Mustard Essential Oil


‘Sarson ka tel’ or Mustard essential oil is a vital part of Ayurveda, the ancient Indian therapy where it is used for cleansing, stimulating and revitalizing the body. Besides all the controversies across the world, Mustard oil is popular and extensively used in India, Bangladesh and few other Western countries. Though extracted from the same Mustard seeds, Mustard edible oil is totally different from Mustard essential oil by the method of extraction where the vegetable oil is extracted by cold compressing the seeds and the essential oil of Mustard is extracted by steam distillation of seeds that are soaked in water.

Mustard oil is to Asian countries just like Olive oil is to Mediterranean countries. Besides the myth of being banned in certain countries for internal use, Mustard is a legendary oil used for more than thousands of years in the world’s oldest mythologies like India, Rome and Greece.

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Historical importance of Mustard and its oil: Used as a spice, condiment, herb, cooking oil and medicinal agent, Mustard and its oil are said to have been found since the Stone Age settlements. Among the 40 species of Mustard plants, the most popular and the ones used for extracting essential and edible oils are Brassica nigra (Black mustard), Brassica hirta (White mustard) and Brassica juncea (Brown mustard).

It is still trusted that Mustard was grown in the Indian subcontinent around 3000 B.C.E. Hippocrates used mustard seeds in the preparation of many poultices and medicines. The ancient Romans mixed ground mustard seeds to wine for its unique flavor and remedial values.  It was also used as a natural remedy to treat scorpion stings in the 6th century B.C. by Pythagoras, the renowned Greek scientist.

Mustard was used as a condiment in Greece and Rome for fermenting fish sauce known as garum. The love for mustard made Pope John XXII of Avignon create the post of ‘Grand Moutardier du Pape’ (Grand Mustard-Maker to the Pope). Mustard oil has been a part of North Indian cooking for more than 4000 years and this oil has been the secret behind healthy and lustrous hair growth of Indian women.

Chemical constituents and therapeutic properties of Mustard essential oil: The essential oil of Mustard has Allyl isothiocyanate, oleic acid, omega-6 linoleic acid, omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid and erucic acid. These constituents contribute to the remedial properties including cordial, tonic, anti-rheumatic, stimulant, appetizer, antifungal, antimicrobial, diaphoretic, hair vitalizer, insect repellant and irritant.

Ayurvedic health benefits of Mustard essential oil: Mustard oil has been used in Ayurvedic healing as a promising body massage oil for improving blood circulation, enhancing the texture of the skin, muscular development and to lessen the dryness of skin. Ayurveda meaning the knowledge of life skillfully explains the vibrant relationship between one’s mind, body and spirit and the way it relates to the world around.

The Ayurvedic approach of healing starts with an Ayurvedic consultation where your unique individual constitution, likes and dislikes, food habits and your medical history is thoroughly analyzed. Your treatment starts with the tridosha concept as the guiding principle where Ayurveda believes that every individual is unique and is born with a unique fundamental constitution knows as prakriti. It is built up with 3 major biological energies known as doshas namely vata, pitta and kapha.

The dynamic balance between these three doshas determine one’s health and predominance of any one of these doshas is the deciding factor for one’s personality, behavior and attributes. Ayurvedic remedies are always based on your individual constitution and to balance any one or all the three doshas that are out of rhythm. With its warming properties, Mustard essential oil is said to increase pitta dosha and pacify kapha and vata doshas. It’s time to have a look at the Ayurvedic health benefits of Mustard essential oil:

1. Benefits to the hair: Ayurvedic Mustard oil is extremely good for hair. The essential fatty acids like linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) and certain other components present in this oil makes it an effective natural remedy for treating hair loss, premature graying, dull and lifeless hair. Using Mustard essential oil on your scalp augments natural pigmentation and vitalizes your hair follicles by acting on the roots. This way it prevents early graying and helps you in maintaining a natural dark hair even in your late 40s or early 50s. Indeed Ayurvedic Mustard oil is a long time secret of many grandmothers in India who still have healthy black hair.

Slightly heat 3 to 4 drops of Mustard essential oil blended with sesame oil and gently massage it on your scalp. Leave this blend for about an hour and wash your hair with a mild herbal shampoo or shikakai for nourishing your scalp health, reducing hair fall, enhancing blood circulation, conditioning your hair, strengthening the roots, augmenting its natural shine and to lessen the more salt than pepper on your head.

