Herb: Perennial Flax

Latin name: Linum perenne

Synonyms: Linum lewisii

Family: Linaceae (Flax Family)

Medicinal use of Perennial Flax:

The plant is antirheumatic, carminative and stomachic. The oil in the seed has soothing and lubricating properties, and is used in medicines to soothe tonsillitis, sore throats, coughs, colds, constipation, gravel and stones. When mixed with an equal quantity of lime water it is used to treat burns and scalds. A poultice of the fresh crushed leaves has been used to treat eye problems. A tincture of the entire plant is used in the treatment of diarrhoea. The fresh herb is boiled and taken internally for the treatment of rheumatic pains, heartburn, colds, coughs and dropsy. A poultice of the plant is applied to bruises to reduce the swelling. The seeds are emollient. An eye medicine is made from them. An infusion of the roots is used as an eyewash.

Description of the plant:


30 cm
(11 3/4 inch)

to July

Habitat of the herb:

Calcareous grassland. Prairies to alpine ridges, usually on dry well-drained soils in Western N. America.

Edible parts of Perennial Flax:

Seed - cooked. A pleasant nutty taste and very nutritious. The seed has a high oil content and can be eaten on its own or used as a flavouring. It should not be eaten raw because it contains cyanide but this is destroyed in the cooking process.

Other uses of the herb:

A drying oil is obtained from the seed. 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 is used as a hair and skin wash. It is said to be very beneficial to the skin and also to help prevent hair loss. A good fibre is obtained from the stems, it is inferior to flax (Linum usitatissimum) but is used for making cloth, nets, string, baskets, mats etc and in paper making. When used for paper making, the stems are harvested in late summer or autumn when they are two thirds yellow and are then retted. The fibre is then stripped from the stem, cooked for two hours or more with lye and then beaten in a Hollander beater.

Propagation of Perennial Flax:

Seed - sow spring in greenhouse. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the summer. Basal cuttings in spring. Harvest the shoots when they are about 8 - 10cm long with plenty of underground stem. Pot them up into individual pots and keep them in light shade in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the summer.

Cultivation of the herb:

Calcareous grassland. Prairies to alpine ridges, usually on dry well-drained soils in Western N. America.

Known hazards of Linum perenne:

The raw seed contains cyanide and should not be eaten raw. The cooked seed is perfectly safe.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.