Teaching Tuesdays - Exotic oils Cont. Camelina

This next oil is not truly what should/would classify as an exotic oil. However, while it is quite a commonly grown and produced oil, it has long been over-looked by the skin-care industry. Why? I am not really certain. 

The Camelia plant was widely grown in Eastern Europe and Russia up to the early 1940's, and still had a quantity of production lasting into the 1950's, but then it was replaced, as canola (rapeseed) oil became known and better used. It has been suggested that the camelina plant, with its high content of unsaturated fatty acids (approx. 90%), may have been more difficult and more expensive to hydrogenate than the rapeseed. It can be speculated then, that this contributed to the camelina's decline as a popular crop.  

The camelina plant has a very long history, with documentation that dates it back to 600 BC. In fact, it was an important oil crop during the Bronze and Iron Ages. Although its gradual replacement during the Middle Ages and after is matter for speculation, what requires no speculation, is the reason for its  resurgence. This oils contents make it highly desirable and scientifically important.                                                                                   

Camelina oil, a member of the mustard seed family, botanically known as camelina sativa, is an underestimated oil, in fact, here in the US, and is often considered to be a weed. The Camelina plant itself is a small, annual shrub, which produces a tiny, pale yellow to greenish-yellow flower. The seeds of the flower are what is pressed for the oil, and the rest of the botanical material is often used for livestock feed. The plant needs very little water or nitrogen in order to flourish, and it can be grown on marginal agricultural lands, which is part of why it is often referred to as a weed. It does not, however, compete with food crops. 

It was grown for oil in the Mediterranean at least 2000 years ago, as well as in parts of Southeastern Russia. Nowadays, it is grown in Eastern Europe and Russia, as well as in the flax growing regions of the upper-Midwest United States, namely Montana. It has been traditionally cultivated as an oilseed crop, to produce vegetable oil and animal feed. It can be used as a rotation crop for wheat, which increases the soil health. It is often referred to as "false flax" because it is frequently found growing wild in the flax fields, and it has also been known as "false flax", "wild flax", "gold of pleasure", and "linseed dodder"

In the past, this oil was often used as the oil in oil in lamps, as well as feed for livestock. While it is still used in stock feed, recently, studies have begun to evaluate its effectiveness as a breast cancer treatment (namely the omega-3 acids that are found in the camelina oil). They are also examining  the use of camelina oil to increase the nutritional value of foods, especially breads, and spreads such as peanut butter. This plant is quite versatile and studies are sure to find many more health and nutritional benefits.

The gum layer that surrounds each camelina seed has been extracted, then added to other crop seeds, to coat the seeds and improve their germinating viability in challenging environments. Additionally, studies are showing that this gum has the potential to be used as a soil amendment, to stabilize exposed soil, and control erosion during road construction.

This plant is expeller pressed, and comes unrefined. It is a dark gold to dark olive colored oil, with a heavy herbaceous, green scent, and has a strong, nutty flavor, heavily resembling almond. because of this strong flavor, it makes a great salad and cooking oil, but it is a very popular additive for in animal food. In fact, it is said to have wonderful benefits for dogs, promoting healthy skin and a glossy coat. It can also be put directly onto their dry food,  and is quite tasty, according to Dallas and Gizmo! 

To spite being under appreciated in the body care industry, camelina oil  actually makes a very good addition to your skin care products formulary. To begin with, it has a very long and stable shelf life, lasting about two years. It contains about 64% polyunsaturated, 30% monounsaturated, and 6% saturated fatty acids. The main thing though, is that camelina oil has a 35-45% linoleic acid content. This is an omega-3 fatty acid, which is an essential acid, one that is necessary for good mental and physical health. Omega-3 fatty acids are generally only found in substantial, commercial quantities in linseed (flax) and certain fish meats, organs and oils. Since camelina oil is more flavorful and longer lasting than flax seed oil, and safer to consume than potentially [mercury] contaminated fish, and it is 10 times higher in fatty acids than other oils, it is quickly becoming the preferred source of omega-3 fatty acids.  

Because of its properties and cellular make-up, this oil can offer great anti-aging and emollient properties to your skin care products. The essential fatty acids help to repair skin cells, and improve the elasticity and suppleness of skin, making it a good choice for formulations geared toward maturing and/or sensitive skin. Additionally, it provides a protective coating for hair follicles, so it is also beneficial in your hair care formulations. 

 Unfortunately, due to it's under-appreciation in the recent past years, many  vendors are not familiar with this oil. I did find, however, that a few of my regular vendors do carry the oil, and, although they didn't offer usage rate recommendations, they did agree that this oil should be included in lip balms, creams, lotions, body butters and massage oils. In fact, they recognized it as  a "super oil for skin care". 

Whether for skin care, or for the other health benefits that this oil can provide, every article that I have read agrees, this oil has amazing properties. Properties that continue to be discovered and studied. This may very well be the oldest, new miracle oil, Lol!

*Remember to check out the reference page by cliking on the reference tab at the top of the page!   

 Camelina, Emu, and Evening Primrose 

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