14 Outstanding Health Benefits of Mustard Oil

mustard oil

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  • Mustard oil has long been a staple ingredient in Indian and South Asian cuisines, and it’s also traditionally used in Ayurveda for its medicinal properties
  • In the U.S., pure mustard oil is recommended only for topical use. The other product commonly referred to as mustard oil (but with an approved food use) is mustard essential oil
  • Allyl isothiocyanate (AITC) is the primary compound that gives mustard essential oil its medicinal properties and characteristic pungency
  • Mustard essential oil may help reduce the risk for cancer, improve cardiovascular health, ease pain, fight foodborne pathogenic bacteria, reduce inflammation, and promote skin, hair and dental health

Mustard oil has long been a staple ingredient in Indian and South Asian cuisines. It’s also traditionally used in Ayurveda for its medicinal properties. However, mustard oil is recommended for topical use only in the U.S. Thankfully, there’s another product commonly referred to as mustard oil, but with an approved food use, and that’s mustard essential oil, also known as the volatile oil of mustard.1 Read on to find out the difference between these oils and how they affect your health.

What Is Mustard Oil?

Organic mustard oil is extracted from the seeds of the mustard plant. There are three varieties of mustard seed that can produce this oil: black mustard (Brassica nigra), brown mustard (Brassica juncea) and white mustard (Sinapis alba).2 The compounds present in mustard oil may differ depending on the seed variety it is extracted from.3

It’s important to note that the term “mustard oil” is actually used to refer to two kinds of oil extracted from mustard seeds — the pure mustard oil and the mustard essential oil. While these types are often mistaken for each other, they actually differ in chemical composition, medicinal properties, process of extraction, uses and safety.4

The type of mustard oil that’s generally recognized as safe for consumption is mustard essential oil.5 This is produced through the steam distillation of seeds that have been soaked in water. 6 Allyl isothiocyanate (AITC) is the primary compound that gives mustard essential oil its medicinal properties and characteristic pungency.

This substance is formed when the enzyme myrosinase and the glucosinolate sinigrin in the mustard seeds react in the presence of water.

Pure mustard oil, on the other hand, is produced through the cold compression of mustard seeds.7 The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the sale of pure mustard oil for food purposes because of its high erucic acid content.8

Any food with high amounts of erucic acid is deemed undesirable for consumption, as this substance has been linked to myocardial lipidosis and heart lesions in test animals.9 While there is currently no evidence to prove that cold-pressed mustard oil is indeed harmful to humans when ingested, the FDA still requires all pure mustard oil to have a label indicating that it is for external use only.10

Mustard Essential Oil Benefits for Your Health

Top 14 Benefits of Mustard Essential Oil

As mentioned above, mustard essential oil gets most of its benefits from AITC. It’s also high in healthy fats, which contribute to its medicinal properties. Mustard essential oil may be used to help:

1. Reduce the risk for cancer — In a 2010 study published in the journal Carcinogenesis, AITC is shown to lower the risk for bladder cancer by 34.5 percent. This compound is also found to be 100 percent effective in inhibiting the spread of cancer onto the surrounding muscle cells.11

2. Fight against cardiovascular disease — According to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the high alpha-linolenic acid content of mustard oil may help lower the risk for ischemic heart disease.12

3. Inhibit foodborne pathogenic bacteria — In a 2016 study published in the Journal of Food Protection, the antimicrobial activity of mustard essential oil against foodborne pathogenic bacteria was evaluated, along with Mexican oregano and thyme.

Results show that mustard essential oil had the most effective antimicrobial activity against Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella enteritidis. It also exhibited synergistic effects when combined with either Mexican oregano or thyme essential oils.13

4. Relieve body pain — A study published in Scientific Reports shows that mustard oil may be used to help alleviate chronic and widespread body pain by blocking certain pain receptors in the body.14

5. Promote skin health — A study published in MOJ Food Processing Technology states that mustard essential oil has moderate to good free radical scavenging activity.15 This antioxidant property may help protect your skin against the damaging effects of free radicals.

6. Improve hair health — Mustard oil is known to help stimulate hair growth, delay premature graying of hair, reduce hair loss and improve hair texture.16

7. Provide anti-inflammatory properties — According to a study published in the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, the AITC in mustard oil may help regulate inflammation in the body,17 helping reduce the risk for inflammatory conditions.

8. Relieve joint pain and arthritis — The omega-3 fatty acids in mustard oil may help inhibit the production of inflammatory cytokines that are responsible for arthritic pain. It may also help relieve other symptoms of arthritis, including joint stiffness.18

9. Stimulate blood circulation — Mustard oil is traditionally used as a massage oil to improve the circulation of blood to certain areas of the body.19,20

10. Relieve cold and cough — Mustard oil is traditionally rubbed on the chest or back in case of a cough or cold. Its heating property may help clear up congestion of the respiratory tract.21

11. Increase airflow to the lungs — According to a study published in the European Journal of Pharmacology, AITC may help improve airflow to the lungs by inhibiting bronchial obstruction.22

12. Repel insects — A study published in the Journal of Vector Bourne Diseases shows that mustard oil offers longer protection time against the bites of Aedes (S.) albopictus mosquitoes than coconut oil.23

