Mustard is a condiment that has been used extensively for culinary, religious, and cultural purposes since time immemorial. Mustard oil has many uses in Ayurveda and is associated with a host of health benefits.
Mustard leaves, mustard seeds, and mustard oil have been common household items in Indian kitchens for ages.
Mustard has been an integral part of the Indian culture itself and its medicinal properties have been systematically evaluated and documented in classical Ayurvedic texts.
During winter, many Indians use warm mustard oil to massage their feet after showering or bathing. Mustard oil is equally popular in Indian cuisines and is used in a wide variety of traditional preparations.
It has a pungent, hot, and nutty taste and is used to marinate and flavor food. It is also used as a frying oil. However, its popularity has started to decline over the years.
This is probably due to cheaper vegetable oils being readily available throughout India.
In the Indian state of Assam, mustard oil is used for a slew of preparations like fried fish, fish curry, tomato chutney, mashed potatoes, and mutton stew.
In my opinion, these preparations taste best when prepared with mustard oil. Being born in an Assamese household and seeing the extensive use of mustard oil while growing up, I can definitely vouch for its many health benefits.
Mustard oil has other cultural uses in India as well. Drops of mustard oil are poured around the house as a welcoming gesture. It is also used as a homemade cosmetic during wedding ceremonies.
Mustard oil can be very beneficial for the hair too. It conditions the hair deeply when massaged into the hair and scalp. One could even say that it is a hidden treasure in our kitchens.
Ayurvedic Uses Of Mustard Oil
Given its warming qualities, it is mostly used during the winters rather than summers. One can choose to use mustard oil during the colder months of the year depending on where you live.
In the southern states of India, since the temperature doesn’t vary much throughout different seasons, coconut oil is usually preferred. Both mustard seeds and mustard oil are used in various Ayurvedic formulations.
In Ayurvedic texts, mustard seeds are mentioned under the group of herbs that cleanse the cranial cavity (Śīrṣavirecana Gaṇa). They are used for decoction enema (Āsthāpanopaga Gaṇa), have an anti-prurient activity (Kaṇḍūghna Gaṇa), induce emesis (Chardana Gaṇa), and have a pungent taste (Kaṭu rasa).
Mustard seeds are mentioned under the group of herbs that cleanse the cranial cavity.
The references for its topical use outnumber those for oral ingestion. Some common topical formulations include paste (pradeha), fumigant(dhūpana), diaphoretic (svedana), massage powder (udvartana), scraping agent (pragharṣaṇa), poultice (upanāha), and for gargling (gaṇḍūṣa).
The topical application is indicated for conditions like leucoderma, cracked skin, fever, leprosy, muscle wasting, insanity, epilepsy, swelling, rheumatoid arthritis, neurological disorders, earache, wounds, and acne.1
Scientific Research On Mustard Oil 2
- Generally, mustard oil is used for cooking. It is a monounsaturated fatty acid with omega-3 fatty acids which reduce the cholesterol levels in the body.
- Our body needs oil in the ratio of 3:1 – three parts of polyunsaturated fatty acids and one part of saturated fatty acids.
- Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) come under polyunsaturated. Mustard oil is full of MUFA which is very essential for our health. Mustard oil reduces the risk of Cardiovascular Disease and has other benefits as well.
- A recent comparative study done on varieties of edible oils revealed that mustard oil reduced the risk of cardiovascular diseases by 70 percent, so mustard oil cuts down the risk of heart diseases if used in moderation.
- According to a study done by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, including mustard oil in your regular diet could prove to be beneficial to your heart health.
Including mustard oil in your diet could be beneficial for heart health.
- Being a rich source of MUFA, it lowers bad cholesterol in the body, thus keeping a check on blood fat levels and helping in circulation.
- The results also stated that the use of mustard oil, which is rich in alpha-linolenic acid, was associated with a lower IHD risk (Ischemic Heart Disease).
- Mustard oil stimulates digestion. This oil is a known digestive stimulant and helps the intestine in producing digestive juices like bile, which increase the peristaltic movement of food.
