Mustard oil, which is produced from the seeds of the mustard plant, is a common ingredient in Indian cuisine. Known for its strong flavor, pungent aroma, and high smoke point, it’s often used for sautéing and stir-frying vegetables in many parts of the world, including India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Although pure mustard oil is banned for use as a vegetable oil in the United States, Canada, and Europe, it’s often applied topically and used as a massage oil, skin serum, and hair treatment. Mustard essential oil, a type of essential oil produced from mustard seeds using a steam distillation process, is also available and approved for use as a flavoring agent.
Blocks microbial growth
Some studies have found that mustard essential oil possesses powerful antimicrobial properties and may help block the growth of certain types of harmful bacteria. According to one test-tube study, white mustard essential oil decreased the growth of several strains of bacteria, including Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Bacillus cereus.
Another test-tube study compared the antibacterial effects of essential oils like mustard, thyme, and Mexican oregano with pathogenic bacteria. It found that mustard essential oil was the most effective.
What’s more, several test-tube studies have discovered that mustard essential oil may inhibit the growth of certain types of fungi and mold. However, because most evidence is limited to test-tube studies, more research is needed to determine how mustard essential oil may affect human health.
Pure mustard oil is often applied topically to help optimize hair and skin health. As well as adding it to homemade face masks and hair treatments, it’s sometimes mixed with wax and applied to the feet to help heal cracked heels.
In areas like Bangladesh, it’s also commonly used to perform oil massages on newborns, which is thought to enhance the strength of the skin barrier.However, although many report improvements in fine lines, wrinkles, and hair growth, most available evidence on the topical benefits of pure mustard oil is purely anecdotal.
If you decide to use mustard oil on your skin or scalp, be sure to perform a patch test first and use only a small amount to prevent irritation.
May alleviate pain
Mustard oil contains allyl isothiocyanate, a chemical compound that has been well studied for its effect on pain receptors in the body. Although research in humans is lacking, one animal study found that administering mustard oil to the drinking water of mice desensitized certain pain receptors and helped treat widespread pain.
Mustard oil is also rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid that may help decrease inflammation and relieve pain caused by conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.
However, keep in mind that prolonged topical exposure to pure mustard oil has been shown to cause serious skin burns. More research in humans is needed to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of using mustard oil for pain relief.
May slow cancer cell growth
Promising research suggests that mustard oil may help slow the growth and spread of certain types of cancer cells. In one older study, feeding pure mustard oil to rats blocked the growth of colon cancer cells more effectively than feeding them corn oil or fish oil .
Another animal study showed that mustard seed powder rich in allyl isothiocyanate inhibited bladder cancer growth by nearly 35%, as well as helped prevent it from spreading into the muscle wall of the bladder .
A test-tube study observed similar findings, reporting that administering allyl isothiocyanate extracted from mustard essential oil decreased the spread of bladder cancer cells. Further studies need to be conducted to evaluate how mustard oil and its components may affect cancer development in humans.
May support heart health
Mustard oil is high in monounsaturated fatty acids, a type of unsaturated fat found in foods like nuts, seeds, and plant-based oils. Monounsaturated fatty acids have been linked to a variety of benefits, especially when it comes to heart health.
In fact, studies show that they may help lower triglyceride, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels — all of which are risk factors for heart disease. What’s more, other research suggests that replacing saturated fat in the diet with monounsaturated fat could decrease levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, helping protect heart health.
However, although the beneficial effects of monounsaturated fats have been well established, some studies have reported mixed results on the effects of mustard oil itself on heart health.
For example, one small study in 137 people in North India found that those who consumed a higher amount of mustard oil were more likely to have a history of heart disease.
Another Indian study also noted that those who consumed higher amounts of ghee, a type of clarified butter, were more likely to have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels than those who consumed higher amounts of mustard oil .
Conversely, one older Indian study in 1,050 people showed that the regular use of mustard oil was associated with a lower risk of heart disease, compared with sunflower oil.
Therefore, more research is needed to determine how mustard oil and mustard essential oil may affect heart health.
Traditionally, mustard oil has been used topically to relieve symptoms of arthritis, soothe pain and discomfort, and decrease inflammation caused by conditions like pneumonia or bronchitis.
While current research is mostly limited to animal studies, one study in mice found that consuming mustard seed decreased several markers of psoriasis-induced inflammation. Mustard oil is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including alpha-linolenic acid.
Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids are involved in regulating inflammatory processes in the body and may help decrease oxidative stress and inflammation. Still, more research is needed to determine how using mustard oil may affect inflammation in humans.
May help treat cold symptoms
Pure mustard oil is often used as a natural remedy to treat cold symptoms, such as coughing and congestion. It can be mixed with camphor, a compound often found in creams and ointments, and applied directly to the chest.
Alternatively, you can try a mustard oil steam treatment, which involves adding a few drops of pure mustard oil to boiling water and inhaling the steam. However, there’s currently no evidence to support the use of mustard oil for respiratory issues, nor any research to show that it offers any benefits.
Ayurvedic uses of mustard oil
Treating Wounds: The antifungal, anti-parasitic, antibacterial, disinfecting antimicrobial properties of the oil help in treating the wound and prevents it from getting septic when applied to it.
Hair & Body Massage: Warm a small amount and apply the oil and gently massage it into your hair and body. Let it absorb 30-45 minutes and let the oil remove oil impurities and finally a warm shower.
Treating Respiratory Problems: Massaging mustard oil on the chest followed by a steam can help in loosening mucous deposits and removing phlegm from lungs for trouble free breathing.