The dried ripe seeds of the flax. They contain a fixed oil and a quantity of mucilage. The whole seeds are used to make a demulcent drink, flaxseed tea; ground into meal, they are used for poultices; and the oil, mixed with equal parts of lime-water, is called Carron oil, and is used as a dressing for burns.
Flaxseed Tea. Pour one quart of boiling water over four ounces of flaxseed (whole). Let it boil for half an hour, and afterwards stand near the fire for fifteen or twenty minutes. Strain and sweeten it, and flavor with lemon-juice.
A flaxseed poultice must be made over a fire, or alcohol lamp. The water must be boiling actively when the meal is added, and must continue to boil until the poultice is done. Flaxseed bubbles and seethes at a point of heat below the boiling point of water, and is thus deceptive if it is added to the water in the first place. It must be sprinkled in with the left hand and stirred constantly with the right. If added in handfuls the poultice will be lumpy. When it has reached a proper consistency, not thick enough to be stiff, nor thin enough to run, it must be taken off the fire and thoroughly beaten for several minutes. This makes it light and spongy. A perfect poultice will leave the spoon and vessel clean, and reaches this point by being sufficiently boiled.
Flaxseed poultices are sedative. They relieve pain and relax spasm. In the early stages of an inflammation they draw the blood to the surface and relieve congestion. Resolution may thus be brought about and the formation of pus avoided.
If suppuration has begun, the action of poultices favors the process. It is, therefore, not considered well to use them in the later stages of an acute inflammation, as is often seen done in the home treatment of abscesses, etc. Such cases should be brought to a physician for proper treatment, and this is the more important if the inflammation is near a joint.
Poultices, if kept up too long, give the tissues a flabby, water-soaked appearance; make granulations pale, flabby, and unhealthy; depress the circulation and the vaso-motor system, and may impair seriously the vitality of the part.