A small, hardy shrub cultivated in northern Europe during the Bronze Age is the “new” source of a healthy, versatile, plant-derived oil with applications for both our own and our dogs’ health. Pressed from the seeds of the Camelina sativa, also called gold-of-pleasure, the oil is high in concentrations of omegas 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids and rich in alpha and gamma tocopherol, two forms of vitamin E that protect the oil from oxidation and rancidity. This gives it a much longer shelf life than other plant oils (18 months) as well as a high smoke point (up to 475 degrees, compared to olive and coconut oils’ 350 degrees). It has a mild, nutty taste that some compare to almonds. A teaspoon of camelina oil provides about 130 calories and 4 grams of omega-3s.
We can put it to use for cooking and as a salad oil, a massage oil and even a hot-oil hair treatment. For our dogs, omega-3s support reduced shedding, glossier coats and healthier skin, and help prevent and treat hot spots. There are a few pet supplement companies that market pure camelina-oil products but these are similar to those sold for human consumption (which are usually less expensive). It should be noted that for dogs, fish (like sardines, anchovies and mackerel) and eggs are also good sources of omega-3 fatty acids in the forms that they can utilize (EPA and DHA), while camelina aoil is rich the ALA form. And note that while ALA is important, it does provide less therapeutic benefits. So plant oils can be used in a rotational basis with a coldwater marine oil.
On the broader, healthy-planet front, researchers are exploring ways to optimize camelina oil’s benefits. Among other things, it’s shaping up as viable alternative to fish oil; as noted in a paper published in the journal Scientific Reports, an expanding world population and its consumption of fish oil “has placed considerable pressure on the wild ‘reduction’ fisheries from which much of these fish oils are harvested.” The plant grows in marginal land and requires little to no irrigation or fertilizers, and may also be a future biofuel source—factors that make camelina oil a very attractive and eco-friendly alternative.