- Family Cruciferae
- Brassica spp
- Numerous, depending on the species
Use of the herb is contraindicated in those with gastrointestinal ulcers or inflammatory kidney diseases.
Sneezing, coughing, and possibly asthma attacks can result from breathing the allylisothiocyanates that arise from the poultices. Eyes should be protected as the vapours can cause irritation.
Long-term use or frequent applications of the poultices can cause blistering. Therefore, they should not be left on for any longer than thirty minutes.
Mustard should not be administered to children under six.
Generally, the plant is an annual that grows to about three feet in height, producing slim-branched roots. The stem is almost round and bristly-haired at the base with a bluish bloom toward the top. All mustard plants are characterized by their pungent seeds and leaves. Brassicas are cultivated worldwide in temperate regions, mainly as food crops. These cruciferous vegetables are so named because their flowers have four petals arranged like tiny crosses.
There are dozens of mustard species and one of the oldest botanical medicines also used as food.
Two thousand years ago, Dioscorides described making mustard plasters to treat chest congestion, a practice still used today.
Even before Pasteur discovered that germs cause infection and disease, the antiseptic properties of mustard were recognized by barber-surgeons who used a mustard solution as a surgical scrub long before the development of antiseptic washes.
Although mustard gas was used as a lethal weapon during WWI, its medicinal properties gave rise to the first successful anticancer drug, which is still used to treat leukemia.
- cardiopulmonary stimulant
- hyperemic (increases blood flow)
- glycosides (mainly myrosin and sinigrin)
- volatile oil
- fatty oil (30-35%)
- proteins (40%)
- phenyl propane derivatives
Seeds, extracted oil
In the seeds are two active chemical compounds called myrosin and sinigrin, glycosides which give the plant its odour and pungent flavour. When added to water, they form the volatile oil, which can cause severe burning if applied directly to the skin or mucous membranes.
The diluted oil acts as a counterirritant to reduce the number of pain messages transmitted to the brain via peripheral nerves, making it a good pain remedy. The substances in the oil may also interfere with Substance P, a neurotransmitter that carries pain messages.
The most familiar uses of mustard, as a medicine, are external applications of poultices, plasters, and liniments. Although not popular in the West as they once were, mustard plasters are used in many parts of the world to treat chest congestion from colds, flu, and bronchitis, as well as bronchial pneumonia, sinusitis, pleurisy, lumbago, and sciatica.
- To make a mustard plaster: Mix crushed seeds or powdered mustard with flour and add a little lukewarm water to make a paste. This mixture is spread between two pieces of cotton or linen and wrapped in flannel, then placed on a patient’s chest. Use on the chest should not exceed ten minutes, with a maximum of three to five minutes for children, and not on the face. When mustard paper is used, it is immersed in warm water and then placed on the painful area of the skin.
There are also preparations that can be taken orally to treat such illnesses as congestion, inflammatory joint pain, to stimulate the appetite and to induce vomiting. However, only small amounts are needed.
Chewing the seeds or grinding them into a powder and then rubbing with warm water (not hot as this will destroy the enzymes) will release the volatile mustard oil call allylisothiocyanate.
In a diluted form, the oil can be used as a liniment to soothe painful, inflamed arthritic joints. Athletes use it to ease aching muscles.
Some commercial products containing mustard oil are marketed to repel dogs, cats, and garden pests.
A few drops of mustard oil added to a foot bath is used to treat athlete’s foot.
- To prepare a foot bath: A mustard footbath should be prepared in a bucket or other container that allows the warm water to extend up the leg to the desired location. Add one to three dessertspoons of mustard flour and stir into warm water. Leave the foot in this mixture for no longer than ten minutes.
Full baths, and foot baths, are used to prompt an increased circulation, and is especially good for headaches or to stimulate the cardiopulmonary system to relieve frostbite and vascular disease.
- To prepare a full mustard bath: Mix 100 to 200 g mustard flour in cold water and press through a cloth into the warm bath water.