Mustard Plaster

, March 25, 2015 in Therapeutics

For many people, the fall and winter seasons bring increased incidents of colds and flus that may progress into more serious conditions like pneumonia. Those who suffer with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) such as chronic bronchitis, miner’s lung, emphysema and chronic asthma also tend to have their symptoms worsen at this time of year.

When professional medical help has been sought and the diagnosis confirmed, a cooperative plan of action may be outlined with the agreement of the health care providers and the patient. The mustard poultice can be extremely effective when given as an external treatment along with the use of herbs and/or drugs taken internally to treat COPD. This combination of internal and external treatments can considerably shorten the healing time and make the patient more comfortable.

The Mustard Plaster
  • Single bed sheet cut in half lengthwise or pillowcase
  • Small bath blanket or large Turkish towel
  • One 2 Litre cooking pot
  • 500 – 750g Flax Seed
  • 50g mustard powder (also called mustard flour)
  • Large serving spoon
  • Large work counter
  • Blender or food processor
  • One Liter water
  • 100mL vegetable or castor oil
  • Medium mixing bowl
  • Two Tbsp. baking soda
  • Soft wash cloth

Fill one cooking pot with approximately one liter of water and bring to a boil. Grind the flax seed to a course meal while the water is heating. At this time, also prepare the patient. Find a comfortable location where the patient can recline at about a 45-degree angle. A couch, reclining chair or a bed will do. Have blankets available to cover the patient if required for warmth. Have the patient remove all clothing above the waist, as well as any jewelry from the neck and torso.

Apply vegetable or castor oil evenly over the entire treatment area. The patient may prefer to perform this step. If a woman has sensitive nipples you can cut out from the end of the cloth a patch to cover each nipple. Use extra oil over sensitive areas like the side skin under the arms.

When water boils, add the flax meal and stir continuously until it becomes a thick porridge. If mix is too wet and you have no more flax seed, you may stir in wheat flour to make the mix stiffer.

Preparing and Applying the Plaster
  1. Use your hands to estimate the size of the treatment area on the chest. This will be the area of the poultice square on the sheet. You will need to position the poultice square at one end of the bed sheet and equidistant from the three edges.
  2. Apply the mustard flour evenly to the poultice square with the spoon. Scoop the hot flax porridge onto the square keeping the mustard layer next to the cloth.
  3. Avoid mixing it into the porridge. Use all of the porridge mix.
  4. Fold in the four sides of the cloth.
  5. Test the temperature of the poultice by placing your hand on the table palm down and putting the square over it for a minute of so. If you wince, scream or cry it is too hot. Please note that chest skin is much more delicate than the back of your hand.
  6. Have the patient recline on a couch or chair and place the hot plaster on their chest.
  7. Using a small bath blanket or Turkish towel, cover the patient to hold the heat in and keep the patient comfortable.
  8. Within a few minutes the patient will experience tremendous heat and may become apprehensive. Be reassuring and try to help the patient to relax and remain calm by gently leading them through a breathing/relaxation/prayer exercise.
  9. If the experience is still too intense gently pull the poultice away from the skin Instruct the patient to blow a stream of air into the open space.
  10. Once they feel more comfortable replace the poultice against the skin. You may have to repeat this process several times. Leave the poultice in place for one hour.
  11. When complete, remove the cloth in a reverse process and examine the patient’s skin. The skin will be bright pink and tender, but there should be no blistering if the mustard poultice was done correctly.
  12. End the process with a slight cooling of the skin. Fill a bowl with cool water and add the 2 Tbsp. of baking soda. Gently dab the skin to remove oil residue.

If treatment is done during the day, have the patient recline quietly for 30 minutes. If time allows a short nap is helpful. The treatment is especially efficacious when done in the evening when the patient can retire for the night and sleep until morning.

Scrape the poultice mixture off of the cloth and discard. Rinse the cloth in running water. The cloth may be reused after laundering.

The patient’s skin may still be hot/pink and /or tender in the morning, but there should be no welts or blisters. After showering the patient might feel some discomfort if they reactivate any mustard oils still in their skin. The patient should be advised not to use hot water for the first shower they take after the treatment. Only mild, fat-based soap should be used.

This process may be repeated on alternate nights depending on how deeply set the respiratory condition and the aptitude of the patient. A health professional should listen to the patient’s lungs before and after each treatment with a stethoscope to evaluate the patient’s progress.

Family members may participate in the whole ritual and be taught the process.

Mustard compounds were used as the first chemotherapies after a WW1 incident in which soldiers, suffering from tuberculosis were gassed and survived to come home. They were cured and medical doctors began experiments with mustard family plants and compounds. Mustard plasters can bring relief to many kinds of lung cancer and have been used successfully. Brassica plants like broccoli have anti-cancer compounds and are being used in fresh plant poultices for treatment of basal cell carcinomas, sunscreen and more.