Updated: Feb 22
January Full Moon Herb Highlight: Mustard! For years as a kid I hated mustard; as it was my Father’s favorite condiment I had many opportunities to express my dislike, ha! If only I had known then what I know now: not only is mustard ridiculously tasty it is such great medicine! I wanted to choose an herb this month that everyone has most likely experienced, enjoyed, and probably has on hand.
Mustard (Brassica alba, Brassica juncea) has been cultivated for centuries. There is archeological evidence that some species were being used as spices more than 6,000 years ago in northern Europe. Mustard is part of the brassicaceae family of plants - a group much heralded for their nutritional value and impressive array of phytonutrients. This generous plant grows like a weed and can be found practically everywhere…making it truly a people’s medicine not one just reserved for those with money.
The two seeds most commonly available for purchase are Brassica alba known as white or yellow mustard, and Brassica juncea or brown mustard. White and yellow mustard seeds are more mild than the brown which has a sharper taste and more pronounced heat. The bite and heat of mustard comes from the phytochemical Allyl isothiocyanate (AITC) which has been repeatedly studied for its anti-cancer connection. (I invite you to plug AITC into the National Library of Medicine’s website for an afternoon of reading…if that’s your kind of thing, ha!) Mustard is also really, really high in omega-3 fatty acids - well known to improve heart health. There is exciting research showing mustard’s positive effects on lowering cholesterol, prediabetes, prostate inflammation, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease!
Energetically it is warming and drying - making it one of my go-to herbs for congested sinuses. Take a big ‘ol bite of spicy mustard and you will see what I mean! Immediately the sinuses will begin to open, drain and clear. That same heat makes mustard a welcome topical herb for sore muscles and injuries. While smearing oneself with prepared mustard is certainly an option, I prefer a mustard infused-oil for topical application. Easier yet, treat yourself to a warming bath to relieve pain and chills. I include a mustard bath salt recipe inspired by Kings Road Apothecary below.
Making your own mustard is nearly as easy as purchasing it from the store. All you need is mustards seeds, apple cider vinegar, water, salt, and some time. I’ve included one of my favorite recipes below. Make up a jar of this with some soft pretzels and a stout beer - you will not be disappointed!
No discussion of mustard would be complete without also mentioning its importance to pollinators (my Dad is a beekeeper.) Mustard, wild mustard in particular, is a rich source of nutrients and resources for our hard working insect friends. I really appreciate how accessible mustard is. You can find high quality, potent mustard in nearly any store. If you flip the bottle over you’ll most likely notice that you can pronounce and recognize every ingredient - not often the case with prepared foods! So, while the cold months of the year stretch ahead of us, I invite you to warm up with delicious, healing, powerful mustard! Stay safe and be well friends!
1/2 cup mustard seeds (I typically do 2/3 yellow 1/3 brown)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (use a turmeric-infused vinegar for an extra healing punch)
1-2 tsp honey
1 tsp salt
1-2 tsp of any fun extra flavorings you want to add - think turmeric, lavender, chipotle powder, cayenne - the sky is the limit!
Place the mustard seeds and water in a glass bowl. Allow to sit 30 minutes. Pour in apple cider vinegar, cover, and let sit on the counter for two days.
Place everything in the bowl into a blender. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until it is ground into a paste. (Note: This will be grainy, chunky, and fabulous.)
Yields about 1.25 cups. Keep in the fridge for up to six months if it lasts that long!
Mustard and Ginger Bath Salts
(adapted from Rebecca Altman of Kings Road Apothecary)
1 cup Sea Salt
1/2 cup Epsom Salts
1/2 cup Borax Powder
1/4 cup Baking Powder
3/4 cup Mustard Powder
1/4 cup Ginger Powder
10-20 drops of essential oil(s) of choice: eucalyptus, cedar, lavender, or rosemary.
Mix the salts together in a big bowl.
Sift the mustard, ginger, borax, and baking powder into the bowl. Mix well.
Add essential oils of choice.
Yields approx. 3 cups - use 1/2 -1 cup per bath
Note: I know that is a lot of mustard and ginger powder! Don’t try and use several little jars from the grocery store. You’re better off buying in bulk on-line…or just sprinkle a little into the tub and see how it feels!)
For more information on mustard (and other medicinal herbs) I recommend the book The Alchemy of Herbs by Rosalee de la Foret.
1 Saul, Hayley, et. al. “Phytoliths in Pottery Reveal the Use of Spice in European Prehistoric Cuisine.” PloS One 8, no. 8 (2013). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0070583
2 Aggarwal, Bharat B. Healing Spices (New York: Sterling Press, 2011).
This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. For educational purposes only. The Little Green Witch Apothecary LLC is a woman-, veteran-owned small business.