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Mustard was commonly used in poultices in both the Compendium and in the Pharmacopeia. Poultices were applied to feet and the pit of the stomach to help treat those suffering from fever, cholera morbus, and cramps and spasms.

Fun fact: Eye of newt is an archaic name for mustard seed. When the witches of MacBeth called for the use of eye of newt, they were referring to mustard seed, not the actual eye of a newt. (

British Pharmacopoeia 1867

Mustard Sinapis

“The seeds of Sinapis nigra… and Sinapis alba…; also seeds reduced to a powder, mixed.”[1]

Characteristics (of the powder) “Greenish-yellow, of an acrid bitterish oily gungent taste, scentless when dry, but exhaling when moist a pungent penetrating peculiar odour, very irritating to the nostril and eyes.” used in the preparations of: [2]

  • Cataplasma Sinapis
  • Oleum Sinapis

Preparations of Mustard

Mustard Poultice / Cataplasma Sinapis [3]

  • Mustard, in powder (2 ½ oz), linseed meal (2 ½ oz), boiling water (10 fl oz)

Compound Liniment of Mustard / Linimentum Sinapis Compositum [4]

  • oil of mustard (1 fl drachm), ethereal extract of mezereon (40 grains), camphor (120 grains), castor oil (5 fl drachms), rectified spirit (4 fl oz)

Oil of Mustard / Oleum Sinapis [5]

  • “The oil distilled with water from the seeds of Black Mustard, Sinapis nigra…, after the expression of fixed oil.”
  • “Colourless or pale yellow… Dissolves readily in alcohol and ether, and to a slight extent in water. Has an intensely penetrating odour and a very acrid, burning taste. Applied to the skin it produces almost instant vestication.”
  • Used in the preparations of: Linimentum Sinapis compositum

A Compendium of Domestic Medicine, 1865

Mustard can be used to make poultices that are applied to the soles of feet during fever, and also can be used to treat rheumatic and sciatic pain. In instances of intoxication threatening apoplexy, and cholera, mustard can administered in the form of an emetic. [6] Mustard can also be used in cases of gout. “In moderate doses as a condiment, mustard is a wholesome excitant to the stomach in a weakened state of the organ; in large doses it interrupts digestion, and irritates the nervous system.” The mustard poultice is an effective treatment against threatening apoplexy or paralysis when applied to the nape of the neck or as a foot bath “to rouse the system”[7]

Mustard is used to help revive an individual from drowning: “When the body is found, it should be quickly conveyed to a warm and dry situation and rubbed all over with moderate stimulants, as diluted flour of mustard; then wrapped in hot blankets, and placed in a warm bed.” [8]

Remedies Containing or to be used with Mustard

  • Mustard: a poultice is formed by combining mustard flour, wheat flour, vinegar, and boiling water into a paste and then applying to a linen rag with a piece of muslin placed over it and applying the poultice directly to the skin so that it becomes red but does not blister.[9]

Diseases Treated with Mustard

General Diseases

  • Ague, or Intermittent Fever: mustard foot baths, and a mustard poultice applied to the pit of the stomach are to be administered during the first stage (or the cold stage) of a fever[10]
  • Cholera Morbus: in the initial stages of the disease, when cramps are present, a person should take a hot bath, but if that is unavailable Savory recommends putting “their feet into hot salt and water, with a little mustard, taking great care that the extremities do not become cold.” In cases of an extreme attack a hot mustard poultice is to be applied to the pit of the stomach.[11]
  • Cramps and Spasms: applying a mustard poultice to the feet can provide some relief [12]
  • Erysipeals: when the inflammation is of a simple nature, no major action needs to be taken. Savory recommends keeping the bowels open, drinking diluted acidulated drinks, and placing the feet in a warm bath that contains mustard.[13]

Medical Articles Containing Mustard

  • Mustard Cataplasm or Poultice: uses flour of mustard “this cataplasm is a very powerful local stimulant and rubefacient,” however, there is a chance that it may cause burning or blistering of the skin. [14]
  • Mustard Bath: durham mustard[15]


  1. General Medical Council of Great Britain, British Pharmacopeia, (London: Spottiswoode & Co.,1867), 283
  2. GMCGB, 283
  3. GMCGB, 75
  4. GMCGB, 175
  5. GMCGB, 228
  6. Savory, John. A Compendium of Domestic Medicine (London: John Churchill and Sons, 1865), 102.
  7. Savory, 103
  8. Savory, 180
  9. Savory, 103
  10. Savory, 204
  11. Savory, 221
  12. Savory, 226
  13. Savory, 234
  14. Savory, 298
  15. Savory, 302

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