What is white mustard seed? Why do we need it?
The white mustard plant is found throughout most of the world. Although it is cultivated for its seeds, it often grows wild as well.
The plant consists of an angular, bristly branched stem, which can reach a height of four feet, with leaves of various shapes and sizes and yellow flowers that bloom from June to August. The seeds are white or yellowish in appearance, and grow in small pods that stand out from the stem. Both the seeds and an oil derived from the seeds are used in herbal preparations.
In the traditional Chinese medical perspective, white mustard seed has a warm quality, and interacts with the Lung and Stomach meridians. Its main functions in traditional Chinese medicine are to clear dampness and phlegm patterns, expel cold, warm the stomach, spleen and lungs, regulate the flow of qi, and disperse swelling.
In Western medicine, white mustard seed is used for its expectorant (promoting the expulsion of mucus), carminative (expelling gas from the stomach and intestines), rubefacient (producing redness on the skin) and analgesic (pain-relieving) properties. Externally, it can be used to treat conditions such as rheumatic pain and bronchitis. The seeds may also be taken as a tea or sprinkled into a bath to combat fevers, colds and flu, or consumed whole to evacuate the bowels.
How much white mustard seed should I take?
The amount of white mustard seed to be taken depends on the conditions being treated and the way it is being used. The general dosage of white mustard seed is 3-10 grams, taken as a decoction or powder. The seeds can also be ground with warm water and applied to the skin as a poultice, or combined with boiling water as a tea or foot bath. Concentrated white mustard seed oil should only be used externally.
What forms of white mustard seed are available?
White mustard seeds are generally available whole, but they but they can also be found as pills, powders or decoctions.
What can happen if I take too much white mustard seed? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?
Prolonged use of large amounts of mustard seed, either internally or externally, can cause serious skin irritation and inflammation. Undiluted mustard oil must never be used, and it should never be used on sensitive areas. In addition, it should not be used in children under the age of six, or in cases where a patient is nauseous or suffering from a lingering cough. As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions with white mustard seed. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking white mustard seed, white mustard seed oil, or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.
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Ma QJ (ed.) Modern Research and Clinical Application in Common Chinese Herbs. Tianjin: Science Technology Translation Press, 1995.
Mei QX, et al (eds.) Modern TCM Pharmacology. China: TCM Press, 1998, p. 10.
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