Mustard oil

Mustard oil and the seeds it is derived from

The term mustard oil is used for two different oils that are made from mustard seeds:

  • A fatty vegetable oil resulting from pressing the seeds,
  • An essential oil resulting from grinding the seeds, mixing them with water, and extracting the resulting volatile oil by distillation.

The pungency of mustard oil is due to the presence of allyl isothiocyanate, an activator of the TRPA1 channel.

Pressed oilEdit

Ox-powered mill grinding mustard seed for oil

This oil has a distinctive pungent taste, characteristic of all plants in the mustard family, Brassicaceae (for example, cabbage, cauliflower, turnip, radish, horseradish, or wasabi). It is often used for cooking in North India, Eastern India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. In Bengal, Odisha, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, and Nepal, it is the traditionally preferred oil for cooking. The oil makes up about 30% of the mustard seeds. It can be produced from black mustard (Brassica nigra), brown Indian mustard (B. juncea), and white mustard (B. hirta).

The characteristic pungent flavour of mustard oil is due to allyl isothiocyanate. Mustard oil has about 60% monounsaturated fatty acids (42% erucic acid and 12% oleic acid); it has about 21% polyunsaturated fats (6% the omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid and 15% the omega-6 linoleic acid), and it has about 12% saturated fats.[1]

Effects on healthEdit

Mustard oil has high levels of both alpha-linolenic acid and erucic acid. Studies done on rats in the early 1970s[2] found that erucic acid has toxic effects on the heart at high enough doses.[3] However, more recent research has cast doubt on the relevance of rat studies to the human health of erucic acid. Rats are unusual in their inability to process erucic acid, and the symptoms in rats caused by a diet with high levels of erucic acid has not been observed in pigs, primates, or any other animals.[4] No negative health effects of any exposure to erucic acid have been documented in humans. Nevertheless, publication of those studies led to governments worldwide moving away from oils with high levels of erucic acid.[2] Mustard oil is not allowed to be imported or sold in the U.S. for use in cooking, except for those products with exceptionally low erucic acid content.[5]

Including oils in the diet that are high in alpha-linolenic acid has been thought to protect the heart and to prevent cardiovascular disease, but recent reviews have cast doubt on this, finding only slightly positive outcomes or even negative outcomes.[6][7][8][9] Two studies on health effects of mustard oil have been conducted in India, which had conflicting results. One found that mustard oil had no protective effect on the heart, and the authors reckoned that the benefits of alpha-linolenic acid were outweighed by the harm of erucic acid,[10] while another study found that mustard oil had a protective effect, and the authors reckoned that the benefits of alpha-linolenic acid outweighed the harm of erucic acid.[11]

The use of mustard oils in traditional societies for infant massage has been identified by one study as risking damaging skin integrity and permeability.[12] Other studies over larger samples have shown that massaging with mustard oil improved the weight, length, and midarm and midleg circumferences as compared to infants without massage, although sesame oil is a better candidate for this than mustard oil.[13]

There are cultivars of mustard containing low percentages of erucic acid (<2%), which oil is marketed for human consumption.

Nutritional informationEdit

According to the USDA,[14] 100 grams of mustard oil contains:

  • Energy: 3699 kJ (or 884 kcal)
  • Total lipid (fat): 100.0 g
  • Carbohydrates: 0.0 g
  • Fibers: 0.0 g
  • Protein: 0.0

The fat content comprises (per 100 g):[15]

  • Fatty acids, total saturated: 11.582 g
  • Fatty acids, total monounsaturated: 59.187 g
  • Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated: 21.230 g

Essential oilEdit

The pungency of the condiment mustard results when ground mustard seeds are mixed with water, vinegar, or other liquid (or even when chewed). Under these conditions, a chemical reaction between the enzyme myrosinase and a glucosinolate known as sinigrin from the seeds of black mustard (Brassica nigra) or brown Indian mustard (Brassica juncea) produces allyl isothiocyanate. By distillation one can produce a very sharp-tasting essential oil, sometimes called volatile oil of mustard, containing more than 92% allyl isothiocyanate. The pungency of allyl isothiocyanate is due to the activation of the TRPA1 ion channel in sensory neurons. White mustard (Brassica hirta) does not yield allyl isothiocyanate, but a different and milder isothiocyanate.[16]

Allyl isothiocyanate serves the plant as a defense against herbivores. Since it is harmful to the plant itself, it is stored in the harmless form of a glucosinolate, separate from the enzyme myrosinase. Once the herbivore chews the plant, the noxious allyl isothiocyanate is produced. Allyl isothiocyanate is also responsible for the pungent taste of horseradish and wasabi. It can be produced synthetically, sometimes known as synthetic mustard oil.[17]

Because of the contained allyl isothiocyanate, this type of mustard oil is toxic and irritates the skin and mucous membranes. In very small amounts, it is often used by the food industry for flavoring. In northern Italy, for instance, it is used in the fruit condiment called mostarda. It is also used to repel cats and dogs. It will also denature alcohol, making it unfit for human consumption, thus avoiding the taxes collected on alcoholic beverages.[citation needed]

The CAS number of this type of mustard oil is 8007-40-7, and the CAS number of pure allyl isothiocyanate is 57-06-7.

