7 Amazing Benefits & Uses of Cottonseed Oil

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

There are numerous benefits of cottonseed oil, which may include its potential ability to lower cholesterol, protect the skin, improve the immune system, reduce inflammation, speed healing, boost cognition, and even help prevent certain types of cancer. However, cottonseed oil also comes along with various side effects, such as potential risks to heart health, increased risk of toxin intake, and fertility problems. Many of these are due to low quality or highly processed cottonseed oil, so users must be cautious regarding the source and composition of their cottonseed oil.

What is Cottonseed Oil?

Cottonseed oil, as the name implies, is made from the seeds of cotton plants, which are produced in huge quantities in various countries, including the United States. Similar to other seed oils, the cotton seeds must be husked, revealing an oil-rich kernel, which can then be pressed to extract the valuable oil. This oil, which is praised for being low in trans fats, is often used as cooking oil because it can help bring out the flavor of foods rather than masking them. It is also popularly used as a form of biofuel. However, not all cottonseed oils are made equally. Unprocessed oil may contain more than 70% unsaturated fats, but hydrogenated cottonseed oil is extremely high in saturated fats, which have negative side effects on the body. The benefits of the organic, unprocessed version of this oil are due to the presence of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, as well as various other antioxidants. [1]

Cottonseed oil in two glass bottles with whole cotton pods next to it

Cottonseed oil is a commonly used vegetable oil that’s derived from the seeds of cotton plants. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Nutrition Facts

Oil, cottonseed, salad or cooking
Serving Size :
Energy 884
Energy [kJ]3699
Total lipid (fat) [g]100
Choline, total [mg]0.2
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]35.3
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]24.7
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]25.9
14:0 [g]0.8
16:0 [g]22.7
18:0 [g]2.3
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]17.8
16:1 [g]0.8
18:1 [g]17
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]51.9
18:2 [g]51.5
18:3 [g]0.2
20:4 [g]0.1
Phytosterols [mg]324
Sources include : USDA [2]

Cottonseed Oil Benefits & Uses

Many people turn to cottonseed oil to help treat high cholesterol and blood pressure, arthritis, gout, a weak immune system, dementia, certain cancers, inflammatory conditions, wounds, cuts, scrapes, and skin conditions.

May Speed up Healing 

This oil is able to speed the healing process due to its potentially high antioxidant levels and vitamin E content so people regularly apply it to fresh wounds, cuts, scrapes, and scratches. Tocopherol is known to be able to stimulate the growth of healthy new skin cells and protect against potential infection.

May Improve Cognitive Health

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats have both been linked to increased cognition and a reduction in neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia. If you are using natural, unrefined cottonseed oil, it can reduce inflammation in the neural pathways and prevent beta-amyloid plaque deposition, which will help keep you sharp as you age!  [3]

May Have A Possible Anticancer Potential

There have been several animal studies on the anticancer properties of gossypol, a naturally occurring toxin in the cottonseed plant. Gossypol has been linked to lower levels of prostate tissue growth, which can reduce prostate enlargement and lower your risk of prostate cancer (Anticancer Research 2006). However, depending on the type and source of your oil, you may be increasing your risk of other types of cancers.  [4] [5] [6]

May Help Improve Skin Care

Topical application of this oil is generally not a controversial use, as it does have notable levels of vitamin E and other antioxidants that can boost skin health. This oil can improve the appearance of the skin, moisturize dry skin, and prevent premature aging. By possibly eliminating oxidative stress in the skin, this oil can help minimize the appearance of lines and wrinkles, and even help you get rid of blemishes and scars. [7]

May Boost The Immune System

Antioxidants present in this oil may help reduce oxidative stress and strain on the immune system, thus defending the body against typical pathogens and foreign bodies. [8]

May Reduce Inflammation

Monounsaturated fats have been proven to reduce inflammation throughout the body, whether consumed or topically applied. Regular use of this oil can relieve chronic symptoms of arthritis, gout, headaches, and joint disorders, and when used in culinary applications, can soothe the stomach and optimize digestion. [9]

May Improve Heart Health

This oil does have a notable level of saturated fats, but there are also many mono- and poly-unsaturated fats, including gamma-linolenic acid, which can lower overall cholesterol levels and improve heart health. When used responsibly, cottonseed oil can lower blood pressure and decrease your risk of atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes. If you have heart problems, however, speak with your doctor about other possible oils (with lower saturated fat levels) to improve health.  [10]

Side Effects of Cottonseed Oil

There are some notable side effects of cottonseed oil, including an elevated risk of toxin effects and heart disease, as well as skin inflammation and reproductive problems. Hydrogenated cottonseed oil will result in more of these side effects than natural cottonseed oil, but if the oil is unrefined, it may contain a toxic substance called gossypol, which cannot be digested by humans. It is very important to understand where your cottonseed oil came from, what its intended use is, and what levels of processing or refinement it has undergone.

  • Heart Health: While cottonseed oil does deserve some praise for its ability to boost heart health, there is still a high level of saturated fats, especially in hydrogenated form. This type of fat can be dangerous for heart health, particularly if you are already struggling with atherosclerosis or heart disease. If you are suffering from cardiovascular disease, speak to your doctor before using this oil. [11]
  • Toxin Issues: Cotton is a unique crop in many countries, as it is not always considered a plant or food item, so it is not restricted by the same pesticide and herbicide laws. This means that some cottonseed oil can be high in dangerous toxins, depending on where it has been sourced from. Some of these toxins have been directly linked with carcinogenic effects in the body. As mentioned earlier, it is vitally important to know where your cottonseed oil comes from, and what methods were used to produce it.
  • Skin Irritation: As is the case with almost every potent natural oil, people with sensitive skin or those allergic to this oil may suffer inflammation, itchiness, and skin redness when using this oil. Before applying it to a large area of the body, put a small amount on a patch of skin and wait for a few hours to see if any negative effects occur.
  • Reproductive Health: Studies have shown that gossypol, a natural chemical component in cottonseed oil, can decrease sperm production and motility, which can impair one’s ability to have a child. Many commercial versions of cottonseed oil have undergone a process to remove this gossypol, but it is important to note whether the refinement process also includes hydrogenating this oil.
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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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