Mustard oil can be obtained from all three types of mustard seed, since all of them possess an oil content of 20 to 30%. The term mustard oil denotes both the fatty oil and the essential oil of the mustard seed. The essential oil is also used in the production of mustard and is responsible for the spicy taste. The essential oil comes from black mustard, yet only after exposure to water. First the mustard oil is pressed out of the seeds in a cold-press process using a mechanical pressing, for example, with a Florapower Universalpresse (Universal Press). Then the leftover mustard press cake is ground into flour, mixed with water, and left standing in a distillation still. After a length of time, a steam distillation can ensue. The chemical reactions that take place when mustard flour is mixed with water has already been described under “Anbau und Inhaltsstoffe”. The resulting essential oil is thin, toxic, and has a colorless to yellowish tinge and a very pungent odor, which irritates the eyes, causing tears; and on the skin, it has a burning effect that causes redness and blisters. It contains a high amount of allyl isothiocyanate. Mustard spirit, which is produced from essential mustard oil in conjunction with alcohol, is only used for medical purposes.
Characteristics and shelf life
White mustard oil has a yellowish color, while raw black mustard oil has a light tinge. Because it contains allyl mustard oil, white mustard oil tastes acridly pungent; black mustard oil disseminates a rather savory smell yet still has a pungent taste. Refined oil, on the other hand, is neutral in smell and taste. Mustard oil consists of up to 60% monounsaturated fatty acids, which in turn consist of approx. 42% erucic acid and around 12-18% oleic acid. In addition there are around 21% polyunsaturated fatty acids; 6-10% of these are omega-3 α-linolenic acid and up to 15% omega-6 linoleic acid. Beyond this, the oil also contains glyceride, behenic acid, antioxidants, and vitamin E. Black mustard oil also contains sulphur.
When exposed to light, oxygen in the air, or moisture, oils and fats quickly become rancid and their smell and taste can consequently change. If this oil is stored in airtight, dark, and cool conditions, it has a shelf life of about 12 months.
Pharmaceutical and medical use
According to Marcus Hartmann’s Öle – natürlich kaltgepresst (oils – naturally cold-pressed), mustard oil can have positive effects on the body. It can lower cholesterol levels, stimulate circulation and strengthen the immune system. What is more, it can prevent tumor formation and heart attacks. Since mustard oils (for example, allyl mustard oil) have a somewhat strong antibacterial effect, they are often used therapeutically as a locally active skin stimulant.
Mustard oil is likewise used in this arena. Because it supports skin circulation through the skin stimulating allyl mustard oil it contains,it is often used for skin care and for Ayurvedic massages. However, persons with sensitive skin or allergic tendencies are not advised to use this oil.
In the kitchen
In its culinary application, this oil is still relatively unexplored. Yet there is robust evidence that mustard oil is ranked as one of the healthiest oils, due to its favorable fatty acid ratio (ca. 10% omega-3 fatty acids and only ca. 6% saturated fatty acids), the high content of secondary plant substances, and the very high portion of vitamins and minerals. Not only can it be used for preparing crudités and salads, but it can also serve as a healthy alternative in steaming and frying or in the production of chips and dips. Mustard oil as cooking oil is used particularly in the Near East. However, due to its elevated amount of erucic acid (which is contained in the oil and in the mustard seeds), in Europe it is only permitted for restricted sale under certain conditions. For if the mustard oil does not undergo thorough, sufficient heating, glycerides of erucic acid and isothiocyanate remain in the oil. These acids can possibly lead to fatty degeneration of the heart. If the erucic acid content is lowered below 5% through heating, however, then the health risks are considered marginal.
Mustard oil finds further application as a lubricant and burning material, and also in soap production.
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In addition to their own knowledge acquired through press trials, the following sources were used to create the article:
- Öle, natürlich kaltgepresst, Basiswissen & Rezepte, Marcus Hartmann, Hädecke, 2008
- Heilende Öle, Pflanzenöle als Nahrungs- und Heilmittel, Neue Erkenntnisse, Günter Albert Ulmer Verlag Tuningen
- Lexikon der pflanzlichen Fette und Öle, Krist, Buchbauer, Klausberger, SpringerWienNewYork, 2008