Mustard oil is used primarily in India, both for cooking and for medicinal purposes. It is sold in many other countries but mostly for external use, not usually for cooking. Some countries consider mustard oil toxic and have banned it completely. It is sold in the UK and other countries, but the bottle contains a warning label. It is controversial because many people use the product with no ill effects and even report improvements in health. Brits of Asian heritage use the oil in food.
Mustard oil has low saturated fats compared to other cooking oils. The oil is composed of monounsaturated fatty acids, oleic acid, erucic acid and linoleic acid. This oil has antioxidant and cholesterol-reducing properties, has a nutty taste and is good for the heart. This oil is used in some North Indian traditions for cooking.
There are many health benefits associated with mustard oil. It is often used as an antibacterial oil, for instance, to treat ringworm. It is massaged into the skin and head to increase circulation and detoxify the skin. It is often used in massages because it promotes sweating in the body, which lowers body temperature and removes toxins and salt. It has a cleansing effect and improves blood circulation. When rubbed on the skin before showering, it prevents dryness. On sunburn, mustard oil will relieve the pain and stop the dryness and burning.
The oil is produced from the black mustard seed, brown Indian mustard and white mustard seeds. Mustard oil is extracted from mustard seed by a process called cold compression. The essential oil is extracted by steam or soaking mustard seeds in water. Mustard essential oil is a strong stimulant. The essential oil acts as an insect repellent when put on the skin. In India it often is heated to the smoking point when used in cooking.
Through mustard seed is believed to be beneficial in India, it is banned from use in some countries. In the United States, Canada and some European countries it can only be sold for external use. It is considered by some countries to be harmful.
When cooking with mustard oil, it much reach the smoking point to be used in stir frying or frying. This is because of the composition of the oil. When it reaches this high temperature the mustard flavour is more prevalent in the food. It can be stored in the cabinet unopened until used, then should be stored in the refrigerator. It can be purchased at Indian and mideastern grocery stores and some organic sections of supermarkets.