Known for its strong flavor, pungent aroma, and high smoke point, itâ€™s often used for sautÃ©ing 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, itâ€™s often applied topically and used as a massage oil, skin serum, and hair treatment (1).
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 (1).
Here are 8 benefits of mustard oil and mustard essential oil, along with some simple ways to use them.
1. May block 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 (2).
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 (3).
Whatâ€™s more, several test-tube studies have discovered that mustard essential oil may inhibit the growth of certain types of fungi and mold (4, 5).
However, because most evidence is limited to test-tube studies, more research is needed to determine how mustard essential oil may affect human health.
Test-tube studies show that mustard essential oil may help decrease the growth of certain types of fungi and bacteria.
2. May promote skin and hair 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, itâ€™s sometimes mixed with wax and applied to the feet to help heal cracked heels.
In areas like Bangladesh, itâ€™s also commonly used to perform oil massages on newborns, which is thought to enhance the strength of the skin barrier (6).
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.
Mustard oil is sometimes used to promote skin and hair health. However, most available evidence on the benefits of mustard oil for the hair and skin is purely anecdotal.
3. 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 (7).
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 (8).
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 (9, 10).
However, keep in mind that prolonged topical exposure to pure mustard oil has been shown to cause serious skin burns (11).
More research in humans is needed to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of using mustard oil for pain relief.
One animal study found that mustard oil may help decrease pain by desensitizing certain pain receptors in the body. Mustard oil also contains ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid that may help decrease inflammation and pain.
4. 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 (12).
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 (13).
A test-tube study observed similar findings, reporting that administering allyl isothiocyanate extracted from mustard essential oil decreased the spread of bladder cancer cells (14).
Further studies need to be conducted to evaluate how mustard oil and its components may affect cancer development in humans.
Test-tube and animal studies show that mustard oil and its components may help decrease the growth and spread of certain types of cancer cells.
5. 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 (15, 16).
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 â€” all of which are risk factors for heart disease (17, 18).
Whatâ€™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 (19).
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 (20).
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 (21).
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 (22).
Therefore, more research is needed to determine how mustard oil and mustard essential oil may affect heart health.
Although evidence is mixed, mustard oil is high in monounsaturated fatty acids, which may reduce several risk factors for heart disease.
6. Reduces inflammation
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 (23).
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 (24).
Mustard oil is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including alpha-linolenic acid (25).
Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids are involved in regulating inflammatory processes in the body and may help decrease oxidative stress and inflammation (26, 27).
Still, more research is needed to determine how using mustard oil may affect inflammation in humans.
One animal study found that consuming mustard seed may decrease inflammation caused by psoriasis. Mustard oil also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which may lower oxidative stress and inflammation.
7. 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, thereâ€™s currently no evidence to support the use of mustard oil for respiratory issues, nor any research to show that it offers any benefits.
Mustard oil is sometimes used as a natural remedy to treat cold symptoms. However, thereâ€™s no evidence to prove it offers any benefits.
8. High smoke point
A smoke point is the temperature at which an oil or fat begins to break down and produce smoke.
This can not only negatively affect the flavor of your final product but also cause fats to oxidize, producing harmful and highly reactive compounds known as free radicals (28).
Pure mustard oil has a high smoke point of around 480Â°F (250Â°C), putting it on par with other fats like butter.
This makes it a common choice for high heat cooking methods like frying, roasting, baking, and grilling in areas like India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
Plus, itâ€™s comprised mostly of monounsaturated fats, which are more resistant to heat-induced degradation than polyunsaturated fatty acids (29).
However, keep in mind that pure mustard oil is banned for use as a vegetable oil in many countries, including the United States, Canada, and Europe (1).
Pure mustard oil has a high smoke point and comprises mostly monounsaturated fats, which are more resistant to heat-induced degradation than polyunsaturated fats.
How to use it
Pure mustard oil is not permitted for use as a vegetable oil in many countries around the world, including the United States, Canada, and Europe (1).
This is because it contains a compound called erucic acid, which is a fatty acid that can have serious adverse effects on heart health (30).
On the other hand, mustard essential oil is extracted from mustard seeds via a steam distillation process, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has deemed it generally recognized as safe (GRAS) as a flavoring agent (1).
Although the two are considered different types of oil, they are both extracted from mustard seeds and share many of the same beneficial compounds.
Both can also be diluted with a carrier oil, applied topically, and used as a massage oil or mixed into homemade skin serums and scalp treatments.
Be sure to perform a patch test by applying a small amount to your skin and wait at least 24 hours to check for any redness or irritation.
Thereâ€™s currently no recommended dosage for mustard oil, and research on the effects of its topical application among humans is lacking.
Therefore, for topical use, itâ€™s best to start with a small amount of around 1 tablespoon (14 mL) and increase slowly to assess your tolerance.
In many countries, mustard oil is banned for use in cooking and can only be applied topically. However, mustard essential oil is safe for culinary (as a flavoring) and topical use. Be sure to do a patch test and use a small amount to assess your tolerance.
The bottom line
Pure mustard oil is a type of oil thatâ€™s made by pressing the seeds of the mustard plant.
Because pure mustard oil contains harmful compounds like erucic acid, mustard essential oil is considered a better choice as a flavoring agent.
Pure mustard oil and mustard essential oil may help reduce inflammation and pain, slow cancer cell growth, block microbial growth, and enhance hair and skin health.
Both can also be diluted with a carrier oil and applied topically in massage oils, face masks, and hair treatments.
Read more on: oil