Flax oil, derived from pressing flax seeds, is possibly the best plant-based source of omega 3 fatty acids.
It’s a mildly-flavored and extremely healthy oil that can be mixed into recipes for healthier eating or taken by itself as a supplement.
Flax oil shares its benefits with all sources of omega 3 fatty acids; these benefits range from better cardiovascular health and lower levels of systemic inflammation to improvements in cognitive function and even mental health.
If you want to use flaxseed oil to capitalize on these health benefits, our research team has gone through the top flax oils on the market and ranked the top ten according to quality. After our reviews, we’ll go in-depth on the science behind the health benefits of flax oil.
1. Barlean’s Fresh Flax Oil
Barlean’s is one of the biggest names in natural seed oils thanks to its careful processing that preserves as much of the naturally-occurring nutrients in its oils as possible.
Their Fresh Flax Oil is organically grown and is cold-pressed soon after harvesting for maximal nutritional value and potency.
The opaque plastic bottle also ensures that the antioxidant power of the flax seed oil won’t be degraded by exposure to light. If you don’t need your flax oil measured out into capsules, Barlean’s is an excellent choice for a liquid flax oil.
2. NatureWise Flaxseed Oil
NatureWise Flaxseed Oil makes the top capsule based flax oil supplement on the market right now thanks to its high dosage (1200 mg per capsule) and the fact that it provides the exact breakdown of the amounts of omega 3, omega 6, and omega 9 fatty acids that are present in the oil.
If you are trying to adjust your omega fatty acid ratios, this is incredibly useful. The only drawback for some users is the gelatin in the capsule—people looking for a vegan source of omega 3 might want to opt for a product with a cellulose based capsule or a liquid flax oil.
3. Solgar Earth Source Organic Flaxseed Oil
Solgar Earth Source Organic Flaxseed Oil is certified organic and comes in a nonreactive glass bottle that’s amber-tinted to protect the oil from oxidation and spoilage.
It’s cold-pressed to preserve the nutrients in the raw flax seeds, making it a great choice if you want a liquid flax oil supplement.
4. Nature’s Way EfaGold Organic Flax Oil
Nature’s Way EfaGold Organic Flax Oil delivers 24 ounces of liquid flax oil that’s refined to increase the content of lignan, one of the compounds in flax oil though to be responsible for some of its unique health benefits.
If you are a high-volume user of flax oil and want high concentrations of omega 3 and lignan, Nature’s Way is a good pick.
5. NatureMade Flaxseed Oil
NatureMade Flaxseed Oil is fairly high dose, at 1400 mg per softgel. While it is not certified organic, it does deliver one of the highest dosages per capsule that you’ll find.
However, if you want to take truly large doses of flax oil, it’s still more advantageous to just use a liquid based flax oil supplement.
6. NOW Flax Oil
NOW Flax Oil makes a simple and easy to use flax oil supplement that is capsule-based and delivers 1000 mg of oil per capsule.
If you are a strict vegetarian or vegan you’ll have to look elsewhere, though, since the capsules contain gelatin. That aside, it’s a very solid pick if you want a high dosage capsule based form of flax oil.
7. Natrol Flaxseed Oil
Natrol Flaxseed Oil comes in gelatin capsules that deliver 1000 mg of flax oil each. The supplement design is pretty clean, and you even get info on the exact breakdown of the different fatty acids in each capsule. While it is not organically certified, it’s still a pretty solid choice.
8. 2Healthy Premium Flaxseed Oil
2Healthy Premium Flaxseed Oil is a pretty standard capsule based flax oil supplement. The gelatin capsules have 1000 mg of flax oil each, and although it’s a decent all-purpose flax supplement, it’s difficult to rank any higher because it does not distinguish itself with any additional desirable features, like an organic certification or higher than average dosage.
9. Puritan’s Pride Organic Flaxseed Oil
Puritan’s Pride Organic Flaxseed Oil comes in a large 16 ounce bottle, and is certified organic. The main issue with this flax oil is that the container isn’t opaque at all—the plastic is almost completely clear, which means that it won’t be able to block any incoming visible light.
The effect could be a degradation of the antioxidant capabilities of the flax seed oil over time, especially if you do not store it in a dark cupboard.
The problem is compounded by the fairly large volume of flax oil contained in the bottle: since it will take you longer to go through it, there will be more time for the oil to react with light and oxygen.
10. GNC Natural Brand Flax Seed Oil
GNC Natural Brand Flax Seed Oil tamps down on the grassy taste and scent of unprocessed flax oil by adding rosemary extract and vitamin C to alter the chemistry of the oil somewhat.
Though this makes it a little more palatable, purists won’t like the degradation in supplement purity, so most people will be better suited by a more stringently prepared liquid flax oil supplement.
