Brassica nigra (Mustard)
A mustard plaster is a traditional remedy for bronchitis, used in early American folk medicine and often recommended by doctors and nurses in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Mustard plasters are still considered by many to be effective, although it is also easy to find people who will tell horror stories about blisters they received from mustard plasters and poultices. Most sources from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries say that mustard plasters are likely to blister and be less effective when they are made by inexperienced practitioners. Only people with years of experience using plasters and poultices, these sources claim, could make a safe, effective mustard plaster.
Using a Mustard Plaster to Relieve the Symptoms of Bronchitis
- Mix a tablespoon of dry mustard with four tablespoons of flour. Some people like to add an egg white to the mixture. Freshly ground black mustard seeds are said to be more effective than dry ground yellow mustard that has been sitting in the pantry for a long time; if you are able to get some fresh black mustard seeds, you can grind them in a coffee grinder. However, dry ground yellow mustard can be used if necessary.
- Add enough warm water to make a paste. It should be somewhat runny.
- Use vegetable shortening or olive oil to oil the chest.
- Spread the mustard paste on a piece of cloth. You can use muslin, gauze, a kitchen washcloth – any thin cloth will do. The purpose of the cloth is to protect the skin from the mustard, which can be irritating if applied directly to skin.
- Cover the mustard paste with another piece of thin cloth.
- Apply the mustard plaster to the chest.
- Give the person who is receiving the mustard plaster treatment plenty of cool liquids to drink while the plaster is in place.
- Keep the plaster in place as long as it is still warm. Check every few minutes to make sure that you are not burning the skin. Remove the plaster if it causes any discomfort, pain, or burning.
Why It Works
Mustard acts as a counter-irritant when it is applied to the skin. A counter-irritant is an agent that causes blood vessels to dilate, or open up, increasing the supply of blood to the area. When a part of the body is infected, increasing the supply of blood and lymph fluid to the area is likely to facilitate healing, because the blood will carry oxygen, nutrients, and lymphocytes (white blood cells to fight the infection) to infected cells, while lymph fluid will carry away waste products and toxins. With bronchitis, the infection is not on the surface of the skin of the chest, but the mustard plaster is warm enough to carry heat to deeper levels of the chest.
Some sources say that mustard helps to draw toxins out of the chest, but this claim has not been scientifically proven.
Bronchitis can be mild and self-limiting, but it can also be chronic and can eventually cause complications that can cause pneumonia, or can even cause the heart to have to work harder to deliver oxygen to the body’s cells, leading to pulmonary hypertension, enlargement of the heart, and in some cases, heart failure. Do not try to treat bronchitis alone using home remedies. Bronchitis should always be monitored by a doctor. It is particularly important for children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems to have their bronchitis monitored by a doctor. In addition, any person who suffers from an underlying health condition, such as asthma, allergies, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or any other serious respiratory or heart problem, should make sure to have bronchitis monitored by a doctor who is familiar with his or her medical history. Home remedies are offered here as a supplement to medical treatment and to offer relief from symptoms.
If you choose to use a mustard plaster to treat bronchitis, be sure to check the skin underneath the plaster periodically to make sure that the skin is not becoming burned or blistered. Some people have allergic reactions to mustard, so watch for the formation of hives and remove the plaster immediately if you see any signs of allergy.