Western Blue Flax
Linum lewisii Pursh
Synonym: L. perenne
General: hairless and somewhat bluish-waxy-coated
perennial 10-60 cm tall, with several stems, branching
above, from a woody root crown.
Leaves: alternate, linear, numerous, 1-3 cm long and
about 2 mm broad, 1-nerved, pointed to rounded, slightly
smaller upwards on the stem.
Flowers: few in small, open clusters, the flower stalks
slender, about as long as the flowers, usually curved back
in fruit. The 5 sepals 4-7 mm long, the edges membranous,
entire. The 5 petals showy, blue, 10-23 mm long, soon
dropped. Stamens 5, joined at the base and forming a very
short tube bearing small toothlike staminodia, about 1 mm
long, alternate with the filaments. Styles 5, considerably
longer than the stamens, the stigmas round.
Flowering time: May-July.
Fruits: capsules, rounded, 10-celled, splitting
lengthwise along the seams, with 1 or 2 seeds per cell.
The seeds are flattened to rounded, often becoming slimy
From prairies to alpine ridges, usually on dry, well-drained
soil, in most parts of MT. Also widespread throughout w.
N. America and in Eurasia.
Edible and Medicinal plant, see below.
(click on image for full size)
(click on images for full size)
The seeds of western blue flax are edible cooked. They have a pleasant nutty taste and are very nutritious.
It should not be eaten raw because it contains cyanide but this is destroyed in the cooking process. Because
of its link to good health, flaxseed is fast becoming a new food in many diets. Flaxseed adds a pleasant
flavor to many basic foods, but its unique blend of goodness also packs a strong nutritious punch. Flaxseed
is rich in dietary fiber and alpha-linolenic acid, an essential omega-3 fat which may protect against
heart disease and cancer. Flaxseed also provides a plentiful supply of lignans - cancer blocking components,
which animal studies show reduce the formation of tumors. Recent scientific reports point out that flaxseed
can have a positive influence on everything from blood cholesterol levels to laxation, from cancer to
diseases of the heart, and immune systems such as arthritis and lupus.
The plant is antirheumatic, and has agents that relieve and remove gas from the digestive system, and
contains substances which give strength and tone to the stomach. It is said to be soothing and softening
to irritated membranes. The ground seed mixed with boiling water to make a thick mush is used for poultices.
A poultice can be used on old sores, boils, inflammations, skin ulcers, wounds, and tumors.
The plant is used for female disorders and colon problems. It promotes strong nails, bones, and teeth
and healthy skin. A decoction of the seeds can be used for coughs, catarrh, chronic bronchitis, asthma,
pleurisy, fever, dropsy, leprosy, pimples, age spots, burns, scalds, gout, inflammation, cystitis, lung
and chest problems, and digestive, gastritis, dyspepsia, diarrhea, and urinary disorders. To eliminate
gallstones, a 1 1/2 to 2 table spoon of linseed oil can be taken, after which one lies down on the left
side for a half hour. The gallstones will pass into the intestines and be eliminated from there. Eating
the seeds intact is useful for chronic constipation. The seeds swell up in the intestines, encouraging
elimination by increasing the volume of fecal matter. For emollient uses and for rheumatic complaints,
a linseed poultice can be applied. The oil was a folk remedy used for pleurisy and pneumonia. The seed
has been used for a very long time as a medicine. 1 teaspoon of the whole seed mixed with water, orange
juice, vegetable juice, etc., can be taken to provide a gentle lubricant laxative. Or this mixture can
be used as an enema.
To remove foreign bodies from the eye, one can place a grain of whole flaxseed under the lower lid, and
then close the lids. The seed becomes surrounded by a thick, adherent mucilage, which entraps the foreign
body, and soon carries it out from the angle of the eye. If the particle is not removed easily, a doctor
should be consulted. Linseed oil is obtained from the crushed seeds.
Various native peoples used flax for cordage and string, as well as for mats, snowshoes, fishing nets
and baskets. Flax is also grown for the linen fibers which are obtained from the stems. A drying oil is
obtained from the seed. It is used mainly for lighting, though it could also be used in all the ways that
linseed oil (from Linum usitatissimum) is used - in paints, varnishes etc. An infusion of the whole plant
has been used as a hair and skin wash. It is reportedly very beneficial to the skin and also to help prevent
Copyright © Plant-Life.org