Consumption of flaxseed lignans is associated with various health benefits; however, little is known about the bioavailability of purified lignans in flaxseed. Data on their bioavailability and hence pharmacokinetics (PK) are necessary to better understand their role in putative health benefits. In the present study, we conducted a comparative PK analysis of the principal lignan of flaxseed, secoisolariciresinol diglucoside (SDG), and its primary metabolites, secoisolariciresinol (SECO), enterodiol (ED) and enterolactone (EL) in rats. Purified lignans were intravenously or orally administered to each male Wistar rat. SDG and its primary metabolites SECO, ED and EL were administered orally at doses of 40, 40, 10 and 10 mg/kg, respectively, and intravenously at doses of 20, 20, 5 and 1 mg/kg, respectively. Blood samples were collected at 0 (pre-dose), 5, 10, 15, 20, 30 and 45 min, and at 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 12 and 24 h post-dosing, and serum samples were analysed. PK parameters and oral bioavailability of purified lignans were determined by non-compartmental methods. In general, administration of the flaxseed lignans SDG, SECO and ED demonstrated a high systemic clearance, a large volume of distribution and short half-lives, whereas administration of EL at the doses of 1 mg/kg (intravenously) and 10 mg/kg (orally administered) killed the rats within a few hours of dosing, precluding a PK analysis of this lignan. PK parameters of flaxseed lignans exhibited the following order: systemic clearance, SDG < SECO < ED; volume of distribution, SDG < SECO < ED; half-life, SDG < ED < SECO. The percentage of oral bioavailability was 0, 25 and < 1 % for SDG, SECO and ED, respectively.