Flax is a plant that has been used as a food source in Asia and Europe for more than 7,000 years, according to Duane Berglund, author of "Trends in New Crops and New Uses." Flax also has a long history of use in the production of textiles; the fiber of flax stems was traditionally used for linen. Flaxseed oil and linseed oil both come from the flax plant, but they differ in production methods and application.
Flaxseed oil is typically produced by cold-pressing the seeds of the flax plant. Cold-pressing means that heat and chemicals are not used in oil extraction. A screw press is typically used for extracting edible flaxseed oil, which may be derived from unhulled seeds or a combination of seeds and hulls. Linseed oil also involves pressing flax seeds; however, petroleum solvents are used during extraction to maximize yield.
Flaxseed Oil Uses
Flaxseed oil is typically used as a dietary supplement. It is a rich source of essential fatty acids, particularly alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA. Your body converts ALA into docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, and eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. DHA and EPA, which are also found in fish oil, may help reduce heart disease risk and reduce tissue inflammation. However, because the body's conversion of ALA to DHA and EPA is inefficient, it is unclear whether flaxseed oil provides the same level of benefit as fish oil.
Linseed Oil Uses
Because petroleum is used in the extraction of linseed oil, it is not edible. Linseed oil is primarily used for industrial applications, particularly as an additive to paints and coatings. It is also commonly used as a paint thinner.
Both linseed and flaxseed oils should be stored in dark or opaque containers to avoid breakdown from light exposure. Flaxseed oil is typically refrigerated to further prevent chemical breakdown. Refrigeration of flaxseed oil may help reduce changes in the quality of taste and aroma. Flaxseed oil can also be frozen, but freezing may not offer significant advantages over refrigeration for preserving aroma and taste.