Mustard Oil health benefits, extraction process and composition

There is a conflicting point of view on the origins of the Mustard plant. Some writers and researchers suggest that the Mustard plant was native to Europe. However, considering the usage of this plant since thousands of years in the Indian subcontinent, many suggest that it was native to India. In fact, some ancient texts point to it being grown about in India about 3000 BC. Irrespective of the origins, it can be said with surety that the plant and its medicinal properties were known far and wide, both in countries of Europe, such as Rome and Greece and in Asia, such as India. 

In Europe, its use as a medicine was first done by Hippocrates whereas Romans used it as an additive to their wine making process.


Widespread use of Mustard Oil

Mustard oil has been used in different geographies around the world. Even in the modern times, it is popular in many countries across Asia and Europe. While Italy, Greece and India have been using it for thousands of years, it is also being used for hundreds of years in China, Russia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and other countries of the region. In India, the oil is extracted from black mustard seed whereas in China and Russia, it is extracted from brown mustard seed. 

Within India, its use is widespread in northern and eastern parts of the country. In West Bengal, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and in North-eastern states, mustard oil is used extensively for cooking and for a number of other tasks. 

The oil has been used to for sauté, deep frying, stir frying, heating the spice (called ‘tadka’) and even for keeping pickles in for a long period of time due to its anti-microbial properties. 

Due to a high heating or smoke point at about 250°C, it is best used for frying and is better than most of the vegetable oils.


Methods of extraction of Mustard Oil

How the mustard oil is extracted influences the composition and nutritional value of the oil. Cold compression techniques are widely used for extraction of oil because low temperatures ensure that no constituent gets damaged and nutritional value remains intact. This is called the Kachi Ghani oil. The aromas of the oil remain natural when temperatures are controlled at lower levels. This method is generally used for commercial scale of production.

At small scale level in India, production is done using grinding method in which the mustard seeds are ground using machines driven by horsepower and with wooden grinder. The oil thus obtained is then filtered through machines. 


What is Kachi Ghani Oil?

When mustard oil is extracted from the mustard seeds by cold-pressing at low-temperatures, it is called as kachi ghani. By crushing the seeds at low temperatures, the natural properties, essential oils and antioxidant properties of the oil are retained. Therefore, oil obtained in this way is the most nutrient-rich. 


A few facts on Mustard Oil
Scientific NameBrassica juncea
Common Names in different parts of IndiaHindi – Sarson ka tel Bengali- Sarsay tel Tamil- Kadugu Ennai Telugu-Avanune Gujarati- Rainu tel Marathi – Mohariche tel Malayalam- Kadugenna Oriya- Sorigha tela
ColourDark yellow
AromaStrong
TasteSharp and Pungent
Smoke Point450 F/250°C
ExtractionFrom Mustard seeds

Composition of Mustard Oil

Mustard oil is rich in monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and saturated fats. The relative percentages are given below…

Mono-unsaturated fats (MUFA)59% (42% erucic acid and 12% oleic acid)
Polyunsaturated fats (PUFA)21% (6% the omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid and 15% the omega-6 linoleic acid)
Saturated Fats 11% 

So, in 100grams of mustard oil, there is about 59g of MUFA, 21g of PUFA and 12g of SFs. With this structure of fat composition, it can be said that mustard oil is good for heart because it is majorly made from mono-unsaturated fats.

Mustard oil has the balanced composition of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids which are essential fatty acids and cannot be produced in the body. These have to be taken from outside source. Omega 6 linoleic acid and Omega 3 alpha-linoleic acid are used to develop hormones, build membrane of cells, control blood pressure and clot blood. Omega 3 essential fatty acids help in reducing the risk of heart diseases, improving mental functioning and health, preventing dryness in skin and reducing inflammation in arthritis. 


Health Benefits of Mustard Oil

1/7. Cardiovascular Health

It has been found in studies that people who take mustard oil which is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) are less likely to have cardiovascular problems. This is people using mustard oils in their diets have lower blood pressure and less fat on their body than those who are not using it. This improves cardiovascular health.

The oil reduces bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and increase good cholesterol levels (HDL).

Alpha-linolenic acid, a constituent of mustard oil, is believed to be responsible for lower instances of Ischemic Heart Disease (IHD).

It shall however be mentioned that these potential benefits could be small as compared with some other factors that influence risk such as exercising or unhealthy diet.


2/7. Anti-Inflammatory

If there is one component of mustard oil which is responsible for reducing inflammation, it is allyl isothiocyanate. Studies have pointed out this fact that this compound reduces the inflammation. For this reason, it is also used in diclofenac anti-inflammation medicine.

Allyl isothiocyanate is produced when sinigrin molecule is acted upon by enzyme myrosinase. It shall be noted that sinigrin is responsible for pungent smell of mustard oil. 


3/7. Anti-bacterial and Anti-fungal

Studies have proven that glucosinolate present in mustard oil prevents the growth of undesirable bacteria, such as E.Coli and other microbial organisms. In this way, it acts as an anti-bacterial remedy. 

Mustard oil is used to treat skin rashes and allergies or other skin infections due to its anti-fungal properties. 


4/7. Improves Blood Circulation

Ayurvedic texts mention that Mustard oil massage improves circulation of blood in the body. It reduces the muscular tension and improves the texture of skin. By activating the sweat glands it helps in removing the toxins out of body. 


