Mustard Oil is known to have ancient origins. In fact, it is one of the oldest recorded spices in the history of humankind. Historical records contain a multitude of references to Mustard Oil, not just for cooking but also for healing. For instance, back in 530 BCE the famous Greek philosopher Pythagoras mentioned Mustard Oil as an effective remedy for scorpion bites!
Some food anthropologists believe that the ancient Sumerians in Mesopotamia used crushed mustard seeds for various preparations in circa 2000 BCE. There is also archaeological evidence to indicate that Mustard Oil was used as part of funerary offerings during the entombment rituals of the pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty (1550 to 1292 BCE) in Egypt.
The Roman civilisation was founded in 753 BCE – and the Romans really, really loved mustard. They even used it for making booze! To unfermented grape juice (called “Mustum”) the added mustard seeds to create a hot, burning flavour (called “Ardens”). They called this fiery pungent wine Mustum Ardens – from where the English name “Mustard” is derived. The word “Mustard” also has its roots in the Anglo-Norman word “mustarde” and the French word “mostarde”.
There are food historians who believe – erroneously, we may add – that mustard seeds and Mustard Oil reached India via the Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama. This is completely wrong. References to mustard and Mustard Oil can be found in Sanskrit treatises that go as far back as 3300 BCE. These ancient records mention both the culinary as well as medicinal uses of Mustard Oil.
Moreover, there are ancient Ayurveda texts that date back to circa 800 BCE that describe multifaceted medicinal and curative uses of cold-pressed Mustard Oil (known as “Sharshap Taila” in Sanskrit).
So let’s set aside Sumerian, Egyptian, Roman, Portuguese and other claims to Mustard Oil. It is India’s Oil. It was cultivated in the foothills of the Himalayas more than 5000 years ago – and continues to be used and revered for its amazing flavour, versatility and health benefits.