I grew up hearing so much about cotton! Yes, I can still remember vividly how my teacher would always remind my classmates and I that our school uniforms were all made from cotton. Initially, I had my doubts on how fabrics such as school uniforms and other forms of clothing can be made from a common plant. Mmmmmmmm….. Well, I urge you not to blame me because that was what my brain could grasp at that tender age 😀

My curiosity never ended there because I continued to ask questions about this amazing popular crop plant known as cotton. Some burning questions I asked my teacher then were; if cotton can be consumed as food? Apart from clothing, what other purposes can it be used for? Even though I can’t remember clearly what her responses were at the time, I knew then as a growing child that cotton is not part of our common staple food so I graded it as non-edible.

But to cut the long story short ~ thank goodness that we are now in the information age where one can easily get to know whatever he/she wants to know within a couple of minutes. My journey on knowing more about this awesome crop is part of the reason I am sharing this post with you. I am equally happy that I’ve gotten answers to those key questions I had then as a child  and to be honest with you, I’ve gladly given my personal accolade to this awesome crop.

Well, this is because this amazing crop is not only used for making our clothes as we all were meant to believe from tender age but it is also used for several crucial purposes ranging from medicinal, therapeutic, commercial and culinary purposes etc. This suggests why you definitely need to take your time and go through this post in other to tap into what you might never knew you could benefit from this nature’s gift. But just a little bit of intro on what cotton is all about ~ ~ ~

Cotton as commonly known is from cotton plant that is botanically referred to as Gossypium herbaceum Linn. It belongs to the Malvaceae family, genus Gossypium and is mainly predominant in Africa, Russia, Middle East and Asia. Apart from being popularly used in the textile industry for making clothes, cotton continues to play remarkable role in Ayurveda, folk and Unani medicine for tackling several ailments.

This annual/perennial shrub thrives well in warm weather and comprises of several species such as herbaceum, hirsutum, arboreum and barbadense. Apart from the popular name you know cotton with, what about the local names? Are you conversant with any cotton local names such as Tundakesi, Kapasia, pambadana, Kannada, Kapasa, Binaula, Kapas, Anagnika, Arale and Chavya.

Equally known as levant cotton, this shrubby plant is usually erect in nature with sparsely hairy leaves. It measures approximately 2 to 8 feet height and bears between 5 to 7 lobed leaves with ovate lobes and rotundus formed at the base. The margin bears approximately 6 to 8 serrated teeth with bracteoles and large yellow flowers that are centrally purplish in colour. The calyx is black in colour with sort of pointed ovate capsules and glandular dots. The twigs and woody stem are very thick that make it very resistant to harsh weather conditions.

Phytochemical and Nutritional Constituents of Cotton Seeds

Cotton seeds are an excellent source of tannins, glycosides, proteins, saponins, steroids, phenolic compounds, aluminium, resins, potassium, sulphur, amino acids, sodium, carbohydrates, phosphorus, iodine, flavonoids, calcium, saponins, lactic acid, fluorine, iron, sulfhydryl compounds, strontium, betaine, silica, magnesium, choline, chlorine, manganese and traces of barium, copper, zinc, phytins, phosphatides, boron and nickel.

Cottonseed is a rich source of vitamins such as inositol, nicotinic acid, thiamine, biotin, riboflavin, folic acid, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid, vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin E. The seed contain yellow pigments, flavones, gossypupurin, carotenoids, gossyfulvin and gossycaerulin. Enzymes such as phytase, lipase, peroxidase and catalase are also found in this shrubby plant.


Cotton Grass

Benefits of Cotton

Emmenagogue Properties Cotton root is an emmenagogue and such very effective for stimulating blood flow in the uterus and the pelvic area. It is also effective for tackling dysmenorrhoea, which is a female condition marked by painful menstruation with abdominal cramps. The root bark of cotton can be prepared and used by women suffering from menstrual problems as it helps to promote menstruation.

Sexual Organ Stimulation The root bark of cotton plant is an aphrodisiac thus effective for stimulating the sexual organs. The bark can be chewed or used together with other herbs for preparing sex stimulants.