5/7. Healthy for Skin

It is a tradition in India to use mustard oil for body massage. Right from babies to adults, this oil is considered very good for massaging. The reason attributed to this is that the oil is loaded with vitamin E which is an essential nutrient for the skin. 

It shall, however, be noted that too much of its usage might cause irritation. Therefore, only limited quantities of mustard oil shall be used massaging purpose. Researchers have also recommended that face shall not be massaged with it. Those who have sensitive skin shall also avoid using this rather strong oil.

Mustard oil helps to reduces wrinkles and fine lines on the skin. It acts as a sunscreen by protecting skin against UV light and pollutants present in the air.

Another important role of mustard oil is that, when used along with some other materials, it helps in removing the tan and dark spots


6/7. Helps in Cold and Cough

Another important use of mustard oil is in cold and cough. It helps in clearing the congestion from the respiratory tract due to its heating property. Applying it on chest before sleeping works wonders to remove congestion in chest. It is believed that the pungency of the oil due to Ally Isothiocyanate is the reason why it helps in clearing the sinuses.  


7/7. Growth of Hair

Just as coconut oil is used for healthy hair, especially growth of hair, in Southern parts of India, Mustard oil holds that plank in northern and eastern parts of India. It has been an age old practice to massage hair with this oil. 

Presence of beta-carotene in mustard oil promotes hair growth when massaged in scalp. The massage helps improve blood circulation on one hand and the anti-bacterial properties of this oil help in preventing scalp infections. 

When used as an overnight treatment, it helps in arresting hair fall.


What gives the pungent flavour to mustard oil?

Mustard oil has a pungent flavour and this is one important element which sets it apart from others. Pungency is due to molecule sinigrin which is present in the black and brown coloured mustard seeds, but not in white (yellow) mustard seeds. 

So, when the brown or black seeds are crushed sinigrin is acted upon by enzyme myrosinase to produce allyl isothiocyanate. Allyl Isothiocyanate is fat soluble and volatile in nature. When sniffed, it is the reason for producing burning sensation in nose. The burning sensation is caused because ally isothiocyanate binds with receptors which detect inflammation or pain. 

This is the science behind pungency of mustard oil.


Key indicators of purity and quality of Mustard Oil

Given below are key indicators of mustard oil and their FSS suggested safe quantities. Also mentioned are their respective uses or characteristics…

Compound/TextFSS /Indian Standard /Agmark StandardsCharacteristics/Uses
Allyl isothiocyanatenot be less than 0.20 per cent or more than 0.60Responsible for the pungent flavour of mustard oil. 
Iodine Value96-112 It is a measure of unsaturation of oils and fats. Expressed as centigram of iodine absorbed per gram of sample.
Peroxide ValueNot more than 15Indicative of the extent to which spoilage has advanced (oil rancidity)
Acid ValueNot more than 1.5 as per Agmark and Indian StandardIt gives an idea on age of oil. More is the age more is acid content.
Refractive IndexBetween 1.4646 and 1.4662Used to detect rancidity in oil.
Moisture and soluble impurities0.25 per cent of net weight/volumeAmount of water in edible oils shall be as low as possible
Saponification ValueBetween 168 and 177 as per FSSDetect presence of other oils or fats.
Argemone OilTotally freeIt is cause of glaucoma and dropsy.
Hydrocynaic AcidTotally freeIt is commonly used to increase pungency of poor-quality mustard oil.
Flash Pointthe highest the better, above 250 degree celsiusMore is the flash point, lower is the risk of ignition of oil. 
Speciific Gravity0.907 to 0.910 Agmark and Indian StandardsIt shall be less than 1 in all edible oils since these are insoluble in water and lighter than water
HexaneTotally free in Kachi GhaniIt is a  solvent used to extract mustard oil from seeds but is toxic in nature.
Colour in Lovibond ScaleIt shall not be deeper than 50 as per Indian StandardsLovibond Scale is used  for measuring colours of oils and fats. 

Why is Mustard Oil banned for cooking in USA by FDA?

While mustard oil is quite commonly used for cooking in India, it is banned in United States of America for cooking purpose. The bottles of mustard oil are required to bear a “For External Use Only” marking signifying that this can only be used for application but not to be taken in. 

This is so because one of the fatty acids contained in it is erucic acid. Erucic acid is present in high levels in mustard oil, up to 40% by volume. It poses a risk to heart health of children if high levels of this acid are consumed for a long period of time.

So long as the intake is in small doses, it is safe to consume it but USFDA has banned its consumption. However, new variants of the mustard oil have been developed with cross-breeding of mustard plant with others to ensure that the levels of erucic acid are brought down to safe levels. Canola Oil created by Canada and Yandilla Oils are two such alternatives developed. The mustard oils created in this way are allowed for cooking purposes. 


Conclusion…

Mustard oil is beneficial for consumption and application but it is important that it is used in restricted and limited manner. Especially, infants and persons with sensitive skin shall not be massaged with this oil. Other oils could be more suitable for this purpose. If bought from the market, the bottle shall be seal packed and shall be within expiry date of 9 months to 12 months. Being a natural and pure oil, its consumption is rising through the country and, along with other pure oils, is fast replacing refined oils.


Also Read…

[1] Mustard Oil Adulteration…

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