2. Benefits to the respiratory system: Mustard essential oil is generally used as a mucolytic in many parts of the world. Herbs and vegetables like wasabi, horseradish and nasturtium along with essential oils that are used as traditional mucolytics and are proved effective in breaking up mucous deposits and help sinus drainage in chronic sinusitis. The antimicrobial property of Mustard essential oil assists in combating numerous pathogenic organisms and microbes that worsen sinusitis and certain other respiratory problems like bronchitis, asthma and tuberculosis.

A 2009 study on ‘Antimicrobial activity of Mustard essential oil against Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella typhi’ by the Department of Food Science and Biotechnology, Korea states “Mustard essential oil affected the cell membrane of Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella typhi. It affected cell membrane integrity, resulting in a loss of cell homeostasis”.

On an Ayurvedic perspective respiratory problems like cold, cough, sinusitis, bronchitis and asthma are caused due to imbalance or increased kapha dosha responsible for fluid retention, congestion, phlegm and mucous deposits. Mustard essential oil is known to pacify and reduce kapha energy and it is used as an excellent Ayurvedic remedy for treating such respiratory problems.

Blend 2 drops of Mustard essential oil with little coconut oil and heat it. Massage this herbal blend on your chest, back and throat for loosening mucous deposits, removing phlegm from lungs and respiratory tract and to help trouble-free breathing. You can also add 2 to 3 drops of Mustard essential oil in hot bathing water that can work wonders on respiratory ailments and certain other pulmonary problems.

3. Benefits to the skin: Mustard essential oil is an effective antifungal, anti-parasitic, antibacterial, disinfecting and antimicrobial oil that protects the skin from infections, wounds from getting septic and heals minor skin problems like cuts, athlete’s foot, ringworm, insect bites, small lacerations, abrasions etc. Mustard essential oil has been in use for massaging for many centuries.

When gently massaged onto the skin after mixing 2 drops of Mustard essential oil with jojoba oil, it aids in increasing blood circulation with its warming properties, helps open the pores and supports in eliminating the toxins in the body through sweat. This essential oil has high level of vitamin E that promotes healthy skin, moisten the skin, protect the skin from harmful ultra-violet rays, and effectively treat blemishes, wrinkles and fine lines as well.

4. Benefits to the entire system: The essential oil extracted from Mustard seeds is beneficial to the entire system with its tonic and stimulating properties that foster trouble-free functioning of the body. The pungent aroma of this oil increases hunger by stimulating the digestive juices and by increasing the appetite. Massaging your tummy and abdomen with 2 drops of Mustard oil mixed with sesame oil can help in burning the excess fat, promotes quicker digestion by encouraging the secretion of digestive juices and assists in treating constipation, flatulence and intestinal gas.

Mustard essential oil penetrates deeply into the skin and is a powerful Ayurvedic remedy for treating excess vata based nervous problems and kapha based problems like inflammation and retention of fluids. Mix 2 drops of Mustard oil with coconut oil and gently massage in circular movements on the affected areas to treat rheumatism, lumbago, back pain, headaches and inflammation.  Adding 1 drop of this oil to a cup of warm water can serve as an exceptional gargle for protecting your teeth and gums from germs.

This is an excellent massaging oil especially during winter to keep the body warm, trigger the functioning of the muscles and to treat numbness with its irritant properties. This oil is also said to slow down the process of aging naturally and aids in preventing cancer.

Disclaimer: Never take essential oils internally. Pure and organic essential oils are highly concentrated liquids and always remember to use it after diluting in baths or suitable carrier oils. Always do a patch test on the skin before using essential oils for massage. Consult your Ayurvedic practitioner for choosing the right essential oil that is apposite for your individual constitution and health condition.

Thought for the day:

I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.  -Walt Whitman

Suggested Reading:

  1. Mustard Seeds: The Tiny Seed That May Save Your Life! (Plant & Seed Legacy Series) by Mary Jo Montanye
  2. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils: The Complete Guide to the Use of Oils in Aromatherapy & Herbalism by Julia Lawless
  3. The Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amadea Morningstar, Urmila Desai
  4. Traditional Systems of Medicine by M. Z. Abdin

Reference Links:

  1. The History of Mustard – From Prehistory to Modern Times by The Nibble.Com
  2. Mustard Oil by Wikipedia
  3. Antimicrobial activity of Mustard essential oil against Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella typhi by the Department of Food Science and Biotechnology, Korea published in Science
  4. What are the benefits of Mustard oil for Sinusitis? By Livestrong.Com