Taramira Oil (Jamba Oil)

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Taramira oil is an ancient oil that has been in use in countries that follow the Unani system of medicine. It is somewhat on the costlier side of oils (because of medicinal connotation) but is used primarily for hair care and for the benefits that it provides our skin with. It was and still is popular in India, Pakistan and many countries surrounding the Mediterranean because of the continuation of Unani system of medicine in these regions.



Source

It is expelled from the seeds of a cruciferous vegetable that is similar to mustard. That veggie is called arugula (also commonly known as rocket) and belongs to the same family as mustard and cabbage (Brassicaceae). Seeds are mostly ochre colored and small. Oil extracted from its seeds is highly pungent and aromatic, even more so than mustard oil. It is used not so much in cooking, more so in medicinal applications and pickling. It is also known as jamba oil. In the Arabic speaking regions, it is known as gargir.

Color and Aroma

Its color is a characteristic olive green with little tints of yellow. It smells acrid and pungent, more so than mustard. This is because of the presence of organic sulphur rich compounds that are sharply pungent. [1]

Properties

Although the oil must be possessing many therapeutic properties, only a few of them have been verified by modern research.



  • Antioxidant – It contains some organosulfur compounds like allyl isothiocyanate [1] that provide it additional antioxidant power over and above the mild antioxidant activities of healthy fatty acids.
  • Anti-mutagenic – It reduces the chances of mutation in our DNA that leads to the formation of cancers. [1]
  • Anti-melanoma – Taramira oil has been found to be helpful in killing cancer cells of the melanoma of liver. [1]
  • Antiseptic and antibacterial – Like mustard oil, Taramira oil kills many bacteria that inhabit food. This effect is attributed to allyl isothiocyanate, the compound that gives it a characteristic pungent aroma. [1]
  • Antifungal – Allyl isothiocyanate works against some kinds of fungi, like penicillum expansum and aflatoxins. These are fungi that infest food. Aflatoxins contribute to liver cell damage. [3]
  • Anti-diabetic – In one study, it was found to reduce high blood glucose and increase the levels of glutathione (a prominent antioxidant for our body). [2]
  • Anti-scabies – In traditional usage, it was used to treat horses suffering from scabies [5]. But we can’t use this for humans suffering from scabies, because the mite that causes scabies in humans is not the same as the one that afflicts horses. Some unreliable sources mention about using Taramira oil on dogs to treat scabies. How safe it is in treating scabies in dogs is yet to be evaluated.

It is also believed to possess hair growing property by stimulating hair follicles.

Health Benefits

Taramira oil against Hair fall

It has remained a popular herbal remedy employed within the Unani system (Graeco-Persian-Arabic system). This medicinal system is somewhat similar to Ayurveda in the sense that it believes that the human body gets afflicted with diseases when our humors are deranged and out of balance. In the ayurvedic system, these humors are the vata, pitta and kapha. In Unani system, there are four humors. Objective of treatment was to bring the body back to equilibrium of health by bringing about a normalization of the humors.

Taramira oil is used to treat hair loss by stemming the current hair fall and promoting growth of hair from existing hair follicles. This is its most powerful benefit. It is to be applied in a small quantity onto the scalp and massaged into the roots. Then it is to be washed off in the shower. Its pungent and bitter smell is difficult to rinse off, which may require shampooing. There are no medical studies to corroborate this but seems like the hair growth could be a result of improved blood supply to the follicles because of its organosulphur compounds. It is also used to reduce dandruff. There are some folk remedies that use pungent oils like mustard or Taramira and dissolve certain herbs in them to create an oily remedy for greying hair on the head and in the beard. But most such remedies were grandmother remedies which have disappeared from family legacies. Taramira oil is also used to kill lice and its eggs on the scalp, thus helping to treat a lice infestation.

Taramira Oil for Skin

It is used traditionally to cure vitiligo. However, its effectiveness for this use has been questioned because there may be some side effects. It is also used as a massage oil to alleviate pain caused due to arthritis. This beneficial effect can be due to the pungent compound allyl isothiocyanate which exhibits anti-inflammatory effects in modern studies as well. Since arthritis is an inflammatory response, applying anti-inflammatory oils helps in reducing the swelling and redness. However, it is not capable of bringing about much change single handedly, and chronic conditions like arthritis require a multi-dimensional approach to attenuate them.

Taramira oil is used by some people for alleviating acne and eczema (both inflammatory responses), but it is not known how effective or safe it is. We do not know about its comedogenicity rating.

Nutritional and Medicinal Information

Chemical composition of Taramira oil is unique in that it contains very high amounts of erucic acid, a long chain monounsaturated fatty acid which is quite controversial.