- This ultimately aids the digestion process. Also, the same activity helps in increasing one’s appetite by promoting the production of gastric fluids in our digestive system.
- Mustard oil can reduce cancer risk. Some studies have shown that mustard oil has a particular type of phytonutrient that fights colorectal and gastrointestinal cancers.
- It has antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory action. The antibacterial and antifungal properties work well against rashes and skin infections.
- Its anti-inflammatory properties help in easing the condition of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) by reducing inflammation in the stomach lining.
- It is used as a pain reliever for toothaches and joint or muscle pains topically. It is also used as a body massage and hair oil.
- Mustard oil has shown efficacy in relieving cold and cough when applied onto the chest or inhaled. Its strong aroma helps in removing excess phlegm from the respiratory tract.
- Due to its thick consistency and high levels of vitamin E, the topical application of this oil protects your skin against harsh ultraviolet rays and other pollutants, thus reducing the risk of skin cancer.
- Vitamin E prevents aging and wrinkles besides acting as a sunscreen. It is effective in removing tan and dark spots to give you a naturally glowing skin.
- Massaging your scalp with mustard oil stimulates hair growth by increasing blood circulation in the scalp. It is packed with vitamins and minerals, particularly, a high amount of beta-carotene.
- This beta-carotene in mustard oil gets converted into vitamin A, which is excellent for hair growth. Besides, it also contains iron, fatty acids, calcium, and magnesium, all of which promote hair growth.
- It has also been observed that using mustard oil for body massages is beneficial in relieving muscle pain and ache.
- Massaging with mustard oil strengthens the muscles of the body, improves blood circulation, and generates warmth which relieves muscle tension.
- In Panchakarma therapy, sudation or swedan also activates the sweat glands and is supposed to help in expelling toxins from the body through sweat and thus acts as a natural cleanse.
Nasya And Nabhi Taila Therapy
How can we forget the amazing benefits of Mustard oil for nasya (nasal insufflation) and nabhi taila (oiling the naval cavity/ belly button)?
As mentioned in the classical Ayurvedic texts, mustard oil is shiro virechana. This means that it cleanses the cranial cavity.
Nasal spray or nasal insufflation (nasya) with mustard oil helps with thinning the mucus and clearing the nasal cavity and the respiratory tract.
It also helps in enhancing mental faculties since the nasa (nose) is considered to be the entrance to the brain and the nervous system in Ayurveda.
Using nasal drops of mustard oil every morning before showering and every night before bedtime helps in clearing brain fog, promotes restful sleep, and strengthens the nervous system.
Pouring mustard oil into the belly button is also an important Ayurvedic practice. Belly button/navel or nabhi is considered to be the root of the siras (the nourishing vessels of the body).
Although anatomically one cannot see any veins or arteries originating from the navel/nabhi, its connectivity to the siras or nourishing vessels is explained in the context of fetal circulation.
In fetal circulation, the umbilicus of the child connects the child to the mother. The umbilicus is what carries the nutrients from the mother to the fetus so, in a way, the umbilicus /belly button is responsible for our existence.
This small part of our body also happens to be one of the most important ones. The belly button is mentioned as a dasha pranayatana in Ayurvedic medicine. Another clear benefit of using mustard oil!
Dasha pranayatana translates to the ten abodes of life which have a connection with the siras (or nutrient-carrying vessels) running through the body.
The belly button is connected to these blood vessels that reach different parts of the body. It is believed that most health problems result from dry siras.
The oil, when poured into the belly button, gets absorbed and nourishes the dry siras in the body. In fact, it detects the dry sira and nourishes it.
I have personally experienced the benefits of this practice and can vouch for it. Try it and see for yourself!
Consult a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner before using mustard oil for therapeutic purposes.
- Mustard and its uses in Ayurveda. Research Gate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/215533380_Mustard_and_its_uses_in_Ayurveda
- What are the Medicinal Properties of Mustard Oil. Varsha Dilip- Jadhav (Rathod)Shivaji University, Kolhapur · Department of Botany