The oil pulling craze is really taking on the public’s radar these days.
Regardless, flaxseed oil is one that I’ve been using for something else that doesn’t involve swishing it in my mouth.
But first, let’s dive in to the actual seeds.
For about six or seven years now, the flaxseed is one of my pantry’s staple foods. As I’m close to emptying the package by Bob’s Red Mill, I’ve recently restocked my fridge with the ground seeds from a local health food store, Club Sehat,
I was first hooked when nutrition experts were hailing flaxseeds as one of the most omega-3-rich and fiber-dense foods out there. With its versatility, I thought I could easily fulfill my daily healthy-fat requirements with a fair share of flaxseeds on any meal. It’s not everyday that I get to eat fish (and I bet you too), and this looks like a sustainable way to meet my daily fat needs.
Slowly but surely, flaxseeds became a must-have topping for my morning oatmeal, and muesli, and yogurt, sometimes salads. It’s nice to have a little bit more texture on everything. They just add that sweet, nutty flavor that’s signature of the flax.
Since I’m pretty nuts about all things nutty, quite naturally, I grew to love flaxseeds.
According to WebMD, flax has been around since 3000 B.C. Back then, flax crops are widely cultivated in China and Egypt. Fast foward to the 8th century – king Charlemagne of France believed in the health benefits of flaxseeds so much that he passed a law that requires all his people to consume them.
Among its many health claims is in helping to reduce cholesterol levels. Just last January, the Flax Council of Canada accepted the claim that a daily consumption of five tablespoons (40g) of ground flaxseeds will help lower blood LDL cholesterol (a.k.a. the “bad” cholesterol), a sign of good cardiovascular health.
Well, let’s take a deeper look at its nutritional profile:
While it’s boasting a laundry list of beneficial nutrients, the two prime components of flaxseeds’ health-giving effects are its high levels of essential omega-3 fatty acids and the plant estrogen lignans.
Because our body does not synthesize essential fats, we’ve got to get them from food. The fats are needed for normal blood clotting, building brain cells, maintaining eye health (… and skin, and hair, and nails), regulating moods, boosting immunity, and keeping a strong heart, among the many functions. Like in most plant sources of omega-3s, the type in flaxseeds appear in the form of ALA (alpha-linoleic acid), which are harder to digest than the longer-chain EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) that are typically found in oily fish and other seafood. To meet our daily EPA and DHA needs, ALA from flaxseeds are partially converted into the other two types of omega-3s – that is, if you haven’t have your fish during the day.
Some heart-healthy effects of the fats in flaxseeds:
- fights inflammation
- lowers blood pressure
- stabilizes blood sugar levels
- improves blood lipid levels
- maintains heart’s natural rhythm
- reduces plaque buildup in the arteries
- protects against arthritis, obesity, and diabetes
As for the skin, “these fatty acids are responsible for the health of the cell membrane, which is not only what acts as the barrier to things that are harmful, but also the passageway for nutrients to cross in and out and for waste products to get in and out of the cell,” explained Tufts University nutritionist Ann Yelmokas McDermott, PhD, to WebMD.
The other component, lignans, are also reputed for its antioxidant properties. Together with the omega-3s, these compounds play a major role in balancing hormones in both men and women (think impotence, decreased libido, menopausal symptoms). Clinical research has attributed the lignans in flaxseeds to protect against hormone-sensitive cancers, namely breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer, and what’s nice is that flaxseeds has up to 800 times more lignans than other plant foods.
Flaxseed oil, on the other hand, is generally used as a nutritional supplement. And because I prefer the taste of the actual seeds1 and that the oil has a short shell life (it oxidizes pretty quickly – especially in the presence of heat and light), I didn’t know what else to do with it.
So instead of leaving it slowly degrade in my fridge, for the past few weeks, it’s became my “all-in-one” skincare formula: a cleanser, a moisturizer, a makeup remover, as well as a 10-minute hydrating mask.
I know it sounds weird to rub oil this rigorously when my skin type is oily/combination. But you know what’s weirder? My skin is now producing less oil.
Somehow the natural oils balanced themselves out. My T-zone doesn’t produce as much sebum, and my cheeks are looking more hydrated. I’m also breaking out less, with fading acne scars and the flushed areas lightened up.
To be fair, I think SK-II’s Facial Treatment Essence and Facial Treatment Clear Lotion had a lot to do with balancing out my overall skin condition, as well as the regular consumption of flaxseeds itself. But even before I started using flaxseed oil topically, I break out about 2-3 times a week. Along with that, I tend to have certain sensitive areas that get itchy at times, for whatever reasons they’re irritated. Like the other week when it’s raining everyday, I had about five blemishes popping up daily against the backdrop of a parched, blotchy, and utterly lifeless skin. It was uncontrollable.
Depending on the weather and my sleeping patterns, my skin can look like anything from both ends of the spectrum – from a greasy oil tank to a drying red lobster. But for the past three weeks or so, things are slowly mellowing out.
I massage my face with flaxseed oil religiously in the shower everyday, morning and night. And once or twice a week, I leave the oil on my face for ten or so minutes to soak before rinsing it off. Every other night, I also apply a very thin layer all over my face before I go to sleep.
Even after just one application, it’s easy to see that my skin is a lot less dull, and I certainly didn’t expect the big improvements in the weeks thereafter.
I won’t exactly describe my skin as plump or dewy now, but texture-wise, it’s amply restored and looking evenly hydrated. The blemishes have vanished, tone’s a lot milder, and it’s all smooth and supple throughout. The isolated patches are evened out completely, and my skin just looks healthier and more awake overall.
To top it all off, this flaxseed oil routine has saved me a bunch of time and money. Pretty much everything except toning, exfoliating, and sunscreen, all that I’ve been using for my skincare in the past weeks is flaxseed oil.
Just bear this in mind: Unless you want it to smell fishy within a week (or less), store the oil in the refrigerator at all times.
- I tried mixing a few tablespoons with honey and water as a drink, but still, flax packs more punch when it’s in the form of seeds. [↩]