Flax is an annual plant that has been cultivated since antiquity with a blue flower that was used by the Sumerians and the Egyptians 6,000-8,000 years ago (the mummies were wrapped in linen cloths), although it was also cultivated by the people that built houses on stilts (Lake Constance, Unteruhldingen). It is not known exactly where the plant originated. The Germans cultivated it. Until the sixteenth century, Germany was one of the? Industrial nations? main, in flax cultivation. The threat was presented with cotton, which was more flexible and easier to dye, which caused a dramatic reduction in the crop. Today, the main producing countries are those that border the Silver River, along with the US, Canada, India, Egypt, the former Soviet Union and, to a lesser extent, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and, recently, and again, Germany.
The dried brown capsules of this plant each contain 6-7 seeds, with an oil content of approximately 38-44%. After these capsules have been ground, the resulting product is pressed (cold pressed linseed oil) or the oil is extracted with solvent, before the refining process (refined linseed oil).
Cold pressed linseed oil is a clear, golden yellow, brown, or yellowish-green liquid with a characteristic odor and taste. The refined product is light golden yellow. Due to the refining process, the characteristic smell and taste are less obvious. The name ‘refined flaxseed oil’ also covers a partially refined product that is on the market. It has been neutralized and bleached, but not deodorized.
Linseed oil is rich in oleic and linoleic acids (in approximately equal proportions) but especially in linoleic acid. The oil has strong drying properties and, when extended, it dries as a solid and transparent film within 24 to 36 hours (auto-oxidation). Flaxseed oil is used mainly in the chemical industry, as raw material for the production of oils, varnishes, surface coatings based on oils and linoleum. It is also used, to a lesser extent, to modify the alkyd resins (alkyd linseed oil) and in the preparation of soaps, mastics, printing inks and liniments. Because of its polymerized properties, flaxseed oil can be used as a paint binder. Linseed oil produced by heating without air is viscous, the coatings are solid, elastic and able to withstand climatic and temperature changes. Linseed oil is also used as a purgative (sheep and horses) in veterinary medicine, as well as in cosmetics (exfoliating creams). Cold pressed linseed oil is used on a smaller scale as table oil, mainly in Eastern European countries.