Flax is grown for its oil, used as a nutritional supplement, and as an ingredient in many wood-finishing products. Linseed meal, the by-product obtained after oil production from flax seeds, is used to feed livestock. It is a protein-rich feed for ruminants, rabbits and fish.
Flaxseeds occur in two basic varieties: brown and yellow or golden (also known as golden linseeds). Most types have similar nutritional characteristics and equal numbers of short-chain omega-3 fatty acids. The exception is a type of yellow flax called solin (trade name Linola), which has a completely different oil profile and is very low in omega-3 FAs. Flaxseeds produce a vegetable oil known as flaxseed oil or linseed oil, which is one of the oldest commercial oils. It is an edible oil obtained by expeller pressing, sometimes followed by solvent extraction. Solvent-processed flaxseed oil has been used for many centuries as a drying oil in painting and varnishing.
Although brown flax may be consumed as readily as yellow, and has been for thousands of years, its better-known uses are in paints, for fiber, and for cattle feed.