13. Optimize brain function — The healthy fats in mustard oil may help promote healthy brain function, improve memory, boost mood and prevent premature neurodegenerative diseases.24,25

14. Get rid of dandruff and itchy scalp — Massaging mustard oil on your scalp regularly may help eliminate dandruff and itchy scalp, as it has antibacterial and antifungal properties.26

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4 Other Uses of Mustard Oil

In addition to the health benefits mentioned above, mustard oil may also be used for the following applications:

Gum massage — A blend of mustard oil and salt is commonly used for gum massage in India, as it’s believed to help relieve bleeding gums and toothache. Follow this procedure to massage your gums with mustard oil and salt paste:27

1. Mix salt and mustard oil in your palms. The amount of mustard oil should be four times more than the amount of salt.

2. Using your fingers, massage your gums with the mustard oil and salt mixture every morning.

Immediate asthma relief — Mustard oil’s ability to inhibit bronchial obstruction makes it an ideal emergency home remedy for asthma. Here’s how to use it:28,29

1. Mix mustard oil with garlic or camphor.

2. Massage it onto your chest, back and neck area. Do this several times a day until your symptoms subside.

Relieve skin dryness or irritation — Massaging mustard oil onto the skin may help provide relief to any type of dryness, skin irritation and rash. Follow this guide:30

1. Combine mustard oil with a little turmeric oil or camphor.

2. Thoroughly massage the mixture onto the affected area.

Manage ear infections The antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties31 of mustard oil may help alleviate ear infections. Here’s how to use it on your ears:

1. Dilute five drops of mustard oil with a tablespoon of carrier oil.

2. Apply the blend to the outer portion of the affected ear and allow it to soak into your skin.

Mustard Essential Oil Substitute

For cooking, you can substitute mustard essential oil with any neutral oil that’s mixed with mustard powder.32 If you’re adding mustard oil into your dishes for its warmth, then ginger is also a good substitute, as it’s warming and pungent.33

Ginger oil also works well as a mustard oil alternative for massage purposes, as it provides warmth that may help ease tired muscles and body pain.34 Other essential oils that provide warming properties like mustard oil include cardamom and marjoram oil.35

How to Make Infused Mustard Oil at Home

The process of making mustard essential oil is complicated, so if you want to make homemade mustard oil for culinary or medicinal use, you should make an infused version instead. Here’s how you can do it:36,37,38

Infused Mustard Oil


3 tablespoons mustard seed

1/2 cup carrier oil, such as coconut oil


1. Pour the mustard seeds and carrier oil in a blender.

2. Blend for a few minutes. You may feel the oil warming up through the wall of the blender.

3. Once the ingredients are fully incorporated, strain out the solid particles.

4. Pour the oil in a clean glass jar and store in the refrigerator for a longer shelf life.

Mustard Oil Side Effects

Although mustard oil has a number of health benefits, you should still exercise caution when using it for the first time, especially if you’re not sure about your sensitivity to this substance, as it can cause allergic reactions. Its AITC content has also been described as a severe irritant to the skin and mucous membranes, especially when used in excessive amounts.39

A Word of Caution Before Using Mustard Oil

Since mustard essential oil is potent, it’s best to consult your doctor before using it to ensure that it’s safe for you and to determine the amount that you should be handling. As with other essential oils, I recommend doing a skin patch test before applying mustard essential oil on your skin. This will help you determine whether you’re sensitive to this substance or not.

Dilute the mustard oil with a carrier oil and apply a quarter-sized portion on your inner arm. If no irritation or inflammation occurs over the next 24 hours, then you can proceed to using it on other body parts. Make sure you always dilute mustard essential oil before use, as this helps reduce its potency and potential side effects.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Mustard Oil

Q: Where can you buy mustard oil?

A. Mustard oil is available in online stores, supermarkets and Indian grocery stores.

Q: Is mustard oil good for your hair?

A. Yes, mustard oil provides plenty of benefits for your hair. It promotes hair growth, inhibits premature graying of hair, reduces hair loss and improves hair texture, among others.40

Q: Can mustard oil be used for oil pulling?

A. Yes, mustard oil may be used for oil pulling,41 as it may also help promote oral health.42 However, its pungent smell may be off-putting. If you’re looking for a better-smelling oil, I would recommend coconut oil. Check out my article, “Oil Pulling Craze: All-Purpose Remedy?

Q: Why is pure mustard oil banned to sell for food use in the U.S.?

A. Pure mustard oil is prohibited from being consumed in the U.S. because it contains high amounts of erucic acid, a substance that may cause myocardial lipidosis and heart lesions.43,44

Q: Is it healthy to cook using mustard oil?

A. Yes, as long as you’re using essential mustard oil. The pure mustard oil variety is not recommended for cooking because of its potentially toxic erucic acid content.45

Q: Is mustard oil harmful?

A. The toxicity of mustard oil depends on how you use it. Pure, cold-compressed mustard oil is considered safe to use as a massage oil, but not as a cooking oil. Essential mustard oil, on the other hand, is safe to use topically and consume in small amounts.46,47

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