Lignans are a group of chemical compounds found in whole grains, seeds, nuts, fruits, and vegetables, particularly in flaxseed and sesame seed. The health effects of lignans have been found to largely depend on the particular type of lignan.
There is limited scientific evidence that lignans may be taken to prevent or treat cardiovascular disease, cognitive performance, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis and several types of cancer. Although some clinical research has been conducted, additional and higher-quality studies are needed before a conclusion may be made about the use of lignans for any condition.

Related Terms

Enterolignans, flax lignans, heterolignans, lignan precursors, mammalian lignans, phytoestrogens, tetrahydrofuran lignans, vegetal estrogens.
Select lignan examples: Acetoxyisolariciresinol, acetoxypinoresinol, actaealactone, agastenol, agastinol, aglacin A, aglacin B, aglacin C, aglacin D, alpha-conidendrin, ambrosidine, anolignan A, anolignan B, anolignan C, AP9-cd, arabelline, arborone, arctigenin, arctiin, arylnaphthalide lignan, aryltetralin cyclic ether lignans, beilschmin A, beilschmin B, beilschmin C, benzofuran lignans, beta-apopicropodophyllin, beta-peltatin methyl ether, bursehernin, burseranin, cinnamophilin, cleistanone, cleistanthin A, cleistanthin C, cleistanthin D, clusin, cyclolariciresinol, cyclolignans, dehydro-beta-peltatin methyl ether, dehydrodesoxypodophyllotoxin, dehydropodophyllotoxin, demethoxystegane, demethyldeoxypodophyllotixin, demethylisolariciresinol, deoxydehydropodophyllotoxin, deoxypicropodophyllin, deoxypodophyllotoxin, deoxypodorhizone, desmethoxydeoxypodophyllotoxin, dibenzocyclooctadiene, dibenzyl butyrolactol, dibenzylbutadiene, didehydroarctigenin, didymochlaenone A, didymochlaenone B, di-O-methyltetrahydrofuroguaiacin B, diphyllin, dysosmarol, egonol, elenoside, eleutheroside E, enterodiol, enterofuran, enterolactone, epiashantin, epieudesmin, episteganangin, etoposide, eudesmine, furanoid lignan, gomisin A, gosimin J, gomisin K, grandisin, guggulu, hattalin, helioxanthin, hemiariensin, hernanol, hernolactone, hinokinin, homoegonol, honokiol, hydroxyenterolactone, hydroxymatairesinol, hydroxypinoresinol, hydroxyyatein, isochaihulactone, isodeoxypodophyllotoxin, isolariciresinol, jusmicranthin, justicidin A, justicidin B, justiciresinol, kadsurarin, kusunokinol, lariciresinol, lignan glycoside, linola 989, liriodendrin, machilin A, machilin D, maculatin, majidine, matairesinol (MAT), methoxypodophyllotoxin, methoxyyatein, methyl p-hydroxyphenyllactate, monoepoxylignan, morelensin, naphthalenic lignan lactone 3a, nemerosin, neoisostegane, niranthin, nirtetralin, nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA), nortrachelogenin, nortracheloside, nyasol, olivil, oxomatairesinol, patavine, phillyrin, phyllanthin, picro-beta-peltatin methyl ether, picropolygamain, pinoresinol, podophyllotoxin (CPH 86), podorhizol, praderin, S-8921, sauchinone, saururin A, schizandrin, secoisolariciresinol, sesamin, sesamol, shonanin, simplexoside, steganacin, steganangin, steganoate A, steganoate B, steganolide A, strychnoside, styraxjaponoside A, styraxjaponoside B, syringaresinol, taiwanin A, taxiresinol, teniposide, tetrahydronaphthalene lignan, tibeticoside, tortoside A, trachelogenin, trachelogenin amide, tracheloside, tsugacetal, tuberculatin, valerian, vanprukoside, veraguensin, wikstromol, yatein.
Select lignan-containing examples: AC Linora, Acanthopanax koreanum, Achillea clavennae, Aglaia cordata, Annona montana, Anthriscus sylvestris, Arctium lappa L. (Compositae), Asparagus africanus, barley bran, Beilschmiedia tsangii, black cohosh (Actaea racemosa), black sesame, Brucea javanica, Bursera graveolens, Bursera morelensis, Bursera permollis, Calyptranthes pallens, Casearia membranacea, Cephalaria ambrosioides, Cinnamomum philippinense, Cleistanthus collinus, Commiphora mukul, CPH 82 (Reumacon®), creosote bush, Croton spp., Cryptocarya crassinervia, Cunninghamia konishii, Didymochlaena truncatula, Dysosma versipellis, Ephedra viridis, Euodia daniellii, Flanders flaxseed, flaxseed, forsythia fruit (Forsythia viridissima L.), Fraxinus sieboldiana, Haplophyllum spp., Hernandia nymphaeifolia, Hernandia ovigera, Hernandia peltata, Herpetospermum caudigerum, Hyptis tomentosa, Illicium floridanum, Ipomoea cairica, Justicia spp., Kadsura matsudai, Lancea tibetica, Larrea spp., Leontopodium alpinum Cass., linseed, Linum spp., Magnolia spp., oat bran, olive oil, Phillyrea latifolia, Phlomis brunneogaleata, Phyllanthus spp., Picea glehni, Pinus densiflora, Podophyllum emodi, Proresid®, Putoria calabrica, red pine, rye, rye bran, rye seeds, Saururus chinensis, Saussurea lappa, schisandra fruit, Schizandra arisanensis, sesame, sesame oil, sesame seed, Sesamum indicum, Sinomenium acutum, Steganotaenia araliacea, Strychnos vanprukii, Styrax japonica, Taiwania cryptomerioides, Taxus baccata, Taxus wallichiana, Trachelospermum jasminoides, Valeriana laxiflora, virgin olive oil, wheat bran, wholemeal rye bread.
Note: Lignan should not be confused with lignin, a complex chemical compound found in wood and the cell walls of plants.

