Linseed; its economic and medicinal significance

Linseed (Linum usitatissimum L.) belongs to genus Linum of Linaceae family. It is also known as flax or Alsi in Hindi. It is an important Rabi oilseed crop in India having several uses. It is mainly cultivated in central India, however it’s cultivation spreads from Himalayas to Karnataka. The crop is originated in Southwest Asia (Vavilov 1935). It has two different forms that are used: for fiber (namely fiber flax) and for oil production (namely oil flax, or linseed) (Kurt 1996). Linseed has been providing a variety of health benefits (Thompson and Cunnane 2003). The components that contribute the health benefits include lignans (up to 13 mg/g flaxseed), á-linolenic acid (ALA) and non-starch polysaccharides. This crop it has been in cultivation since ancient times for seed as well as for oil.

Linseed (Linum usitatissimum L.) is commercially cultivated for the main products seed oil (industrial oil linseed) and fibre (flax fibre) or both (dual purpose linseed), but recently it has gained a new interest in the emerging market of functional food due to its high content of fatty acids, alpha linolenic acid (ALA), an essential Omega 3 fatty acid and lignin content or SDG (secoisolariciresinol diglucoside) which constitute about 57 % of total fatty acids in linseed. Traditionally, the oil pressed from the seed (linseed oil) has been used for a variety of industrial purposes and the oil free meal could be fed to livestock. Omega-3 fatty acids lower levels of triglycerides in the blood, thereby reducing heart disease and also show promise in the battle against inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Linoleic acid, an Omega-6 essential fatty acid is also found in linseed. Linseed oil contains three times as much Omega-3 fatty acid fatty than Omega-6 fatty acid. The major nutritional components of Linseed are oil (fat) 41 %, dietary fibre 28 %, protein 20 %, moisture 7 % and Ash 4%. Linseed is naturally low in saturated fat and has a moderate amount of monounsaturated fat. The Fatty Acid Composition of Linseed Oil is about polyunsaturated fatty acids (Omega-3s) 57 %; polyunsaturated fatty acids (Omega- 6s) 16 %, Monounsaturated fatty acids 18 % and saturated fatty acids 9 %. Most of the fatty acids in linseed are polyunsaturated. Linseed is particularly rich in alpha linolenic acid, the essential omega-3 fatty acid. Because of its high ALA content, flax has an omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio of 0.3:1. Eating less omega-6 fats and more omega-3 fats may help lower the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

As the crop has its own health benefits, in addition to the good market values that famers may derive; flaxseed is gaining its magnitude in the market. Farmers opting for the crop should put into consideration the proper package of practices for maximizing gains. Integrated nutrient management (INM) and integrated pest management (IPM) should be followed. An average of 500-1000 kg /ha yield can be obtained by the used of recommended improved varieties. The present day varieties include Gaurav, Padmini, JLS-9, Jeevan (DPL-21), Meera, Surbhi (KL-1), Him Alsi-2 (DPL-17), etc.


Kurt, O. 1996. Flax (Linum usitatissimum L.) production and utilization. University of Ondokuz Mayls. J. Fac. Agric. 11: 189-194.

Thompson, L. U. and Cunnane, S. C. 2003. Flaxseed in Human Nutrition. AOCS Publishing. P.

Vavilov, N. I. 1935. Studies on the origin of cultivated plants. Bull. Bot. Pl. Breed.16: 39-145

About Author / Additional Info:
PhD Research scholar (PBG)