Herb: Black Mustard


Latin name: Brassica nigra


Synonyms: Sinapis nigra


Family: Cruciferae



Medicinal use of Black Mustard:

Mustard seed is often used in herbal medicine, especially as a rubefacient poultice. The seed is ground and made into a paste then applied to the skin in the treatment of rheumatism, as a means of reducing congestion in internal organs. Applied externally, mustard relieves congestion by drawing the blood to the surface as in head afflictions, neuralgia and spasms. Hot water poured on bruised seeds makes a stimulant foot bath, good for colds and headaches. Old herbals suggested mustard for treating alopecia, epilepsy, snakebite, and toothache. Care must be taken not to overdo it, since poultices can sometimes cause quite severe irritation to the skin. The seed is also used internally, when it is appetizer, digestive, diuretic, emetic and tonic. Swallowed whole when mixed with molasses, it acts as a laxative. A decoction of the seeds is used in the treatment of indurations of the liver and spleen. It is also used to treat carcinoma, throat tumours, and imposthumes. A liquid prepared from the seed, when gargled, is said to help tumours of the "sinax.". The seed is eaten as a tonic and appetite stimulant. Hot water poured onto bruised mustard seeds makes a stimulating foot bath and can also be used as an inhaler where it acts to throw off a cold or dispel a headache. Mustard Oil is said to stimulate hair growth. Mustard is also recommended as an aperient ingredient of tea, useful in hiccup. Mustard flour is considered antiseptic.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Annual


Height:
120 cm
(4 feet)

Flovering:
June to
August


Scent:
Scented
Annual

Habitat of the herb:

Cliffs near the sea in S. W. England.

Edible parts of Black Mustard:

Leaves - raw or cooked. A hot flavour, they can be finely chopped and added to salads or cooked as a potherb. The seedlings can also be used as a salading when about one week old, adding a hot pungency to a salad. Immature flowering stems - cooked and eaten like broccoli. Mustard seed is commonly ground into a powder and used as a food flavouring and relish. This is the black mustard of commerce, it is widely used as a food relish and as an ingredient of curry. Pungency of mustard develops when cold water is added to the ground-up seed - an enzyme (myrosin) acts on a glycoside (sinigrin) to produce a sulphur compound. The reaction takes 10 - 15 minutes. Mixing with hot water or vinegar, or adding salt, inhibits the enzyme and produces a mild bitter mustard. The seed can also be used whole to season pickles, curries, sauerkraut etc. Black mustard has a stronger more pungent flavour than white mustard (Sinapis alba) and brown mustard (B. juncea). An edible oil is obtained from the seed.

Other uses of the herb:

A semi-drying oil is obtained from the seed, as well as being edible it is also used as a lubricant, illuminant and in making soap. The plant is often grown as a green manure, it is very fast, producing a bulk suitable for digging into the soil in about 8 weeks. Not very winter hardy, it is generally used in spring and summer. It does harbour the pests and diseases of the cabbage family so is probably best avoided where these plants are grown in a short rotation and especially if club root is a problem. Mustard oil (allyl isothiocyanate) is used in commercial cat and dog repellent mixtures.

Propagation of Black Mustard:

Seed - sow in situ from early spring until late summer in order to obtain a succession of crops. The main crop for seed is sown in April.

Cultivation of the herb:

Cliffs near the sea in S. W. England.

Known hazards of Brassica nigra:

When eaten in large quantities, the seed and pods have sometimes proved toxic to grazing animals.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.