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ntroduced Photo: Surajit Koley
Common name: Flax, Common flax, Flaxseed, Linseed • Bengali: অতসী Atasi • Hindi: अलसी Alsi • Kannada: ಅಗಸೆ ಬೀಜ Agase beeja, ಅಗಸೆ ಗಿಡ Aagase gida • Manipuri: ꯊꯣꯢꯗꯤꯡ ꯑꯃꯨꯕꯥ Thoiding amuba • Marathi: अलशी Alashi • Tamil: அலி Ali • Telugu: మదనగిన్జా Madanginja, Ullusulu • Sanskrit: अतसी Atasi • Urdu: ﺍﻟﺴﯽ Alsee
Botanical name: Linum usitatissimum    Family: Linaceae (Linseed family)

Flax is a cool temperate annual herb with erect, slender stems, 80-120 cm tall. A cultivated plant in closely spaced field conditions it has little branching except at the apex. Leaves are alternate, lance-like and greyish-green with 3 veins. Flowers have five, pale blue petals in a cluster. The sepals are lance-like and nearly as long as the pointed fruit. The fruit are spherical capsules. The seeds are oval, somewhat flattened, 4-6mm long and are pale to dark brown and shiny. Flax is native to the region extending from the eastern Mediterranean to India. It was extensively cultivated in ancient Egypt. Flax is grown both for its seed and for its fibres. Interestingly, the species name usitatissimum means, most useful. Various parts of the plant have been used to make fabric, dye, paper, medicines, fishing nets and soap. The oil extracted from the seed is used in cooking, as linseed oil or flaxseed oil. It is also grown as an ornamental plant in gardens, as flax is one of the few plant species capable of producing truly blue flowers (most "blue" flowers are really shades of purple), although not all flax varieties produce blue flowers. In Durga Puja, five flowers are offered to goddes Durga, red China Rose, Red Oleander, Lotus, Aparajita and Atasi (Flax). Flax is native to Turkey to Iran., widely cultivated elsewhere.
Medicinal uses: In Ayurveda, Flax is used internally in habitual constipation, functional disorders of the colon resulting from the misuse of laxatives and irritable colon, as a demulcent preparation in gastritis and enteritis. Externally, the powdered seeds or the press-cake are used as an emollient, in poultices for boils, carbuncles and other skin afflictions. Used in Soothing Body Lotion for dry skin.

Identification credit: Tabish Photographed in Hooghly, West Bengal.

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