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You've heard that flaxseed oil might help decrease your chance of heart disease, high cholesterol and rheumatoid arthritis. You may not have heard that alternative medicine pracitioners also use flaxseed oil to stimulate hair growth and decrease the symptoms of alopecia. Now that your attention is focused -- after all, the way to a woman's heart is through her hair -- here comes the reality check: Flaxseed oil isn't a medically approved way to treat hair problems. Have a frank talk with your doctor about the possible benefits and disadvantages before leaping in.
Flaxseed oil -- also sometimes called linseed oil -- contains a high concentration of essential fatty acids, especially the omega-6 fatty acid ALA, or alpha-linolenic acid. ALA doesn't belong in the same powerhouse, anti-cancer category as the omega-3 fatty acids you get from fish and fish oil pills, but the University of Maryland Medical Center advises that both types of omega fatty acids are needed for optimal health. More scientific research needs to be conducted before health professionals can be certain that supplementing with omega-6 fatty acids is a safe and effective method for preventing diseases or conditions like hair loss.
Benefits for Hair
The omega fatty acids in flaxseed oil may benefit your hair by increasing the rate of growth and decreasing scalp inflammation in people who are struggling with hair loss because of scalp-based psoriasis or eczema. If your diet doesn't include enough fatty acids, you'll end up with dull, dry, lifeless hair, so it seems intuitive that consuming more can only help. Naturopaths recommend taking 1 tablespoon or up to two 1,000-milligram flaxseed oil capsules daily, though they caution you might have to take the oil for more than a year before you see any benefits.
Possible Side Effects
Supplementing with flaxseed oil can cause a number of side effects, including diarrhea, gas, nausea and abdominal pain. Flaxseed oil may also interfere with the proper function of medications like cyclosporine, blood thinners, topical steroids, insulin, cholesterol medications such as lovastatin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like naproxen or ibuprofen. If you're pregnant, don't take any chances with flaxseed oil -- Medline Plus reports that the oil might increase your risk of delivering your baby prematurely. Also avoid flaxseed oil if you have a surgery coming up or if you suffer from diabetes or a blood disorder.
Before you give flaxseed oil a whirl for your hair problems, realize that flaxseed oil supplements aren't approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This means that any commercial flaxseed oil products that you may purchase have not been checked for purity or safety. Scientists have very little information on how much flaxseed oil is too much for you to take without health effects, or whether it's safe to take the oil regularly over long periods of time.