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There are some irreplaceable things in the Indian kitchen. This is because, not only are they used to cook some amazing regional delicacies, but their advantages are diverse and extend beyond the confines of the kitchen. One such classic example is ‘Mustard Oil’. It has a distinct pungent smell and does take a while to get used to it. Once you get used to it, you will learn to appreciate its quintessential flavour. It is addictive.

In the Eastern and North Eastern parts of India, it is hard to imagine a household that does not use mustard oil. It is believed to have some extraordinary medicinal properties that are used treat fungal infections, cure a cold, boost hair growth, build immunity, provide nourishment to the skin, strengthen the bones, enhance oral health and so on. The list is endless.

Mustard oil is extracted by cold pressing mustard seeds (black, brown or white) and is reddish brown or amber in colour. It is commonly used in North and East India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal. However, it’s now becoming very popular, so much so that even the chefs in some of the finest restaurants have started to use this oil in their dishes. Apart from being used in cooking, mustard oil is also used in salads, as a baby massage oil, hair oil, face and body oil.

Some basic facts about mustard oil:

  • Botanical name: Brassica juncea
  • Family: Brassicaceae
  • Common name: Sarson ka tel
  • Sanskrit name: Sarshapataila
  • Parts used: The mustard seeds are cold pressed to extract mustard oil
  • Native region and geographical distribution: Mustard oil is used for cooking in Eastern India, North India, Bangladesh, and Nepal.
  • Interesting fact:  Apart from being used in the kitchen, mustard oil is being used for various festivals and occasions, that it is safe to say that Indians give the mustard oil a lot of cultural and traditional importance
    In the Punjabi culture, the groom’s mother pours mustard oil on either side of the door as a sign of welcoming the bride.
    It is used in earthen lamps or diyas and they are lit on festive occasions such as  Deepavali
    During the pre-wedding ceremony called maiyan, it is used as one of the main ingredients to make a paste to be applied to the individuals getting married.
  1. Mustard oil nutrition facts
  2. Mustard oil health benefits
  3. Mustard oil side effects
  4. Takeaway

About 60% of mustard oil is made up of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA). MUFA helps increase the level of good cholesterol (HDL) in the body. Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) constitute about 21% of the mustard oil.  It is known to have a positive effect on the blood pressure and heart rate. There is also a small percentage of saturated fatty acids (SFA). But SFA is generally considered to be less healthy because it tends to increase the level of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the body. 

As per the USDA Nutrient Database, 1 tbsp of mustard contains the following nutrients:

Nutrients Value, 1 tbsp
Energy 124 g
Fat 14 g
Fats/Fatty acids Value, 1 tbsp
Saturated 1.621 g
Monounsaturated 8.286 g
Polyunsaturated 2.972 g
  • For the skin and hair: Mustard oil has numerous benefits for the health of your skin and hair and prevents various diseases. Being rich in omega 3 fatty acids, it prevents the cracking of skin. Its antimicrobial actions also help to reduce the risk of fungal skin infections like ringworm and yeast infections.
  • For weight loss: A diet containing mustard oil has been linked with weight loss since it reduces the amount of fat accumulation in adipose tissue storing fat.
  • For oral health: Mustard oil is an anti-inflammatory and an antimicrobial, thus, is effective for gum problems like gingivitis and periodontitis.
  • For the heart: Mustard oil is safe for consumption by individuals suffering from cardiac disorders since it has a good balance of fatty acids. It also assists in lowering cholesterol levels.
  • Against cancer: Mustard oil helps to ward off cancerous growth even in cases which were not responsive to conventional treatment, due to the presence of the compound sulforaphane. However, more research is needed to confirm the same.
  • Other benefits: Being an anti-inflammatory, mustard oil helps to reduce muscle pain and arthritis. It also helps in the prevention of urinary tract infections and typhoid fever.
  1. Mustard oil anticancer properties
  2. Mustard oil for heart health
  3. Mustard oil as an anti-microbial
  4. Mustard oil benefits for skin
  5. Mustard oil benefits for hair
  6. Mustard oil for weight loss
  7. Mustard oil has anti-inflammatory properties
  8. Mustard oil for gum problems

Mustard oil anticancer properties

Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage the healthy cells in your body. Antioxidants, on the other hand, work to prevent the damage caused due to these free radicals. According to an article published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology,  Mustard oil is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and is known to have anti-carcinogenic properties.

Studies indicate that the compound sulforaphane present in mustard oil is capable of affecting the malignant cancer cells which are unresponsive to traditional cancer treatments.

However, more studies are still needed to confirm the anticancer mechanism of this oil.

Mustard oil for heart health

High cholesterol is often associated with a higher risk of heart diseases. When there is too much cholesterol buildup in the blood, it blocks the arteries and increases blood pressure. Plaque development in one the major arteries may slow down the blood flow to the heart, resulting in various heart diseases. According to research, mustard oil has a good balance between saturated fatty acids (SFA) and unsaturated fatty acids. But it still has a much lower amount of SFA compared to other edible oils and is thus healthy for people with heart diseases. This is because SFA tends to increase the level of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the body.

Additionally, mustard oil is rich in oleic acid and has a good balance between linolenic acid and linoleic acid, all of which are good for the heart. A study reported that unrefined mustard oil remains stable during cooking at high temperatures and regular mustard oil consumption leads to a 71% decrease in coronary heart disease.

Another research suggested that unrefined mustard oil remains stable during cooking in very high temperatures.

