After a period of decline with the fall of Rome, Charlemagne put forth laws that instituted the use of flax once again because of the considered hygiene of linen fabrics and the health benefits of flaxseed oil. By the Middle Ages, Flanders was the center of the linen industry and centuries later, flax arrived in the New World with the colonists, where it was a mainstay in textile production until it was finally overtaken by cheaper cotton in the early 20th century.
All down the ages, flax proved itself to be extremely useful for the production of textiles, ropes, oil and seeds for human consumption, as well as feed for livestock. Its given name, Linum usitatissimum, literally means ‘very useful’!
Today, we have become far more aware of flax’s value nutritionally. It is rich in ALA (omega-3 fatty acid), fiber and contains as much as 800 times more lignans than other plant foods. Lignans are chemical compounds in plant-based foods that when digested, are activated by intestinal bacteria. It is theorized that they may have anti-inflammatory properties and possibly reduce the risk of heart disease. Research has shown that flax lignans may reduce growth of cancerous tumors, particularly those that are hormone-sensitive (i.e. breast, endometrial, and prostate).