What is Mustard Plaster? (with pictures)

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Mustard plaster is typically used to treat chest congestion.
Mustard plaster is typically used to treat chest congestion.

Mustard plasters are poultices made from crushing mustard seeds. Different recipes call for adding other spices and herbs to the mixture, creating a paste that is wrapped in a protective dressing and applied to the area of the body where discomfort is present. Traditionally, the mustard plaster is used to help alleviate chest congestion during a cold or flu, or as a way of helping stiff muscles to relax.

Mustard plasters help relax stiff muscles.
Mustard plasters help relax stiff muscles.

One of the reasons for the popularity of the mustard plaster is the heat that the poultice generates. When applying this heat to the chest, it can help break up congestion and allow the individual to breathe with less difficulty. At the same time, applying a mustard plaster to an aching back can help relax sore muscles and ease the pain in a very short period of time. In the age before modern ointments and creams, many homes kept the ingredients for a mustard plaster on hand, especially during the winter months.

Mustard plaster is commonly used by those suffering with a cold or flu.
Mustard plaster is commonly used by those suffering with a cold or flu.

A basic mustard plaster recipe will make use of powdered mustard seed. The powder can be purchased from health food stores and spice shops, or created by grinding the seeds by hand, or by using a food processor to create the powder. Small amounts of white flour, water, and egg white are added, making it possible to work the powder into a paste. This paste is applied to some type of cloth, usually cotton or flannel, and folded into a poultice. The finished plaster is then applied to the area of the body that is experiencing discomfort.

A mustard plaster may be used in conjunction with flushing the nasal passages and other natural treatments for congestion.
A mustard plaster may be used in conjunction with flushing the nasal passages and other natural treatments for congestion.

There are a number of variations of this basic recipe. Some call for omitting the water, but adding extra egg whites. The idea behind this approach is that the egg whites purportedly help to minimize the chances for blistering the skin. Other recipes call for adding some cayenne powder to the mixture; supposedly, the capsicum in the powder helps to increase the heat of the mixture, allowing the poultice to deliver more heat in a shorter period of time.

While many people swear by the efficacy of the mustard plaster, it is important to note that there are some restrictions to consider. The poultice should never be applied to an open wound, or on a part of the body where some type of skin irritation already exists. The plasters should not be left on for extended periods of time, or blistering is highly likely. Last, some people are allergic to mustard seeds, which means the poultice could create more health problems than it helps.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including , and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including , and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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    • Mustard plaster is typically used to treat chest congestion.
      Mustard plaster is typically used to treat chest congestion.
    • Mustard plasters help relax stiff muscles.
      Mustard plasters help relax stiff muscles.
    • Mustard plaster is commonly used by those suffering with a cold or flu.
      Mustard plaster is commonly used by those suffering with a cold or flu.
    • A mustard plaster may be used in conjunction with flushing the nasal passages and other natural treatments for congestion.
      A mustard plaster may be used in conjunction with flushing the nasal passages and other natural treatments for congestion.