The history of the soy plant and the practice of extracting oils, in general, dates back to the Egyptians. However, the specific practice of extracting oil from soybeans dates to the early Chinese culture (2,000 BCE), when the pressing of oil from bean seeds was of equal importance to the ancient origin of the bean itself.
As an edible oil, it is first mentioned in connection with the Yuan and Ming dynasties (1279-1368). Even then, in northern China, population density was high and people had to look to alternative sources (aside from the use of fat or lard) to source oils. An expert on this period, F. Mote notes (in his chapter in Food in Chinese Culture: Anthropological and Historical Perspectives) that according to the imperial wine bureau, which was run by palace eunuchs who oversaw the production of soybean meal, soy oil was probably an important edible oil and source of vitamins during this time period. The rich boiled it and let it stand until it became clarified, whereas the poor had no other choice than to use it in its crude state, in spite of its unpleasant characteristic odor and unpalatability.
In addition to being used as a cooking source (especially for stir-frying and deep-frying), soybean oil has traditionally been used as an illuminate in homes and temples lit with wicked oil lamps. Its uses have grown over the years. By the mid 1800s, soybean cakes, a by-product of the oil, were used to feed work animals and cattle, whereas in the early 1900s, it was being used in China as a fertilizer on sugar plantations and for yams.
Until the mid-1930s, China was by far the world's leading soybean producing country, shipping huge amounts (some 11.89 metric tons) of soybeans, soy oil and soymeal to countries around the world. This all changed in 1933, though, when the U.S. became self-sufficient in soybean production and great civil unrest arose in China, which led to civil war and revolution. Today, the United States, Brazil and Argentina together have the most soybean fields and produce about 80% of the world’s soy.
What is soybean oil?
Soybean oil is vegetable oil derived from the soybean (Glycine max). Soybeans, known as "king of the beans," are economically the most important bean crop in the world, providing vegetable protein for millions of people and ingredients for hundreds of chemical products.
The oil, which accounts for around 22% of the dry seed, is one of the most widely consumed cooking oils and the second most consumed vegetable oil in the world.
How is soybean oil made?
Also known as soy oil, soybean oil is produced by removing the oil from whole soybeans. This occurs when soybeans are dehulled and crushed, a process that separates the oil from the original soybean. Also included in this activity is the removal of contaminants, through distillation and refinement. This can impact the aroma, flavor and color.
Pocket Fact: When simple machinery was invented, soybean oil began being pressed at Chinese mills on wedge presses. (Wedge presses are still used in native Chinese cultures today). Its process entailed whole sun-dried soybeans being crushed beneath a giant stone roller, some 4 feet in diameter and 5-24 inches thick, that was rolled like a wheel around a central pivot being drawn by a cow or a mule.
What are soybean oil products?
The various uses of soybean oil is quite extensive and very fascinating. Today, we need not grind soybeans on a wedge press, use its oil to light lamps in our homes, or save its by-product to feed the cattle on our farm. We simply commute to the local grocery store with our hot cup of joe in our modern vehicle, making sure a few George Washingtons (or a plastic card with a chip) are in our pocket. Soybean oil can be used as:
- Drying oil for paints. Soybean oil slowly hardens (due to free-radical based polymerization) upon exposure to air, forming a flexible, transparent and waterproof solid.
- Base for printing inks. Soybean ink is now used in 95% of circulating newspapers. It is also used in magazines, textbooks and brochures.
- Cooking oil. It can be used in place of other high-heat cooking methods like frying, baking, roasting, or sautéing.
- Sustainable fuel. Soybeans are used to create biodiesel, a cleaner-burning, renewable alternative to petroleum diesel. The oil from soybeans is mixed with diesel fuel. Biodiesel made with soybean oil can help reduce greenhouse gasses by up to 86%, compared to regular diesel.
- Solvent. A solvent that is environmentally friendly means cleaner oceans, lakes and rivers, as soybean oil can be used to create an eco-friendly elixir that can safely remove oil from creeks, streams and ocean shorelines without harming the environment.
- Household products element. With soy’s incredible versatility and cleaner impact on the environment, more and more manufacturers are starting to incorporate soy into everyday household products. Soy-based crayons are non-toxic and safer for children. New candles made with soybean oil burn longer and cleaner, producing less smoke.
- Road traction additive. Goodyear and the United Soybean Board funded research that discovered that soybean oil in tires resulted in better traction in wet and winter conditions.
- Industrial supplies ingredient. When paints and cleaners are soy-based, they are non-toxic because the petroleum is replaced with soybean oil.
- Carpet. Soy-backed carpet replaces over 90% of the petroleum-based polymers with a bio-based polymer derived from domestically grown soybeans.
- Concrete Sealant. Soybean oil in a water-based emulsion provides protection against water, salt and freeze-thaw damage up to 10 times longer than other sealant products. It can be used as an all-natural alternative to acrylic sealers for concrete driveways, sidewalks, patios, garage floors and other flatwork.
- Indoor insecticide. Soybean oil can be safely used to kill household pests, including ants and cockroaches.
- Non-toxic pesticide. Soybean oil will suffocate insects, specifically small soft-bodied insects, mites, beetles, scales, caterpillars and whiteflies.
How does Dr. Killigan’s use soybean oil?
Our non-toxic, kill-on-contact spray, Six Feet Under, contains 3.13% soybean oil. It is an active ingredient in our safe, rapid and effective killer that works on all six-legged insects, including ants, aphids, beetles, cockroaches, fleas, flies, mites, mosquitos, moths (including larvae and eggs), silverfish and ticks.
In Six Feet Under, soybean oil creates a physical barrier to respiration in the insects by clogging the spiracles, or breathing pores, along the sides of their adult (and larvae) abdomens. In blocking these air holes (spiracles), death occurs through asphyxiation. Similarly, when applied in our safe formula, it inhibits oxygen uptake in egg masses and decreases hatching success.
In addition, soybean oil quickly dissipates through evaporation and leaves no toxic residue. This makes our top of the line product less disruptive to beneficial insect populations than chemical insecticides.
Also, soybean oil disrupts the metabolism of insect eggs and the ability of some insects to feed, causing them to starve to death.
Lastly, because the mode of action is mechanical (smothering) rather than chemical, there is less likelihood of insects developing any resistance to Six Feet Under.
It’s also important to note that, in our expertly crafted formula, soybean oil is mixed with sodium lauryl sulfate, cinnamon oil and clove oil, which further extends its performance. It is completely free of pyrethrins and other harsh chemicals and safe to use around pets and children.
So interesting, how soybean oil clogs the breathing holes of insects. And so good knowing that it leaves no toxic residues (in Six Feet Under).
I had no idea how many uses there were for soybean oil. Its crazy that it is put into tires to help with traction and goes into diesel to help with CO2 emissions. Very interesting article.