(Read more: High cholesterol treatment)

Mustard oil as an anti-microbial

Microbes are tiny living organisms that cannot be seen by the naked eye. Some of these microbes are essential for the body, while other microbes cause various diseases.

Research reveals that mustard essential oil can act as an effective antimicrobial agent. It acts by damaging the cell membrane of bacteria and has been found to possess potent antimicrobial action against common infectious bacteria such as Escherichia coli which can cause urinary tract infection and diarrhoea and Salmonella typhi which is responsible for typhoid.

Mustard oil benefits for skin

According to Ayurveda, mustard oil varieties have numerous benefits for the skin. One among those is its property to cure various skin diseases and protect the skin. Being rich in omega-3 fats, mustard oil can help prevent the cracking of the skin. Applying mustard oil to the skin during cold season can prevent skin drying.

Oil from the Rājikā variety of mustard is known to prevent skin diseases. Another research indicated that mustard essential oil contains antifungal properties because of the presence of a compound called allyl isothiocyanate. This could help prevent fungal skin infections such as ringworm and yeast infection.

Mustard oil benefits for hair

Dermatophytes are fungi that cause infections on the skin and hair. A research indicated that mustard oil showed toxicity towards dermophytes such as Microsporum Canis and Trichophyton Rubrum. According to Ayurveda, the oil from the Rājikā variety of mustard can be used as a hair tonic.

A preclinical study done to determine the efficiency of various hair oils such as mustard oil, coconut oil and amla oil showed that mustard oil was most effective in promoting hair growth. This effect was attributed to the presence of fatty acids and vitamin E in the oil.

Mustard oil for weight loss

Obesity is a medical condition that occurs due to overaccumulation of fat in the body tissues. If obesity is not controlled, it could lead to several health complications including cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. In a preclinical study, a high-fat diet containing mustard oil was found to reduce weight gain and helped balance fat levels.

Mustard oil is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA). Research indicates that PUFA oxidizes rapidly compared to saturated fatty acids (SFA). Oils rich in PUFA decreases the amount of fat that gets accumulated in the adipose tissue which is responsible for storing fat. Therefore, mustard oil might be an ideal choice of oil for those who want to lose weight.

(Read more: Diet chart for weight loss)

Mustard oil has anti-inflammatory properties

An inflammation is considered to be a sign that the body is fighting against harmful substances and infections. It is often characterized by redness, swelling, pain and numbness. When an inflammation becomes chronic, it can lead to various problems such as asthma, heart problems or even cancer. Studies suggest that mustard oil possesses anti-inflammatory properties that can help prevent inflammation. This is mainly because of the presence of magnesium and selenium. It can help reduce the pain caused due to muscle sprain, and arthritis (inflammation of the joints)  

Additionally, mustard oil is rich in PUFA which is an essential fatty acid (EFA).  It plays an important role in protecting the immune system by controlling inflammation and fighting diseases.

(Read more: Inflammatory disease types)

Mustard oil for gum problems

Periodontal diseases mainly affect gums, ligaments and fibres surrounding the teeth. Gingivitis and periodontitis are the most common types of periodontal diseases. According to a study, massaging the gums with mustard oil and salt can help improve oral health. It can also prevent gingivitis and other dental conditions. This homemade remedy does not have any adverse effects.

Another research suggested that the topical application of a paste made from turmeric, salt and mustard oil can also help prevent periodontal diseases.

  • A study showed that using the oil of Rājikā variety of mustard could lead to impotency and a decreased output of urine. This oil could also be bad for the eyes. According to Ayurvedic medicine, mustard oil increases pitta. Too much pitta in the body could lead to a burning sensation, fever and inflammation
  • Some people might be allergic to mustard oil. There was one reported case of a man who suffered from skin lesions after using mustard oil for massage. Therefore, it is recommended to test the oil on the skin to check for possible allergic symptoms before continuing to use the oil regularly

Mustard oil has various health benefits primarily because it is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids. It is a healthy choice of oil for the heart. Some of the scientifically studied health benefits of mustard oil include its antioxidant properties which can also inhibit cancer growth and its antimicrobial properties. Mustard essential oil can be used for the hair and skin and mustard oil possesses anti-inflammatory properties. 

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References

  1. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Basic Report: 04583, Oil, mustard. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release [Internet]
  2. Chugh B, Dhawan K. Storage studies on mustard oil blends. J Food Sci Technol. 2014 Apr;51(4):762-7. PMID: 24741172
  3. Herr I, Lozanovski V, Houben P, Schemmer P, Büchler MW. Sulforaphane and related mustard oils in focus of cancer prevention and therapy. Wien Med Wochenschr. 2013 Feb;163(3-4):80-8. PMID: 23224634
  4. S.C. Manchanda. Selecting healthy edible oil in the Indian context. Indian Heart J. 2016 Jul-Aug; 68(4): 447–449. PMID: 27543465
  5. Suhr KI, Nielsen PV. Antifungal activity of essential oils evaluated by two different application techniques against rye bread spoilage fungi. J Appl Microbiol. 2003;94(4):665-74. PMID: 12631202
  6. Monika Nagpal, Shaveta Sood. Role of curcumin in systemic and oral health: An overview. J Nat Sci Biol Med. 2013 Jan-Jun; 4(1): 3–7. PMID: 23633828
  7. Zawar V. Pityriasis rosea-like eruptions due to mustard oil application. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. 2005 Jul-Aug;71(4):282-4. PMID: 16394442