As the name suggests, wheat germ oil is extracted from the germ part of grains of wheat (Triticum vulgare). The germ is the most nutritious part of the wheat: it has the highest content of protein, vitamins and minerals (whilst the rest of the grain is ostly starch and fiber). Wheat germ oil contains an unusually high amount of vitamins and anti-oxidants, more than any other raw natural oil.
Dry flakes of wheat germ are a nutritional food that can be added to salads, on pasta, in waffle or pancake batter, pastries and energy bars. It has a sweet, slightly nutty and agreeable flavour. Which cannot be said about the oil. Unfortunately, wheat is gaining bad reputation these days because there is a growing trend of people allergic (or thinking they are allergic) to wheat and the fashionable carbohydrate-free diets. But whole grain wheat is very nutritious and has proteins, minerals and vitamins in it, it isn’t just empty starch. Using the germ alone is a good way to gain the benefits of wheat with reduced starch content. Remember to keep it refrigerated and use up before it goes rancid (the flavour will become sharp and bitter and so would the odour).
The oil has a strong odour and is not particularly appealing (although some might disagree – like wheatgrass juice it has its following). But it has medicinal properties unlike any other oil and can be used in treating various skin conditions. Because it has such vital skin-regenerating properties, it can help heal sun burns, prevent and heal diaper rash and dermatitis. It greatly improves the elasticity of the skin and helps to prevent scarring, and is therefore used by pregnant woman to prepare the vaginal pass before labour to prevent rip and tear. Because of its thick consistency and strong odour it is mostly used medicinally or as a skin-nutrient additive to lighter and smoother oils.
Wheat germ oil has a very short shelf-life and is best kept refrigerated and used up within 6 months of opening the bottle. It should not be exposed to heat (which is to be said about storing most oils; but particularly important for preventing this oil from turning rancid).