Mustard Oil: A Key Health and Flavor-Boosting Agent

Benefits of Mustard Oil

1. Boosts Cardiac Health

Incorporating mustard oil into your diet may help protect against heart disease, according to a study in the April 2004 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The oil is rich in monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, both of which help lower bad cholesterol and raise good HDL cholesterol. Improving your cholesterol balance also helps lower triglycerides, or blood fat levels, which can in turn prevent obesity, kidney disease and hyperthyroidism, in addition to improving heart health. (3)

2. Contains Antibacterial and Antifungal Properties

Mustard oil is thought to work as an antibacterial agent when taken both internally and externally and as an antifungal when used externally. Internally, it can fight bacteria infections in the colon, intestines and other parts of the digestive tract. Externally, it may be able to treat both bacterial and fungal infections when applied directly to the skin.

Researchers from the Armed Forces Institute, reporting in the October 2004 issue of the Journal of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, stated that a 1:1 mixture of honey and mustard oil is effective at killing dental bacteria and may be useful in root canal treatments. It may even help fight fungal and vaginal yeast infections by massaging your body with mustard oil due to the allyl isothocyanate found within it. (4, 5)

3. Benefits the Skin

Mustard oil is often applied externally, especially during massages. The oil has high levels of vitamin E, which helps improve skin health. It can help protect the skin against free radical damage from ultraviolet light and pollution, and can even help reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles. Additionally, when rubbed into the skin, the vitamin E in the oil can help promote circulation and immunity.

A study in the June 2007 issue of the Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition reports that even though mustard oil is routinely used in India as a massage oil for newborns, it has the potential to be toxic to the skin. Use caution when you use it for the first time to see if your skin reacts with a rash or swelling. (6)

4. Improves Hair Health

Because mustard seed oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, it may help your hair grow and become healthier. The foods we eat help nourish our bodies, and the hair and skin get to benefit too.

You can also get even more benefits by creating a mustard oil towel wrap. Simply massage mustard seed oil and coconut into your scalp, then cover with a warm towel to help the oil penetrate into your skin and hair follicles; leave it on for 10–20 minutes. Because the oil and the massage can help stimulate blood flow to the scalp, it may stimulate hair growth. (7)

5. Treats Gum Disease

Periodontal disease, aka gum disease, is a chronic inflammatory process accompanied by destruction of periodontium and even the loss of teeth affecting many adults. It’s a much bigger problem in developing and underdeveloped countries, affecting more than 80 percent of these populations. This is dangerous because inflammation in the mouth can lead to problems in the immune system.

In clinical trials using a mustard oil and salt massage on the gums, researchers wanted to determine the efficacy of mustard oil as a gum disease natural treatment. Scaling and root planing was done with ultrasonic scalar, then was followed by gum massaging with salt in mustard oil for five minutes two times per day over a period of three months and showed improvements. This method of healing is most common in India, where it has not only been used for gum massage, but also for overall maintenance and improvement of oral hygiene. (8)

6. Reduces Pain Associated with Inflammation

Massage with mustard oil may provide relief for rheumatism, arthritis, sprains and aches. The selenium present in the oil reduces effects of inflammation induced by asthma and joint pain by massaging the joints and the entire body with mustard oil. (9) Doing this in warm environment, slightly heating the oil or maybe using hot stones by a massage professional, may be more effective at relieving the pain and discomfort.

7. It’s Good for the Environment

The composition of mustard oil makes it a great resource for our environment. Most crops produce some plant oil — however, a number of crops produce anywhere from 15 percent to 50 percent or more oil, making them a better resource than others to help reduce the use of fossil fuels. Oil is extracted by crushing the seed and squeezing the oil out. The oil is exchanged to make biodiesel. This method helps reduce the use of fossil fuels, making mustard oil as fuel a safer, cleaner alternative to benefit the environment. (10, 11)

8. Relaxes and Rejuvenates the Body and Stimulates Blood Flow

Mustard oil can be great for the circulation of blood to the skin when used for massage. While most effective when the mustard oil is warm, masseuses in India commonly use a combination of mustard oil with essentials oils, while massaging, to stimulate the blood flow. This also works as a natural stress reliever.

The oil can help relieve pain and provide relaxation to stressed and overworked muscles, and an increase in blood flow or circulation can help benefit the body because increased blood circulation improves oxygen-rich blood flow to the extremities and vital organs. The skin also gets nourishment and rejuvenation as the blood flow is stimulated. (12)

History of Mustard Oil

Mustard oil has been used for centuries as a food additive, cure for many ailments and even noted as an aphrodisiac. It’s a common diet staple in places like India and Bangladesh. It’s made from crushed or pressed mustard seeds and easy to find at most Indian grocery stores.

As reported by the New York Times, Koreans frequently use mustard oil in a hot seasoning blend, while some Chinese cuisines use it in dressings. However, it’s most commonly used in shorshe bata, which is a powerful paste of mustard seeds and oil that showcases the delicacy of the popular South Asian fish called ilish.

Mustard oil has a distinctive and rather pungent taste, a common characteristic of all plants in the mustard family, including cabbage, cauliflower, turnip, radish, horseradish or wasabi.

Mustard oil is considered to be an oil that has low saturated fat compared to other cooking oils. Its fatty acid composition makes it a source for omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9. As always, be careful when purchasing any oils since selective breeding and genetic engineering are often used to modify their fatty acid composition. (13, 14)

Expressed mustard oil is reportedly used by some cultures as a cooking oil, in particular Asian cultures, and there is a product called mustard oil that is generally recognized as safe, which actually does have an approved food use. This oil is typically referred to as an essential oil of mustard or volatile mustard oil and is a flavoring produced by steam distillation of black mustard flour or mustard cake. It’s noted as having a small triglyceride component and, therefore, probably very little viscosity or risk of deformation. Regardless, it’s important that you’re aware of the differences.

Mustard oil is most commonly used for cooking and external care in places like India, Nepal and Bangladesh. It’s likened to some of the qualities of wasabi, a popular condiment from a plant harvested Japan, in particular because of that fiery nasal effect. In fact, in India, it’s often cooked to a smoking point to help dilute its eye-watering result. Mustard oil is also known in Ayurvedic medicine as a poultice for chest congestion and massage. 

Mustard oil comes from seeds of the brassica family, the same family as rapeseed which is the partial source of canola oil. Brassica nigra (black mustard), alba (white) and juncae (brown) are all sources of mustard seed oil. (15)

Mustard oil is one of the main ingredients used in cuisine of Eastern India and Bangladesh — however, in the latter part of the 20th century, its popularity declined in Northern India and Pakistan since the availability of mass-produced vegetable oils became much easier. But you will still see many uses in South Asia.

For example, you may see it used as a welcoming tradition by being poured on both sides of the threshold when someone important comes home for the first time like newlyweds or even a son or daughter who is returning home after a long absence of some sort. In ceremonies, you may see mustard oil used as traditional jaggo earthen pot fuel where a decorated copper or brass vessel called “khadaa” is filled mustard oil and lit.

Other traditional uses may include homemade cosmetics during Mayian, used in instruments to add weight enabling that typical Indian drum sound to be made by rubbing the heel of the hand over it. You may hear this called (Tel masala) Dholak Masala or oil syahi.



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