Hazelnut oil is pressed from hazelnuts, those delicious brownish goodies that make our pralines nutty and aromatic. Its oil is a rich and flavorful with a nutty aroma, which makes it ideal for gourmet dishes. It is used extensively in low temperature cooking. What many may not know is that hazelnut oil can also be used as a beauty oil to take care of the skin and face. It is an efficient emollient with superior moisturizing power and can be used for a variety of purposes other than just making chocolate truffles with it. 

Source

The source of hazelnut oil is the hazel nut. Most trees of the genus Corylus bear edible nuts, and all of them are technically called hazelnut. But in actual usage, it is the nuts of Corylus avellana that receive the distinction of being used in confectioneries around the world. It is native to Europe and can be spotted anywhere from England to Iran. But, most of the commercial production is concentrated in Turkey. 

Hazelnut oil benefits

These nuts have been found in archaeological remains in Scotland about 9000 years old. They were roasted, which shows that humans back then too used to process seeds and nuts and eat them (well who wouldn’t, they are so delicious!). The oil can be obtained using three ways. Therefore, there are three types of hazelnut oil.  

  • Cold pressed oil – This is obtained by cold pressing roasted seeds. It becomes virgin hazelnut oil and possesses the most therapeutic benefits. 
  • Solvent extraction – A chemical is used to increase oil extraction from the roasted seeds, mainly hexane. Such an oil is often of lighter consistency and has lesser aroma. As we shall see later, because of some light filtering, a major class of healthy fats called phospholipids gets lost from hazelnut oil.  
  • Supercritical Carbon Dioxide Extraction – Oil is extracted using supercritical carbon dioxide. This is the most advanced technology which yields highest amount of oil.  

As far as the health benefits are concerned, cold pressed oil is the best. 

Color, Taste and Aroma

Hazelnut oil has a golden yellow color but is not very bright. Its taste is very much like hazelnuts and its aroma is strongly nutty. As a result, it can stimulate appetite. Some products that have less aroma may be lightly filtered and not cold pressed, which may have taken out some of the aromatic compounds that are volatile.  

Properties

Hazelnut oil has few properties but they are impressive. 

  • Emollient – It is a nice moisturizer for the skin. This property is bestowed upon it by oleic acid (omega-9) which prevents moisture from evaporating from the surface of our skin.  
  • Anti-inflammatory – It reduces inflammation both topically and internally. 
  • Antioxidant – It prevents body’s cells from free radical damage. This helps to keep the skin smooth, elastic and healthy. [1] 
  • Astringent – It mildly constricts the skin. This effect is beneficial for people with an oily skin. [5]  
  • Scar Healing – Hazelnut oil can be used as base oil for healing scars.  

Health Benefits and Uses

Hazelnut oil for Skin

Hazelnut oil makes a wonderful all-purpose skin care ingredient. It is incredibly effective at these tasks because of its hydrating and moisturizing properties. 

  • It is a nice make up remover. So, one can use it to quickly remove product on the face or skin and begin with the cleansing process.  
  • It helps to get rid of oily skin. It may be counter intuitive as one may think -how can an oil reduce oiliness on the skin. This is because it is a mild astringent. It constricts the skin and shrinks the pores. This prevents sebum (body’s natural oil) from being released in high quantities. Sebum production is our body’s natural process but too much of it makes the skin look oily and shiny, which is sometimes not desirable. 
  • Hazelnut oil makes a nice after shave oil for men and women. Apply it after the shave to prevent burning sensation, irritation and razor burns. It constricts the skin pores and coats the skin, making it smooth. Its anti-inflammatory activity takes care of any redness due to a quick shave. 
  • Hazelnut oil makes the skin glossy, but not greasy. This is a great advantage as it can be used singly as a toner for the face if you want the fine, glossy look. 
  • It provides antioxidants and Vitamin E to the skin. This prevents it from free radical damage and premature aging. Vitamin E, besides being a powerful antioxidant, also protects the skin from UV damage but to a minor extent. We know that these rays of the sun are primarily responsible for premature wrinkles on the skin. So, hazelnut oil would aid our body in delaying sun-induced damage called as photoageing. [6] 
  • As a body oil – Hazelnut oil’s lightness, easy flowing nature (because of low viscosity) and richness of oleic acid makes it an efficient body oil to be used right after a shower. When the body is wet, apply only requisite amount of hazelnut oil all over. Then the skin should be left to air dry. This treatment when done on a regular basis leaves the skin soft and silky to touch, which is very desirable. Another oil that is even more prominently used in body oil formulations is sesame oil.  

Hazelnut oil for Hair

Just like the skin, hazelnut oil makes an easy to apply hair care oil. In fact, it is used in hair oil formulations. One can use hazelnut oil for these purposes. 

  • As a hot oil treatment – Hazelnut oil, mixed with olive oil makes a wonderful hot oil treatment. It conditions the scalp and hair roots, making them stronger, smoother and shinier. It imparts a nutty smell to the hair too. One can do this hot oil treatment once a week to get healthier hair. However, cold pressed oil may have too strong an aroma so that should be taken into account.  
  • Split Ends – After the shower, massage a small amount of hazelnut oil to the tips of hair strands. This takes care of split ends. 

Hazelnut oil and Acne

Hazelnut oil is not suitable for use on active acne. It has a comedogenicity score of 2 (on a scale of 0 to 5) which means it is moderately comedogenic. It implies that this oil can clog pores and aggravate acne. People who suffer from acne should go for low comedogenic or strictly non comedogenic oils, like jojoba oil or sunflower oil. 