Fatty Acid Carbon notation and type Percentage in oil
Erucic acid C 22: 1 (MUFA) 49.38 %
Oleic acid C 18: 1 (MUFA) -omega-9 19.95 %
Linoleic acid C 18: 2 (PUFA) – omega-6 7.93 %
Palmitic acid C 16: 0 (Saturated) 7.25 %
Alpha-Linolenic acid C 18: 3 (PUFA) -omega-3 2.69 %
Stearic acid C 18: 0 (Saturated) 2.37 %
unknown C 20: 1 (unsaturated) 8.58 %

Source: 4



Erucic acid was found to lead to cardiovascular problems when taken in large quantities in animal studies. Based on such studies (conducted many decades earlier) and their results, countries like the USA have banned the use of oils containing high percentages of erucic acid, like mustard oil. [6] Only refined mustard oils with very low levels of erucic acid (below the permissible limit) are allowed. However, there is no confirmatory link between heart disease in humans and consumption of oils rich in erucic acid. Taramira is hardly popular, even in its native places. It is mostly used as an adulterant in mustard oil, which is just a cheap trick.

Based on its nutritional profile, it is clear that the oil is very rich in monounsaturated fats. This would make is unsuitable for deep frying and only good for low temperature cooking. Small amounts of omega-3 fat means its inflammatory power is not near as high as fish oils. It can serve as a good moisturizer because of the oleic and linoleic acid, but its pungent, off putting smell makes it unsuitable.

Hence, most of its use is medicinal. It is mainly used to promote growth of hair and kill lice. Allyl isothiocyanate could be responsible for many of its unique health benefits as we have seen earlier. It contains a few more organosulphur compounds like phenylethyl isothiocyanate and sulforaphane. Phenethyl isothiocyanate has shown strong anti-cancer and anti-tumor activity. [7] Sulforaphane is a more well-known isothiocyanate compound found in most vegetables of the cruciferous type, like cabbage, kale and broccoli. It has demonstrated powerful anti-cancer action. It is an anti-mutagenic (preventing benign cells from turning cancerous), anti-proliferative, anti-metastasis and it also prevents neo-angiogenesis (formation of new blood vessels). It attacks cancer through multiple mechanisms. [8] That is why, vegetables of the cabbage family are renowned for their amazing anti-cancerous properties. Since sulforaphane is oil soluble, it is found in the oil extracted from seeds of Eruca sativa. There could be some anti-skin cancer effects of Taramira oil.

Side Effects, Safe Dosage and Toxicity Issues

There is no material safety data sheet (MSDS) available for this oil. It can cause irritation and photosensitivity. There is a risk of allergic reaction. It is generally not used in cooking. Sharp aroma of the oil can cause tears to come out of the eyes.

Appropriate dosage for ingestion for diabetes should be decided after a consult with a recognized practitioner of Unani medicine. This can be done only in countries where this medicinal system is legal, like in India.

Buying and Storage

There is a big difference between Taramira oil and the essential oil obtained from leaves of Eruca sativa. Be sure to find out that whatever you are buying is the expelled oil obtained from seeds of Eruca sativa and not the essential oil obtained by distillation. There are only a few sellers online. One must go for a reputed maker of medicinal oils. These oils require special care as they have strong therapeutic properties which may degrade quickly if proper precautions are not taken while production and storage.

References

  1. Antimelanoma Potential of Eruca sativa Seed Oil and its Bioactive Principles. Prachi Bansal et al, Indian J Pharm Sci. 2015 Mar-Apr; 77(2): 208–217.
  2. Amelioration of Alloxan Induced Diabetes mellitus and Oxidative Stress in Rats by Oil of Eruca sativa Seeds. El. Missiry M.A. and El. Gindy A.M., Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism.
  3. In vitro antifungal activity of allyl isothiocyanate (AITC) against Aspergillus parasiticus and Penicillium expansum and evaluation of the AITC estimated daily intake. Manyes L. et al, Food and Chemical Toxicology.
  4. Variations in fatty acid compositions of the seed oil of Eruca sativa Mill. caused by different sowing periods and nitrogen forms. Atnan Ugur et al, Pharmacognosy Magazine.
  5. ETHNOPHYTOMEDICINES FOR TREATMENT OF VARIOUS DIEASES IN D. I. KHAN DISTRICT. Sarfaraz Khan Marwat et al, Sarhad J. Agric. Vol.24, No.2, 2008.
  6. Mustard Oil – OilHealthBenefits.com
  7. Phenethyl isothiocyanate – PubChem open chemistry database.
  8. Sulforaphane – PubChem open chemistry database.

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