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Friday, 21 February 2020
Linseed oil
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Linseed oil is obtained from the seed of the flax plant, Linum usitatissimum L. (Linaceae) by pressing (cold-pressed linseed oil) or by extraction, followed by total or partial refining (refined linseed oil).

Flax is a very ancient cultivated annual with a blue flower and was used by the Sumerians and the Egyptians as far back as 6000-8000 years ago (mummies were wrapped in flaxen cloth), although it was also cultivated by people who built stilt-type dwellings (Lake Constance, Unteruhldingen). It is not known where, exactly, the plant originated. The Germanii cultivated the plant. Up to the 16th century, Germany was one of the major 'industrial nations', on account of flax cultivation. In the face of the threat posed by cotton, which was more pliable and easier to dye, there was a dramatic reduction in cultivation. Today, the principal producing countries are those lining the River Plate, along with the USA, Canada, India, Egypt, the former Soviet Union and, to a lesser extent, Belgium, Holland, France and, recently, Germany, once again.

The dried, brown capsules from this plant each contain 6-7 seeds, with an oil content of approx. 38-44%. After the capsules have been ground, the resultant product is pressed (cold-pressed linseed oil) or oil is extracted with solvent, before going on to be refined (refined linseed oil).

Cold-pressed linseed oil is a clear, golden yellow or brownish, greenish-yellow liquid with a characteristic smell and taste. The refined product is light to golden yellow. Due to the refining process, the characteristic smell and taste are less obvious. The description 'refined linseed oil' also covers a partially-refined product that is on the market. This has been neutralised and bleached, but not deodorised.

Linseed oil is rich in oleic and linoleic acids (in roughly equal proportions) but primarily in linolenic acid. The oil has strong drying properties and, when spread out, will cure to a solid, transparent film within 24 to 36 hours (auto-oxidation). Linseed oil is used primarily in the chemicals industry, as a raw material for production of oil colours, varnishes, oil-based surface coatings and linoleum. It is also used, to a lesser extent, to modify alkyd resins (linseed oil alkyds) and in the preparation of soft soaps, putty, printer's ink and liniments. With its polymerising property, linseed oil may be used as a paint binder. Linseed oil-stand oil, (produced by heating under airless conditions) is viscous, coatings are solid, elastic and able to resist changes in the weather and temperature. Linseed oil is also used as a purgative (sheep and horses) in veterinary Medicine, as well as being used in cosmetics (exfoliating creams). Cold-pressed linseed oil is used on a small scale as an edible oil, mainly in Eastern European countries.

INCI Name: Linum Usitatissimum Seed Oil


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