Latin Name Gossypium barbadense ( plus various species) family; Malvaceae
Etymology From the latin gossypinus, gossypium-like, cotton-like
The plant and its Environment
Originally grown in India for the cotton fibre, the plant was introduced into China and Egypt about half a millennium BC and into the USA much later in 1774. There was a species grown in Peru predating the Egyptian cotton industry and the use of cottonseed oil is mentioned in ancient Hindu writings. The plant forms a shrub growing to a height of 1.5 meters, bearing yellow flowers with a purple centre which lead to capsules containing the seeds and covered with trichomes, which are the source of cotton fibre.
In Britain cottonseed oil used to be about 15% of the vegetable supply:; in 1956 it was less than 3%. Cottonseed oil is obtained from the seeds of Gossypium barbadense and other varieties: it is a bland, flavourless oil not liable too rancidity, being used for a great many purposes for external applications. Some seeds are almost bald and are known commercially as 'black' whereas others have a wooly lint on the outside and are known as 'white'; the former obviously produce more oil per seed weight (approximately 20-25%). Cottonseed oil has properties similar to Hibiscus sabdariffa (malvaceae) which is used as a substitute for crude castor oil (duke 1985)
Method of Extraction This oil is not expressed at high pressure (1500 pounds per square inch)resulting in a thick crude oil which must be refined.
Typical saturated fatty content
Monounsaturated fatty acid
Polyunsaturated fatty acid
Typical unsaturated fatty acid content
Cosmetic Use Cottonseed oil is inexpensive and therefore it is used widely in soaps, creams, baby creams, nail polish and lubricants. It is not suitable for aromatherapy. Culinary Use As it is cheap it is used in salad oil and for frying fish. Cautionary Notes Cottonseed oil is known to cause allergies, but it is difficult to avoid this much used oil because it is so widely used in cosmetic preparations. The oil is cathartic, abortifacient; no part of the plant should be used internally unless prior medical advice is obtained.
Reference: Duke J A 1985 Handbook of medical herbs. CRC, Boca Raton p.229: Carrier oils for Aromatherapy and Massage: Len Price with Ian Smith & Shirley Price.