Mustard oil is popularly used as a cooking oil in the Indian subcontinent and also some places in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.
Some American chefs have also started using this oil for its distinctive flavor now. This oil has been a subject of controversy as it was considered toxic to humans for a long time.
Mustard oil is banned for cooking by the FDA as it contains erucic acid, which is considered a contaminant and is known to cause heart problems.
However, the FDA does allow the mustard essential oil to be used for cooking as it is deemed to be safe.
Both mustard oil and mustard essential oil are considered safe for massage, and they are known to have many therapeutic benefits.
In this article, you will learn more about these oils and their benefits for health.
What is mustard oil and mustard essential oil?
Both mustard oil and mustard essential oil are derived from mustard seeds, but they are entirely different.
While mustard oil is extracted through cold compression of mustard seeds, the mustard essential oil is extracted by steam distillation of mustards seeds soaked in water.
The word mustard is made up of two Latin words – ‘must’ means fresh wine and ‘ardens’ which means burning.
Mustard oil is burnt sienna with undertones of light yellow. Its aroma is sharp and pungent due to its allyl isothiocyanate content.
There are three main varieties of mustard oil from which the oil is sourced.
Yellow mustard seeds
These seeds are from the Brassica Alba mustard variety which is native to the Mediterranean region.
These seeds come from Brassica juncea variety and are reddish-brown. These seeds are used for making mustard oil in India and Russia.
These seeds are from North Africa and the Middle East. They are also grown in some parts of Eastern Europe. Black mustard has reddish undertone and is quite pungent.
History of mustard oil
Mustard was considered a medicinal plant and not a culinary plant during ancient times. In the sixth century BC, Pythagoras use mustard for scorpion stings.
Hippocrates used mustard for medicines and poultices. Mustard plasters were also used to treat toothaches and other ailments.
The early Romans used to grind mustard seeds and mix them in wine to form a paste. The Romans took mustard seeds to Gaul, where it was planted along with the grapes. The French monasteries cultivated and sold mustard during the ninth century.
Mustard oil has been used as a diet staple in the Indian subcontinent for centuries. Koreans use mustard oil in a hot seasoning mix, and the Chinese us it in dressings.
Health benefits of mustard oil
1. Improves heart health
Mustard oil has the ideal ratio of essential fatty acids and natural antioxidants, which are highly beneficial for heart health.
This oil contains 60 percent monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), 21 percent polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) and 12 percent saturated fats.
The high content of MUFA and PUFA in mustard oil help lower bad cholesterol, improve good cholesterol and maintain heart health.
According to a 2004 research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, diets rich in vegetables and the use of mustard oil could lower the risk of ischemic heart disease in Indians.
Mustard oil improves cholesterol balance, lower triglycerides, which in turn improves heart health, and helps prevent obesity, kidney disease and hyperthyroidism (1).
2. Fights bacterial and fungal infections
Mustard oil has strong antibacterial properties and can help fight off both internal and external infections.
It can be used externally to treat infections of the skin and internally to treat bacterial infections in intestines and other parts of the digestive tract.
A 2004 study has also shown that a mixture of honey and mustard oil can kill dental bacteria and can be used in root canal treatment.
According to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Food Protection, white mustard essential oil inhibited the growth of Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica serovar Enteritidis, Enterobacter aerogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Listeria monocytogenes, Bacillus cereus, and Lactobacillus fermentum, as well as the acid- and preservative-resistant yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe (2).
The mustard essential oil also has antifungal properties due to the presence of allyl isothiocyanate in it. Massaging with this oil can prevent fungal and vaginal yeast infections.
3. Reduces inflammation and pain
The mustard essential oil has strong anti-inflammatory properties. It has been used historically to soothe aches and pains, treat arthritis and even reduce inflammation caused by bronchitis and pneumonia.
Mustard oil contains selenium, which helps reduce the inflammation induced by asthma and joint pain.