Wound Healing Properties Methanolic extract of cotton leaves can be used for treating and healing wound. This is due to the presence of several phytochemicals such as saponins, flavonoids and tannins in the plant. The cotton leaves can be dried and ground into powdered form, which can be applied on cuts, bruises and wounds for stopping bleeding. The seeds can be pounded into a poultice for applying on scalds and burns in other to ease off inflammation and soreness of the skin. The leaves can be squashed and applied externally on the skin to quicken boil maturation.

Galactagogue Properties Gossypium herbaceum is a galactagogue and as such can be used for preparing herbal medicines for boosting lactation and increasing breast milk production in new mothers.

Treatment of Bronchial Asthma This shrubby plant is used in folk medicine for treating bronchial asthma. Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways that is characterized by recurring attacks of the bronchial tree and lungs. It is symptomized by shortness of breath, coughing, chest tightness, wheezing.

Anti-fertility Effects Researchers report that gossypol, which is a phenolic compound from cottonseed oil can act as a male contraceptive. Gossypol treatment can reduce the luteinizing hormone level and serum testosterone level. Gossypol can act on testes to cause oligospermia (deficiency of sperm cells in the semen) or azoospermia, which is the absence of viable and motile sperm in the semen. Due to the contraceptive properties of cotton seeds, the effects can last up to 3 months when used by women.

Dermatological Care Gossypium herbaceum is used for preparing medicines for treating skin diseases and infections. The herbal milk can be used as a skin moisturizer and for caring/conditioning hair. Cottonseed oil is an excellent source of vitamin E thus useful for making cosmetics that help to prevent wrinkles, prevent early skin ageing while at the same time retaining the elasticity of ageing skin. The seed oil can be used for clearing skin spots and freckles.

Anticonvulsant Properties Studies reveal that cotton contains gossypin, which is a bioflavonoid that occurs naturally in plants. Gossypin contains anticonvulsant activity and as such effective for treating patients suffering from convulsion and for minimizing the severity of epileptic fits.

Antidepressant Properties The aqueous extract of cotton contains antidepressant properties and as such can be used to alleviate depression.

Eases Childbirth Studies reveal that the root bark of cotton is very useful for women as it eases childbirth. Cotton leaves can be combined with Bambusa arundinacea (Bans) and given orally to induce first stage of labor.

Anti-oxidizing Properties Hydro alcoholic extract of cotton seeds contains antioxidants due to its flavonoid and phenolic content. Cotton reduces free radical to hydrazine during its reaction with hydrogen donors.

Anti-ulcer Properties Both the ethanolic and aqueous extracts of cotton flowers facilitate the healing of gastric ulcer due to its antiulcer properties.

Diuretic Properties The alcoholic extract of cotton is diuretic in nature and as such can be used for increasing the passage of urine.

Treatment of Gout The cotton leaves can be squeezed and used for treating gout. Gout is a disease caused as a result of improper metabolism of uric acid that causes arthritis especially in the bones of the feet thereby causing acute pain.

cotton seeds

Cotton Seeds

Treatment of Headache Cottonseed can be blended and used for preparing herbal tonic for treating headache and relieving from tension. The seeds can also be ground into powdered form and mixed with milk for relieving headaches.

Anti-malarial Properties Cotton leaves can be decocted and used for treating malaria and eradicating malaria parasites.

Laxative Cotton seeds are good laxatives. It also helps to flush out toxins from the body during the purgative process. To prepare the laxative, ground the seeds into powdered form and mix with milk.

Treatment of Gastrointestinal Diseases The cotton seeds and leaves can be decocted and used for treating gastrointestinal diseases such as dysentery and indigestion.

Treatment of Orchitis Orchitis is a disease condition symptomized by the inflammation of one or both of the testicles. Both the seeds and leaves of cotton can be blended together with ginger and water for treating orchitis.

Female Care Cotton flowers are used for preparing herbal medicine for treating premenopausal symptoms, uterine bleeding and endometriosis.

Anti-poisonous The cotton seeds, leaves and mustard seeds can be blended together and applied on areas bitten by poisonous animals like scorpion or poisonous insects.

Antibacterial Properties Cotton contains antibacterial properties and as such can interfere with the growth and multiplication of bacteria.