Flax oil benefits and side effects
Flax oil is an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids, given that flax seeds are one of the richest sources of these healthy compounds.
The omega 3 fatty acids in flax oil have benefits for cardiovascular health, cognitive functioning, and mental health, to name just a few.
Among plant-derived foods, flax is a favorite source for people looking for vegan omega 3 oils. If you don’t eat fish, it’s hard to get many of the health benefits of omega 3s without something like flax oil in your diet.
Flax oil can help lower blood pressure. Flax oil, as a source of omega 3 fatty acids, is known to reduce a number of risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and first among these is blood pressure.
One study supporting this finding was published in 2007 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition by a team of scientists in Greece (1).
The study looked at a group of middle-aged men with risk factors for heart disease. They split the men into two groups, one of which was assigned a safflower oil supplement as a control, and the other of which was assigned an omega 3 supplement derived from flax.
The results showed that, compared to the control group, the men who took the flax oil supplement saw a decrease in their blood pressure.
The researchers suggested that a supplementation routine like this could be of significant benefit to men who are at high risk for heart disease.
Flax oil can be equally effective compared to fish oil when it comes to raising blood levels of EPA. There are two primary types of omega 3 fatty acids in fish oil that are thought to exert a protective effect on your body, EPA and DHA.
Flax oil does not provide either of these, but it does provide a different compound called ALA. This omega 3 fatty acid is a direct precursor to both EPA and DHA, but there are concerns about whether your body can efficiently convert ALA to EPA and to DHA.
A scientific study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition sought to test the benefits of fish oil versus flax oil as methods to increase the body’s omega 3 fatty acid levels (2).
In the study, conducted at the University of Manitoba in Canada, the researcher split a group of firefighters into six different groups.
Two groups received flax oil, two groups received fish oil, and two groups received sunflower oil as a control. Within each oil assignments, one group was assigned a higher dose than the other.
The researchers followed the subjects for a total of 12 weeks, and the researchers monitored blood levels of omega 3 fatty acids via a blood test taken every two weeks.
The results showed that, while fish oil was most effective at raising DHA, flax oil resulted in similar increases in EPA. The authors suggested that flax oil could help garner many of the same benefits of fish oil thanks to its ability to increase blood levels of EPA.
The omega 3 fatty acids in flax oil could help improve symptoms of depression. An emerging body of scientific research is exploring the intersection between mental health, inflammation, and functional foods and supplements that mediate this process.
Chief among these is the role that omega 3 fatty acids play in mental disorders like depression. According to a scientific review published in 2016 that looked at a range of studies on omega 3 fatty acids and depression, there is a very strong case to be made for taking an omega 3 fatty acid source to prevent and treat depression (3).
First off, prospective studies have found that omega 3 fatty acid levels in the blood appear to be protective against depression.
Further, studies that examine omega 3 fatty acid levels in people with major depression find lower levels compared to healthy people.
Finally, several clinical trials have found a benefit to omega 3 supplements for treating depression as compared to placebo, as reported in a meta-analysis published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry by researchers in Taiwan (4).
Flax seeds, the source of flax oil, are regularly consumed in high quantities in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern diets without any apparent ill effects.
Flax oil has also been tested in a range of clinical studies without any evidence of ill effects. One study, for example, tested a flax oil supplement in children with bipolar disorder, finding (in addition to a correlation between less severe symptoms and greater blood levels of omega 3 fatty acids) that the flax oil supplement was well-tolerated among the patients (5).
While the best fish oils are tested for purity anyways, there is less of a concern about accumulation of toxic heavy metals in flax oil.
Compared to fish oil or algae derived vegan omega 3, the necessary dose of flax oil is higher. This is because your body is not perfectly efficient at converting the ALA in flax oil to the more biologically active EPA form.
Doses in clinical trials range from three grams per day all the way up to 12 grams per day. These higher doses appear to be used in shorter term trials focused on depression and bipolar disease, while longer trials for cardiovascular disease protection have more commonly used the three to six gram per day range.
At the high end of flax oil dosage, it’s clearly advantageous to use a liquid form flax supplement, because taking ten or twelve capsules per day can be burdensome.
For lower doses, capsules will work just fine and can help mask the taste and scent of flax, if you are not a fan.
Flax oil is a good source of plant-based omega 3 fatty acids. While it does not have the concentrated power of the omega 3 fatty acids in fish oil, it can still deliver cardiovascular, cognitive, and mental health benefits.
These can includes lower blood pressure, better cognitive functioning, and decreased symptoms of depression. Flax oil is also quite safe and well-tolerated, even at very high daily dosages.
Scientific studies have focused on dosages ranging from three grams per day all the way up to 12 grams per day, though the high end of this range is more typical in studies on mental health.
Three to six grams per day seems to be a good middle of the road dosage that can help you achieve better physical, mental, and emotional health.