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Linseed oil is obtained by pressing the seeds of the flax plant (it is also sometimes called flaxseed oil). Its uses include acting as a pigment binder, plasticiser or hardener in putty, wood finisher, along with a nutrition supplement in food. Because linseed oil quickly oxidises, it can spontaneously combust when left unattended and soaked into rags. (

Because of its heating properties, linseed oil is included in a number of poultices in the Pharmacopeia. It is classified as a demulcent (soothes irritation) by the Compendium and is included in the treatments for burns, cholera, diarrhoea, and measles.

British Pharmacopoeia 1867

Linseed Lini Semina

“The seeds of Linum usitatissimum… Cultivated in Britain.”[1]


“ Small, oval, pointed, flat, with acute edges, smooth, shining, brown externally, yellowish-white within, of a mucilaginous oily taste.” Used in the preparations of:[2]

  • Farina Lini
  • Infusum Lini
  • Oleum Lini

Preparations of Linseed

Charcoal Poultice / Cataplasma Carbonis[3]

  • Wood Charcoal, in powder (1/2 oz), Crumb of Bread (2 oz), Linseed Meal ( 1 ½ oz), Boiling Water (10 fl oz)

Hemlock Poultice / Cataplasma Conii[4]

  • Hemlock leaf, in powder (1 oz), linseed meal (3 oz), boiling water (10 fl oz)

Linseed Poultice / Cataplasma Lini [5]

  • linseed meal (4 oz), olive oil (1/2 fl oz), boiling water (10 fl oz)

Mustard Poultice / Cataplasma Sinapis[6]

  • mustard, in powder (2 ½ oz), linseed meal (2 ½ oz), boiling water (10 fl oz)

Chlorine Poultice / Cataplasma Sodae Chloratae [7]

  • solution of chlorinated soda (2 fl oz), linseed meal (4 oz), boiling water (8 fl oz)

Infusion of Linseed / Infusum Lini [8]

  • Linseed (160 grains), fresh liquorice root, slices (60 grains), boiling distilled water (10 fl oz)

Linseed Meal / Lini Farina [9]

  • “The cake of linseed from which the oil has been pressed, reduced to powder.”
  • used in the preparations of: Cataplasma Lini, Cataplasma Carbonis, Cataplasma Conii, Cataplasma Sinapis, Cataplasma Sodae Chloratae

Linseed Oil / Oleum Lini [10]

  • The oil expressed without heat from linseed”
  • “Viscid, yellow, with a faint odour, and oleaginous taste.”

A Compendium of Domestic Medicine, 1865

Linseed is classified by Savory as a Demulcent (Simple Remedies Which Allay Irritation By Their Soothing Properties)[11]

As an oil, linseed is an effective pectoral and mucilaginous infusion. “This oil is of a healing balsamic nature, and very useful n coughs, attended with spitting of blood, in colics, and obstinate costiveness; being a more certain laxative than either olive or almond oil.” It can be used both internally and externally. External applications are used to reduce pain.

Linseed tea is recommended when treating poisoning from Corrosive Sublimate[12]

Remedies Containing or to be used with Linseed

  • Bark, Oak: infusion of linseed used in a mixture to treat uterine discharges[13]
  • Bismuth, White: bismuth can be administered to children who are suffering from diarrhoea. Dr. Trousseau gives the treatment as an enema, which contains thick linseed tea.[14]
  • Linseed: An infusion of linseed can be given to treat “inflammation of the lungs, coughs, measles, gravel, and inflammation of the bladder.”[15]
  • Linseed meal: “is used as a poultice to soften and ripen inflammatory tumours, and is well adapted for that purpose.”[16]
  • Liquor or Potash, Brandish’s: can be administered with linseed tea, or other vehicles.[17]
  • Paregoric Elixir: a mixture of paregoric elixir can be given with linseed-tea, or barley water to treat a troublesome cough[18]
  • Tincture of Buchu Leaves: a mixture of buchu can be administered in a cup of linseed tea, to treat gonorrhoea, leucorrhoea, and gleet.[19]

Diseases Treated with Linseed

General Diseases

  • Burns and Scalds: linseed oil can be applied to cotton wool or wading and placed on the burn or scald immediately after the incident, and left until the pain has subsided.[20]
  • Cholera Morbus: linseed meal or common flour can be used in the production of a hot mustard poultice that is to be applied to the pit of the stomach and act as a stimulant. This treatment is intended for use during a sever attack of the disease.[21]
  • Diarrhoea, or Looseness: linseed tea, and other diluent and demulcent drinks can be used throughout treatment[22]
  • Gravel and Stone: during a fit the diet should include beverages like linseed tea, almond emulsions, and barley water.[23]
  • Measles: “The almond emulsion, or linseed-tea, may be taken freely.”[24]

Medical Articles Containing Linseed

  • Compound Infusion of Linseed: linseed, bruised. “This infusion is employed to allay the irritation of the mucous membranes in bronchitis or catarrh, in gonorrhoea. And alvine discharges.”[25]
  • Anodyne Injection: infusion of linseed. “This clyster is particularly useful in cases in which there is great irritation about the rectum, bladder, or urinary passage; and in diarrhoea, after the bowels have been cleared.”[26]

Prescriptions Containing Linseed


  • Anodyne Injection: infusion of lineseed[27]


  1. General Medical Council of Great Britain, British Pharmacopeia, (London: Spottiswoode & Co.,1867), 171
  2. GMCGB, 171
  3. GMCGB, 73-74
  4. GMCGB, 74
  5. GMCGB, 74-75
  6. GMCGB, 75
  7. GMCGB, 75
  8. GMCGB, 162
  9. GMCGB, 170
  10. GMCGB, 172
  11. Savory, John. A Compendium of Domestic Medicine (London: John Churchill and Sons, 1865), 392.
  12. Savory, 178
  13. Savory, 30
  14. Savory, 31
  15. Savory, 97
  16. Savory, 98
  17. Savory, 97
  18. Savory, 115
  19. Savory, 157
  20. Savory, 210
  21. Savory, 222
  22. Savory, 227
  23. Savory, 236
  24. Savory, 276
  25. Savory, 311
  26. Savory, 297
  27. Savory, 330

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