Supplementary Appendix: Mustard Plasters

Johann Georg Krünitz on Mustard plasters [*]

Mustard is also used as a compress and for bathing. According to Moench, the simplest mustard compresses are also the most effective, with 1–2 ounces of mustard sufficing. Vinegar serves as an irritant and for thinning the leavening; it is superior to water. Squill vinegar enhances the irritant. Black arsenic is added only if the irritant is not sufficiently strong; add 5 grains to each 1/2 ounce of mustard. Also garlic in the case of hysterical persons. According to Hufeland, mustard and horseradish are used to prepare that particular mustard plaster that serves as one of the swiftest remedies in cases of severe headaches, toothaches, dizziness, tinnitus, deafness, breast and stomach cramps, breast constriction, suffocation, and pains in the body and back, and in some of the most urgent cases of stroke-like attacks and breast suffocation is even capable of saving a patient’s life.

Preparation is as follows: Grind 1 ounce of mustard seeds into a fine powder, mix in 1 tablespoon of grated horseradish and an equal amount of leavening along with a little vinegar until it becomes a paste. Spread on linen the size of a hand, then either place it on the upper arm or the calf. Allow to remain in place only until the patient begins to sense a considerable burning sensation. It is then removed and the paste remnants washed from the skin with warm water. Should any severe inflammation and pain remain afterward, the best ameliorative agent is to spread either cream or freshly churned butter on the area. In an urgent case, where quick assistance is required, merely bind grated horseradish on the skin, which will cause an extremely vehement burning sensation within a few minutes.

One can also prepare a mustard plaster as follows. Knead together 1 ounce of leaven, 1/2 ounce of ground black mustard, or 1 ounce of freshly grated horseradish, 1/4 ounce salt, and 1 tablespoon of wine vinegar. — Roast finely chopped garlic with a bit of vinegar, sprinkle with ground mustard, and place this plaster on the painful area. It spreads quite well and, if one uses a great deal of mustard, even becomes caustic. In some French medical guides, e.g., that of [C.-J.] Geoffroi [1685–1752], one finds a plaster made of turpentine oil, dove excrement, and mustard, which is then placed on the areas where gout is sensed, and also on the jaw in cases of severe toothache. This remedy is, however, not tolerable to the extent the inflammation has not already passed, it being excessively sharp; that said, it is said to serve better to reinitiate the eruption whose thwarted suppuration might occasion a discharge on the breast or some other part.

Mustard seeds were also formerly recommended as an excellent sternutator [sneezing inducer] and one of the most effective masticatoriis [medications designed to be chewed rather than ingested]. Place a drachm, slightly ground, in linen and give it to the patient to chew who is threatened by apoplexy or paralysis. This agent causes patients to expectorate frequently and also helps those with a heavy head laden with phlegm or mucous. When sniffed, this particular mustard preparation — called Möstrich [mustard] — helps persons of both sexes who are subject to vapors and also awakens the somnolent. Mustard baths, mixed with horseradish, help with gout in the legs, paralysis of arms and feet, etc. For a bath, use 2–4 ounces of crushed mustard. Placing mustard plasters on the soles of the feet in the usual fashion is not recommended because the thick skin in that area allegedly causes the effects to come about only very slowly. Crushed mustard and grated horseradish mixed together, spread on a cloth, and applied to an artery on the arm located on the same side of the body as a toothache allegedly immediately alleviates the latter.


[*] Johann Georg Krünitz, Oeconomische Encyclopädie, 242 vols. (1773–1858), vol. 153 (1830), 217, s.v. Senf. Back.

Translation © 2013 Doug Stott