Wheat germ oil comes from the germ or embryo of the wheat kernel, which makes up only two to three percent of the weight of the entire kernel.
It is the germ however that contains the majority of the essential fats, protein and nutrients.
The oil is extracted using a ‘cold press’ method rather than through heat, to avoid destroying the healthy compounds.
Naturally this process involves a large amount of wheat kernels to produce a bottle of wheat germ oil.
The resulting oil has a delicious, nutty aroma and flavor, which is thick and sticky in consistency, and is a dark amber/brown color.
Wheat germ oil can be used in cooking and is an excellent substitute for unhealthy vegetable oil, as a tasty salad dressing, and even benefits the skin and hair. The health benefits include both internal and external uses, as you’ll discover throughout this article.
Wheat germ oil is primarily beneficial for its essential fatty acids and vitamin E. According to Nutritiondata.com which gets its figures from the United States Department of Agriculture (ASDA), two tablespoons or 28grams of wheat germ oil have the following values:
Calories – 248 (1038 kJ) – 12% RDA
Total Fat – 28.0g – 43% RDA
Saturated Fat – 5.3g – 26% RDA
Monounsaturated Fat – 4.2g
Polyunsaturated Fat – 17.3g
Total Omega-3 fatty acids – 1932mg
Total Omega-6 fatty acids – 15343mg
Vitamin E – 41.8mg – 209% RDA
Vitamin K – 6.9mcg – 9% RDA
As you can see, the majority of the fat is made up of healthy mono and poly-unsaturated fats and contains good proportionate amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. Adding wheat germ oil to your diet is particularly beneficial for people who want or need, more healthy fats.
The wheat germ itself, (without the oil) has lots of other nutritional compounds that are also beneficial to our health. It is the oil and the germ combined, that makes this food source so incredibly healthy.
Along with sugar cane and a variety of other plants, wheat germ oil is one of the richest sources of octacosanol. Octacosanol is a long-chain fatty, waxy alcohol that has been widely promoted to aid physical performance, including strength, stamina and reaction times.
How Octacosanol Works
It is reported that octacosanol helps circulate the flow of blood through the body which in turn increases the body’s blood oxygen levels that impact on these physical attributes. Japanese research has indicated octacosanol’s ability to affect fat metabolism, cholesterol production and blood platelet stickiness, which could account for the cardiovascular benefits.
Tests and studies are also ongoing to confer octacosanol as a treatment for numerous conditions including; an antiviral herpes treatment, inflammatory diseases of the skin, Parkinson’s disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), high LDL cholesterol levels and hardening of the arteries.
Hopefully in due course, more research will confirm the effectiveness of octacosanol to treat these conditions.
Wheat Germ Oil and Cholesterol
Numerous studies on wheat germ oil and cholesterol levels have shown that consuming the oil on a regular basis can be particularly beneficial to the heart.
Increased levels of octacosanol and policosanol (found within octacosanol) has been shown to limit the liver’s production of cholesterol. Research has shown the properties of policosanol are similar to the statin drugs used to reduce bad LDL cholesterol levels and may also raise good HDL cholesterol levels.
According to the Royal Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, it is suggested that 5–20 mg per day of mixed alcohols, including octacosanol, lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol by 21%–29% and raise high-density lipoprotein cholesterol by 8%–15%.
Essential Fatty Acids
Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) are just that – fatty acids the body needs for cardiovascular, immune, nervous and reproductive systems, as well as to support our organs and to maintain healthy cells and overall health.
The body isn’t able to produce EFA’s itself, and so must obtain them from the foods we eat. Wheat germ oil is particularly rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It is a good plant based, food source to consume if you don’t eat fish high in EFA’s.
Wheat Germ Oil For Hair
Wheat germ oil is used more extensively in hair and scalp products due to its numerous, beneficial nutrients and how easily it is absorbed into the skin. Read my article for more information on wheat germ oil for hair.
Wheat Germ Oil for Skin
As well as vitamin E, wheat germ oil contains vitamins A and D which are known to benefit the skin.
The rich vitamin E content in the oil helps eliminate the signs of aging, including wrinkles and skin sagging, by strengthening the skin’s connective tissues.
Dr. Abelson from the National Center for Biotechnology Information reports that the antioxidant properties of wheat germ oil, particularly from the vitamin E, help irradiate harmful ‘free radicals’ which make up the lipid structure of the skin’s connective tissues.
This explains why more manufacturers are including wheat germ oil in their skin care products. The high vitamin E content also acts as a natural preservative, prolonging the shelf life of cosmetic products and helping to prevent rancidity.
Skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema have been shown to improve with increased wheat germ oil consumption. The oil reduces rapid production and death of skin cells, as well as the skin irritation that accompanies dry skin, psoriasis and eczema. It also helps sun damaged skin cells and can promote regeneration.
Scars and Stretch Marks
Massaging wheat germ oil into scars and stretch marks can have an almost immediate effect. The vitamin E is easily absorbed into the skin and you will notice a difference within just a few days.
It does have a strong, nutty like odor because it is unrefined, but it works, so who cares! A lot of massage oils now contain wheat germ oil. Simply apply a few drops to the scar and massage. Do this twice a day until you see the results.
I’ve also read that wheat germ oil can be used to heal burns, but I would be extremely careful about this. Maybe once the burns have healed somewhat but certainly not immediately after.
How Much Oil Should You Consume?
Other than adding wheat germ to your diet, you can purchase wheat germ oil as a liquid and in soft gel capsules typically ranging from 500mg to 1,000 mg.
The recommended daily dosage is 1 tablespoon per 100lbs of body weight. Best taken with food for easier and quicker digestion.
Just like other plant oil, unrefined wheat germ oil will degrade quickly and turn rancid when exposed to high temperatures, even at normal room temperature.
It is best stored in the refrigerator immediately after opening which will extend its shelf life up to a few months. You can tell if the oil is fresh or not, simply by smelling it.
Side Effects of Wheat Germ Oil
For a healthy adult, other than allergies to gluten (read my article wheat germ and gluten), wheat germ oil should not cause you to have any side effects when consumed at recommended levels.
Octacosanol may interfere with the action of the Parkinson’s drug levodopa. Policosanol may thin the blood slightly and thus should be used with caution by people with potential bleeding disorders and by those taking blood-thinning drugs, such as aspirin and warfarin (Coumadin).
Where Can I Buy Wheat Germ Oil?
Wheat germ oil such as the one I recommend here, is sold in health stores or online via stores like Amazon.com as an unrefined oil. This means it hasn’t gone through a heating process that destroys much of the important nutrients and fats.
As it is unrefined, it has a thick consistency and a strong aroma.
The healthy properties of wheat germ oil make it ideal for cooking with or simply drizzle over a salad for a healthy, substitute.
As well as cardiovascular benefits, it can help repair damamed or scared skin, keep your skin suple and younger looking, and can strengthen and moisturizing your hair.
If you have any questions or comments regarding wheat germ oil, please drop them below.
- Royal Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine- Nutritional Significance and Metabolism of Very Long Chain Fatty Alcohols and Acids from Dietary Waxes