Flax or linseed is the seed of an ancient plant called the Flax plant (Linum usitattisimum). A native plant of Eastern Mediterranean and India, it was cultivated extensively in ancient Egypt and Ethiopia. The predominant linseed producers of the world today are Canada, China and India. The Flax plant is the state emblem of Northern Ireland.In the prehistoric caves of the Republic of Georgia, dried flax fibers were found that dated back 30,000 years ago. Pictures of the tombs and temples of Thebes have flowering flax plants on the walls.They are one of the oldest fiber crops in the world. Ancient Egyptians used flax to produce linen and in Neolithic times people of Northern Europe used flax to produce cloth. In Northern America, flax was introduced by the Puritans. Flax fiber was extracted from the stem of the flax plant. The fiber was soft, lustrous and golden in color and from this was derived the term ‘flaxen haired’. The fiber is stronger than cotton but less elastic and the best grades of fiber are used for linen material like lace, cambric and damask while the lower grades are used to make rope and twine.The Flax is an annual plant with slender stems and flowers that are either a light blue or bright red. The fruits contain the tiny seeds that look like the seeds in the core of an apple. The seeds may be either brown called Brown Flax seeds or golden in color, called Golden Flax seeds. All the parts of a flax plant are useful. They are used to manufacture soaps, gels, paper, hair dye, fabric, medicines and even fishing nets.The seeds have energy, carbohydrates, sugar, fat, protein, thiamine, riboflavin, Pantothenic acid,Vitamin B 6,Folate, Vitamin C,calcium,Iron,Potassium, Phospheros,Magnesium and Zinc. A hundred grams of ground flax seed contains about 450 kilocalories, 41 grams of fat, 21 grams of fibre and 20 grams of protein. Flax seeds contain high levels of dietary fibres, cancer fighting lignans, micronutrients and Omega-3 fatty acids. The alpha linoleic acid and other unsaturated fatty acids in linseed protect the heart, lower cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels thereby helping diabetics, reduce obesity and check constipation wiuth their high levels of dietary fibres.Gargles made with the seeds soaked in water are good for sore throats and flax oil when applied on the affected part is a cure for nail fungus. The Omega 3 fatty acids in flax are good for the eyes keeping age related eye disorders under control.A research done at the breast cancer prevention program conductedat the Princess Margaret and the Toronto Hospitals found that that was a ‘slowing down in tumor growth’ of breast cancer patients who ate flaxseed muffins everyday. They ate a muffin a day with 50 grams of ground flaxseed. But an excessive consumption of flax seeds is not advised.Taken without adequate water might lead to intestinal blockage and the high quantities of fibre in the seeds might affect the power of oral drugs. The seeds should be in a minimum eaten either raw or boiled in water. The seeds or the flour may turn rancid if stored for a long period.Both brown and golden flax seeds have been consumed by humans for thousands of years,but the brown seeds were better used in paints,cattle feed and for fibers(the ancient Incas used them to make bowstrings).Mills for spinning flazen yarn were invented by John Kendrew and Thomas Porthouse of Darlington in 1787.The seeds produce a vegetable oil called flax oil or linseed oil that has been used for many centuries as a quick drying oil in painting and varnishing. Wooden and iron objects that are likely to rot against enviromental factors are protected with a coating of flax oil which is also a main component in the manufacture of linoleum that is used to cover floors. The flax fibres are being used as a raw material in the paper industries for bank notes and as rolling paper for tea bags and cigarretes.The tender sprouts of the flax plant with their slight spicy flavour have been eaten by people and in Northern parts of Bihar the roasted Tisi or flax seeds have been eaten in the villages along with boiled rice, water and salt. For over thousands of years the seeds or the flour or the oil have been used in the kitchen. For over 9000 years flax oil has been used in the Far East countries in their cooking. China the third largest grower of flax has been using the oil for cooking for 5000 years. The soldiers of the Roman Empire carried in their marches rations of bread baked with flaxseed. Every year Germany uses 66,000 tons of flaxseed in their baked bread and confectionary business.Flax seeds and flour are available in select departmental stores. You can buy fresh and small amounts of the seeds and add two tablespoons of seeds to baked bread or buns or use 50 grams of flour while kneading atta for chapathis. Do not store seeds or flour for long as they tend to turn rancid.