The Humble Mustard Seed

Let’s stop a moment to take a closer look at the humble mustard seed.  It’s more than just a condiment or one of the ingredients that makes a cucumber a pickle.  This tiny seed has the important job of being an anti-inflammatory agent and it has warming properties.  

Some of the benefits we can harness from the mustard seed are: controlling the symptoms of asthma; relieving rheumatoid, arthritic and muscle pain; fighting skin infections; and aiding in boosting immunity (Sampath, 2015).  

Harken back to the good ole’ days of mom’s medicine cabinet; many of you may recall when cold season came around mom would break out the powdered mustard and make some terrifying thing called a mustard plaster.  Just the name of it would strike terror in my young little heart.  

“Terror” you ask.  Yes, terror.  More like terror of the unfamiliar and weird sensation of a condiment being applied to one’s body.  I recall the pungent smell of the mustard plaster as it was spread over my chest; the warm, wet sensation of it once an old shirt was pressed on top to keep it in place.  

Once this was done my mom would tuck the covers over me, turn off the lights and leave the mustard plaster to do its thing.  Me and a condiment, alone in the dark.  Not exactly a fond memory.  

At this point you’re probably wondering what the exactly does a mustard plaster do.  Well it’s good for chest congestion, it aids in reducing fevers and it removes toxins.  Smelly and unattractive as it is, it does work.

So if you’re wondering how to terrify, I mean help, your kids here you go:

Mustard Plaster Recipe

  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons dry mustard
  • Lukewarm water


  • Mix the dry ingredients together and add enough water to make a paste that is spreadable.  (If the plaster is for a young child, halve the recipe as mustard is a powerful spice that should be used with care when applying topically.)
  • Using a clean, old t-shirt, apply the paste evenly over half the t-shirt.  Once completed, fold the other half of the t-shirt over to cover it.
  • Place the folded t-shirt onto the chest of the individual and cover it with a clean towel followed by a blanket.  The towel will protect the blanket from the moisture of the paste and will provide additional heat to encourage some sweating.
  • Leave the plaster on for up to 20 minutes.  (Remove the plaster if it causes discomfort to the individual and/or causes the skin to turn a dark red.  Mild reddening of the skin is normal as the mustard has a warming property.)
  • After use, be sure to have the individual thoroughly wash and dry the skin that came in to contact with the plaster.

Prior to mass-produced, over the counter (OTC) cough and cold remedies, there were natural ingredients to provide for our wellness, including the humble mustard seed.

Sampath, P. (2015, February 2). 10 Healthy Reasons You Should Include Sarson or Mustard in Your Diet. Retrieved from

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