A 2016 study from Germany, studied the effects of mustard oil on pain in mice. The results showed that mustard oil is effective against specific pain receptors in the body (3).
Massaging painful joints with mustard oil is highly effective in reducing pain. Heating this oil slightly or using hot stones professional massage with this oil makes it even more effective.
4. Stimulates blood circulation
Mustard essential oil is a potent stimulant, and it is used to boost blood circulation. It helps to improve the functioning of various organs as it provides oxygenated blood to them at a much higher rate.
It stimulates the digestive system by promoting the secretion of gastric juices. It also supports regular bowel movement.
When used for massage, mustard oil also improves the circulation of blood to the skin. A massage with warm mustard oil is also a stress reliever.
Mustard oil and salt have been used to keep teeth clean and healthy for centuries in India. Mustard oil strengthens the gums and makes it easier to remove plaque.
It is also helpful in treating periodontal disease, also known as gum disease. Periodontal disease can cause inflammation of the gums and the destruction of the periodontium, which can lead to loss of teeth.
A 2015 research studied the efficacy of salt and mustard massage on 54 patients with chronic periodontitis. This method of treatment is used commonly in India for the improvement of oral hygiene (4).
6. Improves skin health
Mustard oil is rich in vitamin E and is highly beneficial for improving skin health.
It protects the skin from harmful UV rays and pollution, and it even helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Mustard oil also acts as a natural cleanser as it opens skin pores by stimulating the sweat glands. It also lightens pigmentation and improves skin complexion.
The antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties of mustard oil prevent infection of the skin and reduce itching.
Regular hair massage with mustard oil can improve hair health in several different ways. This oil stimulates blood circulation in the scalp, which prevents hair loss and enhances hair growth.
The rich content of omega-3 fatty acids in mustard oil helps to nourish the hair and stimulate hair growth.
Its antibacterial and antifungal properties prevent infections in the scalp that may lead to itching and dandruff.
The rich vitamin and mineral content of this oil nourishes the hair and prevents premature greying.
Massage your hair with mustard oil and cover your head with a warm towel. Leave it on for 20 to 30 minutes and then wash it off with your regular shampoo.
8. Prevents respiratory problems
Mustard oil adds warmth to the body and prevents the formation of phlegm. It helps prevent respiratory problems like asthma and bronchitis.
Massaging mustard oil on the chest can increase airflow to the lungs during an asthma attack. So, mustard oil massage is great for those who have congestion or breathing problems.
9. Insect repellent
Many regular insect repellents contain chemicals that can have side effects and can harm the skin.
Mustard essential oil, on the other hand, is safe and effective in repelling mosquitoes and other insects when we apply it on the skin.
According to a 2003 study from India, mustard oil is much more effective than coconut oil in keeping mosquitoes away (5).
Side effects of mustard oil
Though mustard oil is commonly used as a massage oil for infants in many counties, it can have some adverse effects.
According to the FDA, mustard oil contains up to 40 percent erucic acid, which has been shown to cause nutritional deficiencies in test animals (6).
Another study found that mixing mustard oil with argemone oil can destroy red blood cells in the body. Argemone oil contamination can cause serious health issues and should be regulated (7).
Always conduct a patch test before using mustard oil on your skin for the first time to prevent any allergic reactions.
While mustard oil is extracted through cold compression of mustard seeds, the mustard essential oil is extracted through steam distillation of mustards seeds soaked in water.
The three main varieties of mustard are yellow mustard, brown mustard, and black mustard.
Mustard oil has been used as a diet staple in the Indian subcontinent for centuries and was considered medicinal during ancient times.
Though there are some concerns about this oil being toxic, it can provide many health benefits when used correctly.
Mustard oil improves heart health, fights bacterial and fungal infections, reduces inflammation and pain, stimulates blood circulation, improves oral health, prevents insect bites, prevents respiratory problems and keeps skin and hair healthy.