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Brown mustard has been used for centuries as a medicine to treat conditions ranging from simple toothaches to severe convulsions in small children. References to mustard as a medicine typically mean brown mustard. Such medicine is typically extracted from its leaves and seeds. In antiquity, the Greeks valued the medicinal properties of mustard so highly that they considered it a gift to mankind, created by Asciepious, the god of healing.
The most common use of mustard as a medicine is external as a liniment, poultice, or plaster. Mustard oil, by mildly irritating the skin, stimulates circulation, which relieves muscle pain. Mustard poultices have been attributed to relieving certain cases of bronchitis and pleurisy.
When ingested internally in small amounts, the ingredients of mustard can be used as a laxative or to improve digestion. Also, taken in mild doses, extracts tend to slightly inflame the stomach, causing perspiration. Perspiring is sometimes helpful in treating fevers, colds, and influenza. Seeds, ingested in large amounts, can induce vomiting. Drinking a teaspoon of seeds in a glass of water will typically cause vomiting within 10 minutes. This treatment is therefore sometimes used in emergency treatment of alcohol or drug overdoses.
In India, mustard is brewed in a tea to relieve muscular and skeletal pain and to treat fevers and colds. The Chinese further use medicinal mustard to treat ulcers, abscesses, and pain resulting from rheumatism and lumbago. They consider the leaves to be especially helpful to treat inflammation of the bladder.
Additional medicinal uses of mustard include attacking venom from snake bites and scorpion stings, relieving pain from bruises or a stiff neck, and relieving colic and respiratory problems. Oil from mustard seed hulls is said to promote hair growth. It has also been cited as an agent that helps cure ringworm.
Brown mustard is also sometimes used as a food supplement to increase body levels of iron, zinc, chromium and selenium. Its oil is often used in the administration of massage therapy. Not all uses of brown mustard are beneficial. Brown mustard contains a highly odorous and irritating chemical, allyl isothiocyanate. This compound has been used to produce mustard gas as a chemical weapon in times of war.
The seeds and leaves of brown mustard contain several complex chemicals. They include enzymes, glucosinates, sulphur, protein, and mucilage. Because of the actions of these chemicals, some surgeons in the past used a paste of brown mustard to disinfect their hands before operating on patients.
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