Sinapis. Sinapis nigra, Sinapis alba.

Synonyms—Mustard, white, black or yellow Mustard.


Powdered Mustard. Oil of Mustard. Dose, from one-twentieth to one-tenth of a minim.


Volatile oil.

Physiological Action—Mustard is emetic, stimulant and actively revulsive with marked anodyne properties. Its application to the skin produces intense burning, violent inflammation, and if persisted in too long, sloughing or ulceration. Taken into the stomach in large quantities, if emesis be not produced, it causes a burning sensation and a mild form of gastritis.

Specific Symptomatology—For external application it is indicated in acute cutting pain local in character, usually intermittent and usually present as the result of rapidly developing acute inflammation, but dull, steady and constant pains or soreness, slowly developing and persistent, are not readily relieved by its application. Turpentine externally is of service in these cases.

Internally it is indicated to excite vomiting when non-corrosive poisons have been taken, when a foreign body is lodged in the esophagus, or when there is great distress from an overloaded stomach.

Administration—In the use of mustard for counter-irritation, in cases of acute pain, it is desirable to obtain its sharp effects as quickly as possible. In order to do this, a fresh article should be procured, one in which the pungency is sharply indicated by its action on the nostrils and eyes, since mustard kept in a paper package on the shelves for weeks is inert from loss of the volatile oil. Vesication must be avoided, as the blisters thus caused are of no advantage, and exceedingly painful and difficult to heal. The white of an egg rubbed up with mustard and a little water, will produce a poultice which will not readily blister.

When mild counter-irritation only is desired, which is to be prolonged for some hours, a poultice is made in the proportion of one part of mustard to four or six of linseed meal or flour. This is not, however, effective in acute pain, but only where there is soreness or prolonged distress. Vinegar and mustard also make a good poultice for prolonged use, as vinegar destroys an excess of activity of the mustard.

For a hot mustard pediluvium, a tablespoonful of the powder is stirred into a gallon or two of hot water, in which the feet are immediately immersed.

For a general mustard bath, two or three tablespoonfuls of mustard are mixed in a full bath. For a child one tablespoonful will be sufficient, care being taken to protect the eyes of the patient from the vapor.

Therapy—A teaspoonful of mustard in a bowl of warm water will produce active and immediate emesis. This should be followed by another bowl of warm water alone, which will continue the evacuation and wash out any remaining mustard, as even then the burning sensation from the local effects of this substance with a few patients is hard to bear. Emesis must be obtained as soon as possible after the ingestion of the mustard. An emetic dose must not be allowed to remain in the stomach, as inflammation may follow.

Mustard has but little therapeutic influence when administered internally. It does not seem to increase the tone of the gastro-intestinal canal, or promote the action of the secretory or excretory glands, or assimilative organs, to any great extent, but its external use is common.

In the treatment of acute pleuritis a warm poultice applied over the affected side sufficiently large to much more than cover the diseased area, will usually relieve the pain at once, and a large poultice is always more effective than a small one. It may be necessary to repeat its application within twenty-four hours, but if vigorous direct treatment is adopted, this is seldom necessary.

In bronchitis or pneumonitis in the initiatory stages, a quick poultice of mustard will exercise a good influence, but it does not give the immediate relief experienced in pleuritis or pneumonitis where acute pain is a prominent symptom. It should be followed, in the former conditions, as soon as the sensitiveness of the skin will allow, by persistent heat, moist or dry, as seems indicated.

In acute pain in the heart, either in angina pectoris or from other cause a sharp mustard poultice is essential.

In acute stomach pains and in intestinal colic, or pain in the abdomen from any cause, a large hot mustard poultice will be of much service. In all cases where mustard is used it is only auxiliary to other prompt treatment, as its influence is usually transient.

A most efficient measure in congestive headache, or in headache from any cause with fullness of the cerebral vessels, is a mustard poultice on the nape of the neck.

Spinal irritation is most effectively treated by the use of a succession of these poultices. On the first day of the treatment one is applied on the back, across the upper third of the spine; on the second day across the middle third, and on the third day across the lower third, producing thorough sharp counter-irritation but no blistering. On the fourth day it is applied at the top of the spine again and the same course followed as before. This may be continued for two weeks or more if the skin is sufficiently restored in the interim, between the poultices. This course will most materially assist other measures adopted in the treatment of this condition.

A hot mustard foot bath is of great service in congestive chill, also in the chill at the onset of acute fever, or acute inflammation of any character. It produces immediate derivation, assists in equalizing the circulation, acts as a diaphoretic and perceptibly checks the progress of the disease.

In the recession of the rash of eruptive fevers no measure is more prompt than a general hot mustard bath, which should be continued until a mild redness covers the entire body.

At the onset of acute cerebro-spinal meningitis the disease has been completely aborted by the prompt use of a hot mustard bath. In some cases the patient may be wrapped in a blanket wrung out of hot mustard water, until the skin is reddened.

In conditions where there is a constant tendency for the skin of the legs to become cold, and the muscles to cramp during the night, a hot mustard foot bath at bedtime is of direct benefit.

In arrest of the menses from cold, a sitz bath strong with mustard will sometimes produce an immediate restoration of the flow. It is always of assistance to other measures. It is sometimes necessary to take this bath each night for a week preceding the time the menses should appear and continue it until that result is obtained.

The American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy, 1919, was written by Finley Ellingwood, M.D.
It was scanned by Michael Moore for the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine