(From soft, smooth; from its smooth texture). Flax. Linum usitatissimum Lin. Sp. Pl. 397, is properly called line, only while standing green in the field, without any inner bark: when the inner bark is perfected, it is called flax.
Line, or lintseed, is of a reddish brown colour, glossy, flat, slippery, nearly oval, and pointed, with an unctuous, mucilaginous, sweet taste, but no smell. On expression much oil is obtained from it, which, if drawn without heat, is insipid, but does not congeal with the winter's cold, nor form a solid soap when mixed with alkalis, but acts more powerfully than any expressed oil as a menstruum on sulphureous bodies. When this oil is sweet it is emollient; when rancid, it is said to be more powerful as an expectorant. It is supposed to be-more healing than the other oils of this class, and consequently more often employed in pulmonary complaints, in colics, and constipations of the bowels. In burns and scalds, and when women's breasts are inflamed from the milk stagnating in them, it affords considerable relief. If the seeds are boiled in water, they afford a large quantity of mucilage; but if designed for internal use, an infusion is more agreeable. Infusions of lintseed are emollient and demulcent, of use in tickling coughs, stranguries, & c. A spoonful of the seeds unbruised is sufficient for a quart of water; but liquorice root is often added, and, with the addition of colt's foot leaves, it is called the pectoral infusion.
The mucilage obtained by inspissating the decoctions is an excellent addition for reducing powders of an unpleasant taste into the form of an electuary. The seeds may be used for promoting the digestion of abscesses after the oil is expressed from them; but such applications are generally made by stirring a sufficient quantity of the meal into boiling water to form it of a proper consistence. A cataplasm of this kind is esteemed as an emollient; but the lintseed meal alone is so mucilaginous that it requires the addition of some soft bread to adapt it for this purpose. See Lewis's Materia Medica.
It is the name also of some of the finer species of Amianthus, q. v.
Linum catharticum, Lin. Sp. Pl. 401, linum mini-mum, chamelinum, mountain flax, mill mountain, and purging flax, is a small plant, with little, oblong, smooth leaves, having one rib running along the middle. The stalk is slender, reddish, divided towards the upper part into fine branches, bearing on the tops white flowers, followed, as in the common flax, by roundish ribbed capsules, with ten flattish unctuous seeds in each. It is annual, and grows wild on chalky hills and dry pasture grounds; is an effectual, safe purge; for which purpose a handful of the fresh leaves infused in wine or whey, or a drachm of the leaves in powder, is sufficient. See Raii Historia; Lewis's Materia Medica.