Herb: White Mustard

Latin name: Sinapis alba

Synonyms: Brassica alba, Brassica hirta

Family: Cruciferae

Medicinal use of White Mustard:

The seed is antibacterial, antifungal, appetizer, carminative, diaphoretic, digestive, diuretic, emetic, expectorant, rubefacient and stimulant. The seed has a cathartic action due to hydrolytic liberation of hydrogen sulphide. In China it is used in the treatment of coughs with profuse phlegm and tuberculosis, pleurisy. The seed is seldom used internally as a medicine in the west. Externally it is usually made into mustard plasters (using the ground seed), poultices or added to the bath water. It is used in the treatment of respiratory infections, arthritic joints, chilblains and skin eruptions etc. At a ratio of 1:3, the seed has an inhibitory action on the growth of fungus. Care should be exercised in using this remedy because the seed contains substances that are extremely irritant to the skin and mucous membranes. The leaves are carminative.

Description of the plant:


60 cm
(2 feet)

June to

Habitat of the herb:

A weed of arable and waste land, especially on calcareous soils.

Edible parts of White Mustard:

Leaves - raw or cooked. A hot pungent flavour, especially if eaten raw. Young leaves are used as a flavouring in mixed salads, whilst older leaves are used as a potherb. Seed - sprouted and eaten raw. The seed takes about 4 days to be ready. A hot flavour, it is often used in salads. A nutritional analysis is available. The seed can be ground into a powder and used as a food flavouring, it is the "white mustard" of commerce. This is milder than the black mustard obtained from Brassica nigra. The 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.

Other uses of the herb:

The seed contains up to 35% of a semi-drying oil. It is used as a lubricant and for lighting etc. The plant can be grown as a green manure crop. It is very fast growing, producing a good bulk in just a few weeks from seed, but it is shallow rooted so does not do so well in dry periods. It is also susceptible to all the diseases of the cabbage family such as club-root so is best avoided if this is likely to be a problem.

Propagation of White Mustard:

Seed - sow in situ from early spring to late summer. Germination takes place in less than a week. The earlier sowings are for a seed crop, the later sowings are for edible leaves and green manure. When sowing seed for use in mustard and cress, the seed is soaked for about 12 hours in warm water and then placed in a humid position. Traditionally, it is sown in a tray on a thin layer of soil, or on some moist blotting paper, and the tray is placed in a warm dark place for a few days to encourage rapid and rather etiolated growth. The seedlings can then be placed in a lighter position for a couple more days to turn green before being eaten. The mustard seed should be sown about 3 - 4 days later than the cress for them both to be ready at the same time.

Cultivation of the herb:

A weed of arable and waste land, especially on calcareous soils.

Known hazards of Sinapis alba:

The seed contains substances that irritate the skin and mucous membranes. The plant is possibly poisonous once the seedpods have formed.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.