Textile Production Cotton is popularly used in the textile industry for producing clothes. The cotton fibers are separated from their seeds using a cotton gin machine. The separation process of the cotton fibers can also be done manually but it is time-consuming and more strenuous. Cotton fibers are woven into fabrics that we wear on a day to day basis.

Another important produce from cotton is the cottonseed oil. Even though this oil is not a popular oil in most parts of the world, yet places like the United States and Europe continue to benefit from this essential oil.

cottonseed oil

Cottonseed Oil

So the question is what is Cottonseed Oil? Cottonseed normally contains approximately 18% oil, so the type of oil extracted from cotton seeds is known as cottonseed oil. The pale-yellowish oil is processed from the seeds before being used for cooking and preparing food dishes like salad. The oil has a neutral taste as well as contains a high proportion of tocopherols. The smoke point of cottonseed oil is 232 °C.

Cottonseed oil is distinguished by its unique distinctive aroma on food. Moreover the oil is a rich source of antioxidants, fatty acids and vitamin E. Despite the good sides of this oil, the concern is that there are various contradicting views about it. While some researchers claim that this oil is very healthy due to the absence of cholesterol in it, others claim that it is unhealthy because it contains very low monounsaturated fat and excess saturated fat. Besides, the oil can possibly contain some natural toxins trapped from the pesticides used in cultivating the cotton plants.

To be on the safe side, use the cottonseed oil with caution and as a matter of fact, use every cooking oil with caution because too much intake of oil is not good for our health.

Procedures for Processing the Cottonseed Oil

Cotton seeds undergo three main steps to yield the oil and the steps are refining, bleaching and purification. These processes are very essential for eradicating the harmful crystalline  gossypol compound found in cottonseed oil.

Benefits of Cottonseed Oil

Culinary Purposes Cottonseed oil can be used for cooking, frying, steaming, baking or dressing salads. The oil boosts the taste of food thus making food more appetizing. Due to the high amount of tocopherols in cottonseed oil, the shelf life of food prepared with it is long.

Healthy Cottonseed oil is an excellent source of vitamin E and does not contain cholesterol. Moreover it does not undergo any hydrogenation process and as such contains no hydrogenated substances. These features suggest why the cottonseed oil is healthy and good for the body.

Colic Treatment In folk medicine, unprocessed cottonseed oil is used for treating colic in babies. Colic is symptomized by severe pain in the abdomen as a result of obstruction in the intestines or wind trap in the intestines of babies.

Anti-oxidizing Properties Cottonseed oil is a rich source of antioxidants such as flavonoids, tannis and as such very powerful for eradicating free radicals from the body.

Dermatological Care Due to its rich constituent of vitamin E, cottonseed oil can be used for making cosmetics and soaps for skin and hair care.

Animal Feed The by-product of the cottonseed oil is the cottonseed cake, which can be feed to domestic animals.

Biodiesel Cottonseed oil can serve as an alternative renewable biodiesel for diesel engines. Orange peel oil can also be combined together with cottonseed oil for use in petrol engines without any sort of alterations to the engine.

Cottonseed Oil Allergy

Individuals that are allergic to seeds and nuts like cashew nuts, canola and peanuts have a high tendency of being allergic to cottonseed oil. As a result, such individuals should avoid using cottonseed oil or consuming food prepared with cottonseed oil.


(a) Thoroughly wash any utensils or machines you use for grinding or blending the cotton seeds as failure to do so will result in anyone who eats food prepared with the utensils to purge. This is due to the strong laxative properties of the seeds.

(b) Pregnant women should avoid the root bark of cotton as it can induce abortion.

DISCLAIMER This post is for enlightenment purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional diagnosis and treatments. Remember to always consult your healthcare provider before making any health-related decisions or for counselling, guidance and treatment about a specific medical condition.

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Chandrashekar, R., Kudle, K. R., Chaitanya, P. J. and Bhavani, N. L. (2013), Gossypol Analysis in Bt and Non-Bt Cotton Seed Extracts by High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC), International Journal of Herbal Medicine, Volume: 1, Issue:2, pp.53-55.

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