Monday, April 21, 2014


MUSTARD-Sinapsis Alba, Brassica Alba, Brassica Nigra, Lepidium Perfoliatum, etc.

Also known as:  white mustard seed, yellow mustard, kedlock, black-mustard, brown mustard, wild turnip, bird's rape

Parts Used:  seeds, leaves

Meridians/Organs affected:  digestive, pulmonary, structural, nerves

Properties:  pungent, laxative, stimulant, emetic, digestive, diuretic, alterative, rubefacient, blood purifying, antibacterial, expectorant, carminative, analgesic, preservative

Mustard is a member of the Cruciferae (Brassica) family.  There are three types used to produce seeds that are used as condiments.  These are black mustard which is native to the Middle East, white mustard which is native to the Mediterranean, and brown mustard which is believed to be a native of India and/or China.  The brown and black varieties are those used to distill and use in healing.  Black mustard is the largest variety-getting up to eight feet tall-but all three are cultivated throughout the world today.  Mustard has beautiful yellow flowers with four petals that resemble a cross.  The leaves are deeply indented at the base of the stalk and less indented as they rise up the stalk.  The young leaves are fuzzy and are usually the ones harvested for eating.

Mustard (most notably the seeds) is one of the oldest recorded spices in history.  Sanskrit text dates it back to 3000 BC but it was also mentioned in papyri going back the the First Dynasty.  Mustard seeds were found buried in Egyptian tombs along with other spices.  The Greek and Roman cultures were certainly familiar with the plant.  According to legend, mustard was introduced to them by Aesclepius (the god of medicine) and Ceres (the goddess of seeds and agriculture) because we all know that they (the Greeks and Romans) had gods for everything!  

The Romans would take the seeds and steep them in fermented grape juice (called 'burning must').  The Romans were responsible for bringing the seeds to Britain.  England and France both began cultivating it and are well known for their mustard variations today.  

Mustard has been used throughout the centuries for medicinal reasons as well.  The Assyrians used it as a mouthwash for toothaches, the Copts used it as a poultice for headaches (not sure I would want mustard wrapped around my head), Pliny used it to 'overcome lassitude in females' and it was even used in love potions in medieval times.  Culpeper used mustard for sciatica and joint pain and would often mix it with honey for coughs.  It has been used throughout time in foot baths for chilblains, poor circulation and mucous buildup in the respiratory system.

Mustard oil draws blood to the surface of the skin which relieves inflammation in the deeper tissues.  Usually used for external purposes now it is mostly used in poultices.  The oil (which is HOT and needs to be diluted ALOT) can be used for sciatica, lower back problems, arthritis, rheumatism and neuralgia.  A mustard plaster (poultice) has been used since time began to help chest infections and pulmonary conditions.  Mustard plasters also have been used for sprains, aches, spasms, and to warm cold areas (useful in cases of frostbite I should think).

The seeds also stimulate the production of digestive juices which help the digestive process.  Internally, a teaspoon of crushed mustard seeds in warm water acts as a mild laxative and a tablespoon will cause vomiting fairly quickly.  Mustard helps dispel phlegm, stops coughs, and is useful for boils and oozing, chronic sores.  

Mustard contains a variety of components that are thought to prevent cancer (just like most members of the Brassica family).  It is also one of the Bach Flower essences.  It is typically used for people who are constantly in a bad mood or fall into depressive states for no reason.

Mustard greens are also a good source of nutrition, containing a good supple of trace minerals and the vitamins A, B and C.  Mustard greens can be boiled, steamed, stir-fried or eaten raw but be sure to get them YOUNG!

Pregnant women should not use mustard as it causes a heating sensation that may stimulate the uterus.

As is customary with my posts I am including some links here for your perusal.  Live long and stay healthy!

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