Wheat germ oil is extracted from the kernel of the wheat grain. This unrefined oil is more viscous than other vegetable oils, is deep amber in color, and has a strong scent. It is an excellent source of vitamin E, better in fact than any other vegetable oil. Also rich in vitamins A and D as well as protein, fatty acids and lecithin, this oil is used as a food ingredient, as a dietary supplement and as a component of skincare products.
A variety of skin conditions might respond to treatment with wheat germ oil. Vitamin E is often used to nourish and moisturize the skin and is commonly used in skincare products. Used topically, the oil can help repair damage from sunburn, burns and ulcers; can reduce wrinkles and stretch marks; and can minimize scarring. Dry or cracked skin, eczema and psoriasis also can be treated with it.
As a dietary supplement or used in meal preparation, studies suggest that wheat germ oil might help improve the function of the heart. Production of cholesterol by the liver might be slowed by the oil, which also might improve the body's ratio of "good" cholesterol to "bad" cholesterol. The oil also can affect the proper function of the lymphatic, immune, cardiovascular, nervous and reproductive systems.
Other claims concerning the benefits of the oil include hormone regulation. It contains a substance called octacosanol, which is reputed to improve strength and endurance. Clinical studies have not been able to confirm this effect.
Proper storage is an important concern with wheat germ oil. It is sensitive to high temperatures, oxidation and light, which can cause the oil to degrade and become rancid. When properly stored and refrigerated, however, it can last for several months.
The oil should not be heated or used for cooking, because it reacts poorly to high temperatures. It can, however, be substituted for other vegetable oils when used cold. It can be included in pasta dishes, salads and pesto. The oil also is present in products containing wheat germ.
Wheat germ oil should not be used as either a food or a topical treatment by anyone with an allergy to wheat or gluten. People regularly on blood thinning medication such as warfarin should avoid this oil and similar products that are rich in vitamin E. Anyone experiencing any adverse effects should discontinue the use of the oil and consult a medical professional.