evidence table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Antioxidant (Grade: C)
There is conflicting evidence regarding the efficacy of lignans as antioxidants. Further research is needed.
Breast cancer (Grade: C)
Early research suggests that lignans may play a role in breast cancer risk reduction. Additional research is needed in this area.
Cognitive performance (Grade: C)
Limited evidence suggests that increased lignan intake may be associated with better cognitive performance (mental processes). Further research is needed.
Colorectal cancer (Grade: C)
Limited evidence suggests that increased dietary lignan intake is correlated with a reduced colorectal cancer risk. Further research is needed.
Endometrial cancer (Grade: C)
Limited evidence suggests that increased dietary lignan intake may be correlated with a reduced endometrial cancer risk. Additional research is needed in this area.
Heart disease (Grade: C)
There is conflicting evidence regarding the use of lignans for cardiovascular risk reduction. Further research is needed.
High blood pressure (Grade: C)
Limited evidence suggests that increased dietary lignan intake may lower blood pressure. Further research is needed.
High cholesterol (Grade: C)
Limited evidence suggests that sesamin, a lignan found in sesame, may reduce cholesterol levels, especially low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Additional research is needed in this area.
Prostate cancer (Grade: C)
Limited evidence suggests that increased dietary lignan intake may be correlated with a reduced prostate cancer risk. Additional research is needed in this area.
Rheumatoid arthritis (Grade: C)
Limited evidence suggests that lignans may be useful in reducing inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis. Further research is needed.
Thyroid conditions (cancer) (Grade: C)
Limited evidence suggests that secoisolariciresinol, a type of lignan, may be associated with a lower thyroid cancer risk. Further research is needed in this area.
Cervical cancer (Grade: D)
Limited research suggests that high levels of lignans in the diet and the blood may be associated with a higher risk of cervical lesions. Additional research is needed in this area.