Mustard Plaster: A Folk Remedy for the Respiratory and Structural System

by Lindsey Feldpausch

When you think about mustard, topical application to hot dogs may come to mind, less so to your own body. But if you look back in time 100 years applying mustard to one’s chest was a common folk remedy, listed in medicinal dispensatories and regularly prescribed by physicians.

Touted to clear chest congestion and lessen coughs, mustard was traditionally applied in upper respiratory illnesses. A potent rubefacient, mustard draws blood to the area upon which is applied. This ability to increase circulation in a region has been beneficially applied in structural system complaints such as arthritis and back pain.

The part we utilize for both our condiment creation and medicinal application is the seed. Many species of plants in the Brassicaceae family are commonly referred to as mustard plants. Most frequently, we use black mustard, Brassica nigra, brown mustard, Brassica juncea, and white or yellow mustard, Sinapis alba. The seeds of either of these species would be applicable for making a mustard plaster.

Having mustard seed on hand in your at-home plant medicine cabinet may prove useful. But before you reach for the seeds of this plant and learn how to make a plaster, we need to discuss safety.

Mustard seed contains a couple of constituents that, when combined with water, produce a chemical reaction that creates a compound, specifically an isothiocyanate, which yields the spicy and aromatic nature of the seed. This is commonly referred to as mustard oil but is technically a sulfur group.

The different heat profiles of mustard seeds are due to the level of these compounds, with white or yellow mustard being the least potent. You can modulate the taste and spiciness of mustard by what it is combined with. If you use cold water, it will create the most heat, while hot water or an acidic substance like vinegar will degrade these compounds faster.

The heat-producing isothiocyanates are part of the medicinal value of this plant but can also be problematic. The strength of this mustard oil has the potential to burn and blister any skin it is applied to. This can happen under a number of circumstances. Application directly to skin, without a cloth barrier. Applying heat on top a mustard plaster, such as a heating pad. And continual application over 15 minutes time.

So, while we are going to now learn how to make a mustard plaster please do note the conditions listed above.

Making the plaster itself is simple.

1. Take your mustard seeds and grind up into a fine powder, or purchase pre ground mustard seeds.

2. Mix with equal parts flour, of any kind. The flour is to hold the mustard powder together.

3. Once the flour and mustard powder are mixed together, slowly add water, a little at a time, until a paste forms.

4. Prepare a cloth, I prefer to use flour sack towels, fold in half and apply the paste to one half of the folded cloth. Then fold in half once again.

5. You now have a plaster to apply to the part of your body that necessitates its application.

6. Leave on one area for NO MORE than 15 minutes. If it starts burning before this, remove it from the skin.


    • Do not leave in one spot for more than 15 minutes!
    • Do not apply to bare skin!
    • Do not apply heat to a mustard plaster!
    • Avoid placing on eyes.
    • Another thing of note is the fumes from a mustard plaster can irritate the eye, and you may wish to put a towel over them as you utilize this remedy.

    Now that you know what to do and not to do, you can safely explore mustard medicine!

    *****All content from The School for Aromatic Studies is created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health advice. We will not be held liable for any injury that may occur.*****