally is remarkable, something you don’t run into often. Let’s take a look at this herb to see where it comes from; what it is and why its uses are so plentiful in hair care and elsewhere for our health.

History

I have seen a few health writers refer to flax seed oil as a newer ingredient, but flax actually is one of the oldest cultivated plants on earth. Linneaus, a Swedish botanist, placed flax in the Linaceae family. He named it partially after himself and partly for its practicality as "most useful plant," which is Linum usitatissimum in the botanical Latin.

Folklore and Mythology

In folk medicine, we see a crossover into herbalist recommendations for flaxseed. For example, it is used in folk medicine to treat colds and constipation. In addition, in folklore flaxseeds are used as well as for digestive, urinary tract problems, gallstones and lung diseases.

Flax has a rich history in Europe. In Teutonic myth, flax flowers were thought to act as protective devices, shielding its users from Queen Hulda’s sorcery. Flaxseeds are also used in luck and fertility rites.

Herbal Uses

As I have mentioned, flaxseed has a venerable history as a healer in Europe. One of the earliest healers, Dioscorides of Greece, championed flaxseed to ease inflammation. He also developed a poultice made from flaxseed, honey and figs in the first century A.D., suggesting it was a good preventative and treatment of sunburn.

The 17th century English herbalist Nicholas Culpeper suggested boiling the seed in water and applying it as a poultice to soothe pain and ease symptoms of colds, tumors and swelling. Blended with fig, it was used by Culpeper’s followers to treat boils and other skin disorders.

Today, herbalists still hold fast to suggestions by herbalists from days of old recommending flaxseed for treating constipation, gastritis, pharyngitis, colds, and hardening of the arteries and rheumatoid arthritis. Exterior wounds, burns, boils, abscesses and ulcers are also treated with flaxseed.

Creative Uses

Flax has been used for food, fabric (linen) in housing and in the arts. The seed has been called linseed in the past and today it is known more popularly as flaxseed. It is easy to remember each by its use: flaxseed oil is the health grade for consumption and health and beauty, whereas linseed oil is more commercial grade and not for internal use. It is used more in the arts and crafts.

Oil painters use linseed oil. The oil is used to add flexibility and sheen to oil paints. As its name indicates, the floor covering "linoleum" is created from solidified linseed oil. Linseed oil is used in furniture production, staining and preservation. This oil also is used in the printmaking process. By-products of linseed production are used in animal feed.

Phytochemicals within Flaxseed

Flaxseeds are beady, small and dark brown -- the shape of long grain rice but only half the size. The oil is yellowish to a deep yellow (as it ages), with only the faintest nutty scent. Phytochemicals within the seed vary. Scientists in Canada, is leading grower, studied the seeds scientifically and found that on average the oil is about 43 percent protein.

The oil is over half a-linolenic acid (ALA), an essential fatty acid. Its fiber contains high levels of lignan. The gums and mucilage present in the flaxseed may have beneficial effects. Folk healers may not have been terribly far off in the projections and uses of flax. It turns out that the interesting combination of chemical qualities of flaxseed makes it rich with curative properties in the future. including use in the treatment of high cholesterol, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, malaria and even cancer.

The lignans in particular within flaxseed have an anti-tumor, anti-viral and enzyme inhibiting function when incorporated in the daily diet. Many of us are consuming flaxseed oil by the tablespoon, but breads and cereals with flaxseeds or flax flour -- along with a generally high-fiber diet -- are very promising in the reduction of cancerous tumors. High cholesterol, a problem that can lead to coronary heart disease, shows a positive reduction through the use of flaxseed. Flaxseed is rich in mucilage. It is the same mucilage that we gain from the seeds to use as hair gel that also is useful in reducing LDL cholesterol.

Using Flaxseed in your Diet

To benefit from flaxseed’s fiber, trace vitamins, minerals, amino acids, omega-3 and lignin, take two tablespoons, which contains 70 calories. Buy organic flaxseed or cold pressed flaxseed oil.

When you buy it as whole seed, grind in a mortar and pestle or with a coffee-bean grinder until fine. Store ground and whole seeds, as well as the oil, in the fridge. To use:

Sprinkle 2 tablespoons on salads, main dishes or add to smoothies, fresh juices, shakes or hot cereal. Take flaxseed oil orally by the teaspoon (1-2 per day) or add it to salad dressing.

Brewing flaxseed tea makes a very effective, dependable remedy for irregularity. Flaxseed Hair Care

You can make a reliable hair styling gel quite easily from flaxseeds because they release so much mucilage, a type of natural gel, when cooked. The mucilage is gelatinous and tan colored when first created. But don’t let that put you off using it. It is wonderful when applied to the hair. Your hair will not get dry or feel hard nor will you have flakiness or be susceptible to dandruff after using it.

Summary

Flax is one of those plants that is familiar in a variety of ways. Today flax is all the more available to us as a ready-to-use oil or as a very practical natural ingredient for our hair.


Commercial Flax Hair-Care ProductsFor those desiring the ease of a ready-made product, the following products contain flaxseed:

Or Make Your Own!

Flaxseed Styling Gel

This natural gel doesn’t get flaky once or dry out hair nor does it encourage dandruff. It is easy to make and use, adding volume and leaving a subtle sheen. Beautifully scented essential oils add a citrus/floral scent to this blend. If you have allergies or sensitivity to scents you can skip the essential oils. This recipe can be created for a fraction of the price of commercial hair gel.

1-teaspoon whole, fresh flaxseeds ¾ cup water ¼ cup grain alcohol or vodka 8 drops each: geranium, lemongrass and neroli essential oils

Add the flaxseed to the water in pot; bring to a boil. Stir. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 10 more minutes then remove from heat. Let cool about 30 minutes. Strain through a sieve or coffee filter over a non-reactive bowl. Whisk vodka or grain alcohol and essential oils into the bowl. Cover and thicken overnight, or about eight hours.

Apply natural gel to freshly washed hair divided into small sections. It will help define curls and hold hair into smooth updos and chignons, or you can use it as you would a commercial setting lotion.

Resources

1) A couple of good online essential oil suppliers are: 100 Pure Essential Oils and Liberty Natural (which requires a $50 minimum). Liberty Natural Products also sells bottles, jars, absolutes, flaxseed and many other natural ingredients so it is easy to accrue their minimum.

2) Wholesale Supplies Plus sells flaxseed, sells bottles, jars, funnels and labels.

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