The mustard plant comes in three varieties -- black mustard, white mustard and leaf mustard -- and has been used for centuries primarily as a digestive aid. Mustard is good for a number of other ailments as well, including the common cold. Folk remedies use mustard in several ways for cold symptoms, including soaking the feet in a hot bath with ground seeds and drinking a concoction of mustard, cornstarch and water. More commonly, mustard is used as a poultice, nose drops or sore throat gargle.
The most common use of mustard for a cold is as a poultice to treat chest congestion. It is thought to relieve discomfort in the chest by increasing circulation, perspiration and heat in the area. The pungency of the plant also loosens mucus in the lungs, though it can burn the skin and should be applied over a neutral base such as cotton or muslin cloth. The poultice consists of ½ cup of mustard powder mixed with 1 cup of all-purpose flour and enough water to make a thick paste. Apply to the chest or back between two pieces of cloth. Remove the poultice promptly if burning or discomfort occurs.
A stuffy nose is relieved by the ingestion of spicy foods such as mustard, which speeds up the movement of mucus. A runny nose can also be treated through direct contact with mustard. The common folk remedy for a runny nose is to drop warmed mustard oil into each nostril to increase circulation and encourage the flushing out of the toxins and blockage that cause the runny nose. Because of the mustard's strong scent, the oil should be used in only one nostril at a time.
A sore throat is one of the first signs of a cold, and is caused by inflammation of the mucus membrane of the lower pharynx. There are many folk remedies for sore throat, including one that uses mustard and several other common throat-relieving ingredients. The mixture consists of 1 tbsp of ground mustard seed, the juice of half a lemon, 1 tbsp of clear honey, 1 tbsp of salt and 1 ¼ cups of boiling water. Mix and cover for 15 minutes, then use as a gargle to relieve pain, inflammation and soothe dryness.