However, it is good for dealing with acne scars. One can use it as a base oil and add a few drops of scar healing essential oils like helichrysum essential oil and tamanu oil. Apply this only on acne scars (as a spot treatment), and for that matter any kind of scars.  

Hazelnut oil for Heart Health

Hazelnut oil resembles olive oil in terms of its nutrition. It is high in unsaturated fats, predominantly loaded in oleic acid (which is a MUFA). If consumed in moderation, it can have cardioprotective effects and possibly lower down the levels of LDL cholesterol in blood. This has not been proven, although it is presumed that hazelnut oil is a heart healthy oil.  

Although the number of modern studies on hazelnut oil’s health benefits are few and far fetched, one very recent (2017) study has highlighted that it can increase HDL cholesterol in our blood, increase the total antioxidant power in our body and also decrease the alteration of a specific gene called ADRB-3 which plays a critical role in managing our body’s weight. [1] This effect was found when folate rich foods were also eaten, like pulses. So, there may be synergy at work with folic acid.  

Hazelnut oil in Cooking

The oil is mostly used for low temperature cooking, not for deep frying. This is because of high concentration of oleic acid which disintegrates at higher temperatures. Secondly, hazelnut oil is excellent for drizzling on salads and snacks. It is also used by some renowned food outlets in their dips to impart a tantalizing taste.   

But its most prominent use is in bakeries where it is added to biscuits, cookies and cakes. There are hardly any traditional recipes in which hazelnut oil is used as an ingredient, even in countries where hazelnuts are cultivated in huge quantities, like Italy and Turkey. This is because most of the nuts are used directly in recipes, like cakes and chocolates. So, only the poor-quality nuts are left for expelling the oil. Even now, the nut is much more popular and demanded than its oil. 

If you do not have hazelnut oil, then for salads, walnut oil may serve as a substitute but only to some extent. Hazelnut has its own unique aroma which it renders to the salads. For light cooking, olive oil may be safely substituted in absence of hazelnut oil.    

Nutritional and Medicinal Information

The nutrition facts of hazelnut oil are characteristic of a healthy, edible oil. It is composed mainly of fatty acids, with unsaturated fats making a huge portion of it. Hazelnut oil does not have much variety in terms of fats. Of the 100 gm of hazelnut oil, this is the broad profile of fatty acids. 

  • Saturated Fats – 7.4 gm 
  • Monounsaturated Fat (MUFA) – 78 gm 
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (PUFA) – 10.2 gm 

In depth fatty acid profile of organic hazelnut oil. 

Fatty acid  Carbon notation  Composition in oil 
Stearic Acid  C 16:0 (Saturated fat)  4-7 
Palmitic Acid  C 18:0 (Saturated fat)  1-4 
Palmitoleic acid  C 18:1 (MUFA)  0.4 
Oleic acid  C 18:3 (MUFA)  70-90 
Linoleic acid  C 18:2 (PUFA)  7-15 

Source: 2 

The high amount of oleic acid is quite beneficial, as it is rich in heart healthy MUFA (monounsaturated) fat. But, because of its similarity to olive oil, it is often used as an adulterant. Besides healthy fats, it provides a good enough amount of Vitamin E. 100 gm of oil provides about 47 mg of Vitamin E in the form of alpha tocopherol, which makes it qualify into the list of foods that are rich in Vitamin E. [3] It is an important antioxidant, especially for protecting the nerves. Thus, it is quite beneficial in neurodegenerative conditions.  

Organic cold pressed hazelnut oil contains a small amount of phospholipids (about 286 ppm) that get lost during basic filtering. These phospholipids are essential for enhanced moisturization provided by the oil. [4] This goes to show that basic processing may shunt out some micro-nutrients which may be very important for specific therapeutic actions. This goes for other edible vegetable oils too. A lot of the quality of any oil depends on the quality of the produce used and the processing techniques employed.  

Other important physical and chemical properties of this nut oil are as follows.  

Density   0.907 to 0.917 g/ml  great for body oil 
Storage temperature   10-22 °C  Ideal temperature for storage 
Comedogenicity   2  Pore clogging potential (0 – 5) 
ORAC   –  Antioxidant Power 
pH   4.3   Measure of Acidity 
Peroxide Value   < 15%   Measure of Initial Rancidity 
Saponification Value   180-200   Measure of the average carbon chain length 
Iodine Value   85-105   Measure of unsaturation of oil 
Free Fatty Acids   < 3%   Percentage of volatile oils 

Source: 5 

Side Effects and Toxicity Issues

It is considered as safe and non-toxic oil. However, it is prone to rancidity.  

Buying and Storage

It should be purchased from a reputed manufacturer because many a times other nuts may be used to expel oil and passed off as hazelnut oil. It has a shelf life of about 1 year, which is low for edible oils, and that too when it is stored at a temperature in the range 10 to 22 degrees celsius.  

References 

  1. Effect of a diet containing folate and hazelnut oil capsule on the methylation level of the ADRB3 gene, lipid profile and oxidative stress in overweight or obese women. Lima RPA et al, Clinical Epigenetics. 
  2. https://www.centerchem.com/Products/DownloadFile.aspx?FileID=6960 
  3. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/299959 
  4. Influence of hazelnut oil phospholipids on the skin moisturizing effect of a cosmetic emulsion. Masson P et al, International Journal of Cosmetic Science. 
  5. Hazelnut oil – Mountain Rose Herbs. 
  6. Vitamin E oil – OilHealthBenefits.com 
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