Is It A Good Cooking Oil?
What is camellia oil?
Camellia oil, which is also known as tea seed oil, is an oil extracted from the seeds of the tea plant. To produce this oil, the seeds can either be cold-pressed or extracted using solvents. Camellia oil is rich in antioxidants, unsaturated fats, as well as other minerals and nutrients (e.g. triterpenes, saponins, squalene). As it has a superb high smoke point of 252 °C (485 °F), it can be used as a great all-purpose cooking oil, including salad dressings, marinades, stir frying and deep frying. This oil has been used for cooking for centuries in Southern China and started gaining popularity on a global scale. Camellia oil is not only extensively used as a cooking oil, but also in traditional Chinese medicine and cosmetics.
Types of camellia oil
There are 3 types of camellia oil:
The Camellia oleifera oil and Camellia sinensis oil are the ones referred to as camellia oil in general and may be used interchangeably. Both oils are edible and can be used as a cooking oil. The oil can be extracted using cold pressing or solvent extraction.
In camellia oil production, 3 steps – dehulling, milling and pressing – are applied to obtain cold-pressed camellia oil. To largely increase the oil yield, most manufacturers resort to steam the milled seed meals or apply a roasting treatment after dehulling, before pressing. If heat is applied during extraction process, it is not considered “cold-pressed”, which refers to the idea that the temperature does not exceed 49°C (120°F). If the contents used to make oil are heated prior to oil extraction, it may change the chemical composition and properties of nutrients in that oil, which is often not natural.
- Support healthy blood lipid
Camellia oil was shown to help reduce blood triglyceride, total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol levels in adults1. Another study showed the consumption of camellia oil-enriched diet could reduce oxidative stress and inflammatory markers in women with high blood cholesterol2. In short, consuming this oil may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
- Support healthy blood pressure
A study suggested that camellia oil can help lower blood pressure3, which may be attributed to its ability to dilate or expand blood vessels.
- Support liver health
A study suggested that a diet containing camellia oil protects the liver against oxidative damage which may be linked to its antioxidant and free radical scavenger effects4.
- Boost immunity
In Chinese herbal medicine, camellia oil is considered a superior nutritional dietary supplement that strengthens the immune system. An animal test also showed that a diet containing this oil helps support healthy immunity5.
- Improve constipation
Camellia oil helps relieve constipation and improve gastrointestinal mobility. Bowel movement is significantly faster and smoother, and there is an increase in stool mass and water content in stool6.
- May protect against colon cancer
A study suggested that camellia oil may have anti-cancer effects by suppressing the growth of colon cancer cells7.
- Poor source of omega-3s
Camellia oil is not only very low in omega-3s (< 1%), but also contains unhealthy ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 (1 : 10). The diet of our modern lifestyle contains excessive amounts of omega-6s, but lacks omega-3s. Since omega-6s are pro-inflammatory and omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, a high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio may trigger excessive inflammation in the body which could potentially increase the risk of various diseases. To replenish omega-3s in your body, you may want to consider omega-3-rich oils, such as flaxseed oil or camelina oil.
- Risk of aflatoxins
Aflatoxins are a family of toxic compounds produced by certain molds (fungi) present in food, they can cause liver damage and cancer. Aflatoxin-producing fungi are abundant in warm and humid regions of the world. They can contaminate crops in the field during harvesting or storage.
As Camellia seeds are produced only once a year, the seeds may be stored for a long period of time before they are utilised for oil extraction. This may increase the risk of aflatoxin contamination, especially if the seeds are stored under high temperature and humidity. Nonetheless, you can reduce the aflatoxin risk by buying camellia oil from trustworthy manufacturers.
- Camellia oil may be adulterated
According to director of Department of Food, Health and Nutrition Science in Chinese Culture University in Taiwan, out of 11 oil products that labelled as “Pure Camellia Oil”, 4 of them are adulterated and some even contain only 10% camellia oil. Yet, these adulterated camellia oils are sold at an expensive price! Do not simply trust the oil label, purchase 100% pure camellia oil from only credible merchants.
1. Acta. Nutrimenta. Sinica. 1993. 3: 289-292.
2. J Med Food.2016 Sep;19(9):895-8.
4. Food Chem Toxicol.2007 Jun;45(6): 888-95.
5. Acta Nutrimenta Sinica 1996.18(4): 412-417.
6. Journal of Beijing Institute of Technology (English Edition)2018. 27(2): 312-318.
7. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2018; 19(6): 1697–1701.