Use in Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani cultural and artistic activitiesEdit

Mustard oil is popular as a cooking oil in northern India and Pakistan and the chief ingredient of cooking oils used in the Bengali cuisine of Eastern India and Bangladesh. In the second half of the 20th century the popularity of mustard oil diminished a bit in Northern India and Pakistan due to the availability of mass-produced vegetable oils. It is still intricately embedded in the culture:

  • It is poured on both sides of the threshold when someone important comes home for the first time (e.g. a newly-wedded couple or a son or daughter when returning after a long absence, or succeeding in exams or an election.
  • Used as traditional jaggo pot fuel in Punjabi, Bengali and many other weddings in different parts of India.
  • Used as part of home-made cosmetics during the pre-wedding ceremonies called mayian.
  • Used as fuel for lighting earthen lamps (diyas) on festive occasions such as Diwali.
  • Used in musical instruments. The residue cake from the mustard oil pressing is mixed with sand, mustard oil and (sometimes) tar. The resulting sticky mixture is then smeared on the inside of dholak and dholki membranes to add weight (from underneath) to the bass membrane. This enables the typical Indian drum glissando sound, created by rubbing the heel of the hand over it. This is also known as a tel masala, dholak masala or oil syahi.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Entry for mustard oil in the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 22
  2. ^ a b Amy McInnis, 21 May 2004 The Transformation of Rapeseed Into Canola: A Cinderella Story Archived 11 April 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Food Standards Australia New Zealand (June 2003) Erucic acid in food Archived 3 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine : A Toxicological Review and Risk Assessment . Technical report series No. 21; Page 4 paragraph 1; ISBN 0-642-34526-0, ISSN 1448-3017
  4. ^ Grice, H. & Heggtveit, H. (1983). The Relevance to Humans of Myocardial Lesions Induced in Rats by Marine and Rapeseed Oils. In High and Low Erucic Acid Rapeseed Oils. Elsevier. p. 560.
  5. ^ FDA, 18 March 2011 FDA Import Alert 26-04
  6. ^ Pan, A; et al. (December 2012). "α-Linolenic acid and risk of cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis". Am J Clin Nutr. 96 (6): 1262–73. doi:10.3945/ajcn.112.044040. PMC 3497923. PMID 23076616.
  7. ^ Vedtofte, MS; Jakobsen, MU; Lauritzen, L; Heitmann, BL (2012). "The role of essential fatty acids in the control of coronary heart disease". Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 15: 592–6. doi:10.1097/MCO.0b013e3283596834. PMID 23037902.
  8. ^ Salter, AM (March 2013). "Dietary fatty acids and cardiovascular disease". Animal. 7 (Suppl 1): 163–71. doi:10.1017/S1751731111002023. PMID 23031737.
  9. ^ Billman, GE (2013). "The effects of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on cardiac rhythm: a critical reassessment". Pharmacol Ther. 140: 53–80. doi:10.1016/j.pharmthera.2013.05.011. PMID 23735203.
  10. ^ Ghafoorunissa (1998). "Requirements of dietary fats to meet nutritional needs & prevent the risk of atherosclerosis--an Indian perspective". Indian J Med Res. 108: 191–202. PMID 9863275.
  11. ^ Rastogi T, Reddy KS, Vaz M, et al. (April 2004). "Diet and risk of ischemic heart disease in India". Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 79 (4): 582–92. doi:10.1093/ajcn/79.4.582. PMID 15051601.
  12. ^ Darmstadt, GL; Mao-Qiang, M; Chi, E; Saha, SK; Ziboh, VA; Black, RE; Santosham, M; Elias, PM (2002). "Impact of topical oils on the skin barrier: possible implications for neonatal health in developing countries". Acta Paediatr. 91 (5): 546–54. doi:10.1080/080352502753711678. PMID 12113324.
  13. ^ Agarwal, KN; Gupta, A; Pushkarna, R; Bhargava, SK; Faridi, MM; Prabhu, MK (December 2000). "Effects of massage & use of oil on growth, blood flow & sleep pattern in infants". Indian J. Med. Res. 112: 212–7. PMID 11247199.
  14. ^ "Welcome to the USDA Food Composition Database". Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  15. ^ Food Composition Databases Show Foods -- Oil, mustard (Retrieved 2017-12-11)
  16. ^ "Mustard". A Guide to Medicinal and Aromatic Plants. Center for New Crops and Plant Products, Purdue University. Retrieved 3 January 2009.
  17. ^ "Mustard Oil, Synthetic". JT Baker. Retrieved 3 March 2010.

External linksEdit