Mustard seed: A friend indeed

The little herb-spice comes handy not just in the kitchen but even in your medicine cabinet

Mustard seed

Mustard is an important ingredient in almost every cuisine around the world. It is especially loved in India, Canada and the US, and not without reason. It is one of the healthiest herbs with almost no calories. Mustard greens [sarson] and mustard seeds [rai] are popular herbal remedies for numerous ailments since olden times.

Mustard is available in white, black and brown varieties. The white variety is the mildest of the three. Mustard is an excellent source of a variety of nutrients. These include antioxidant minerals [iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, zinc and selenium], vitamins, protein, fibre and omega-3 fatty acids.

Health benefits of mustard seed

  • Mustard contains myrosin and sinigrin that generate heat. This speeds up metabolism and increases blood flow. As a result, you also sweat a bit to help bring down your core temperature.
  • Being hot and spicy, mustard stimulates secretion of saliva, aiding digestion. [This is true of all varieties].
  • Black and brown mustard contain isothiocyanates, which inhibit the growth of cancer cells. The antioxidants in mustard greens [flavonoids, indoles, sulforaphane, carotenes, lutein and zeaxanthin] also help fight cancer.
  • Mustard has sulphur, making it effective in treating skin ailments.
  • The anti-inflammatory property of mustard helps reduce the severity of asthma and migraines. It also brings relief in rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Magnesium, present in mustard greens and mustard seeds is effective against high blood pressure.
  • Mustard greens reduce LDL [bad cholesterol] and increase HDL [good cholesterol] levels in the blood and are thus considered to be good for heart ailments.
  • Mustard seeds are a good source of magnesium and selenium, making them effective against age-related memory disorders like Alzheimer’s.
  • Eating mustard helps the body in getting rid of nicotine quickly.
  • The omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in mustard make it effective against coronary heart disease.

How to store mustard

Store whole mustard seeds in airtight containers in a cool, dry place so that they can last up to a year. You can even store ground/powdered mustard in a similar manner up to six months. Sauces made from mustard last long as they are made using an acid component and salt. They last better if stored in the refrigerator. However, the pungency and flavour starts to diminish with passing time, even when unopened. So use them within a year.

Mustard oil too stays best refrigerated or it goes rancid.

Quick serving tips

Here are some ideas on using mustard in your diet:


  1. Use mustard instead of fatty condiments like mayonnaise, cheese spread/dips, butter and oil dressings.
  2. Use mustard as a salad dressing. Combine it with vinegar and honey for extra flavour.
  3. Use it as a marinade for non-vegetarian dishes such as fish, chicken and meat.
  4. Sprinkle roasted whole mustard seeds or seeds added to oil while tempering on dhoklas, muthias, dals to give them a nutty flavour.
  5. Pair mustard greens with spinach to make parathas. Add butter, tomato, garlic and onion to mellow down the pungent flavour. The greens also taste great with chicken, meat, egg curries and soup.

Don’t have mustard if…

  1. You have a thyroid problem: Mustard greens are not recommended for those with thyroid problems since it belongs to the goitrogen family, which may interfere with thyroid hormone production and can cause thyroxine hormone deficiency in individuals with thyroid dysfunction.
  2. You suffer from oxalate urinary tract stones: Mustard greens contain oxalic acid, which may crystallise and form stones.
  3. You are pregnant or lactating. There is some evidence that mustard oil might cause a miscarriage or reduce the flow of milk.
  4. Further, people having hypertension should limit their intake of mustard sauce, as it contains butter, vinegar and preservatives like salt.

Mustard oil is a strong irritant, which can cause potential ill effects.

Side effects of mustard oil:

  • The vapours from allyl isothiocyanates found in oil of black and brown mustard are strong eye irritants and may lead to eye inflammation, redness and watering. They may also irritate the skin. Hence, as a precautionary measure, do a patch test beforeusing the oil. Do not use this oil for massaging babies as they havesensitive skin, which may react to mustard oil.
  • Mustard oil has a sharp pungent taste, which may not suit everyone’s palate.


Add ground mustard seeds, Epsom salt and eucalyptus oil to warm water and bathe with it. It stimulates the sweat glands, making you sweat and thus detoxifies the body. Such a bath also relaxes worn out muscles and helps you sleep better.

Oil assets

Mustard oil offers the following benefits:

  1. Massaging hair with mustard oil improves blood circulation around the scalp and prevents bacterial and fungal infections.
  2. The strong flavour and taste of mustard oil stimulates production of gastric juices and aides digestion. This property also stimulates hunger.
  3. A mustard oil massage during winter keeps the body warm.
  4. It is antibacterial and hence effective against tooth aches and gum problems.
  5. Application of mustard oil on the body also helps to lower body temperature as it stimulates sweat production.
  6. The antiseptic property of mustard oil helps soothe sore throat, bronchitis, asthma and pneumonia.
  7. It also acts as an insect repellent due to its pungent smell.

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Prachee Naringrekar-Naik
Prachee Naringrekar-Naik is a Mumbai-based nutritionist and diet consultant who has completed her Post Graduate Diploma in Dietetics from SNDT Women’s University. In her over experience of over five years, she has worked as a consultant with many well-known corporate houses.


  1. Hi,
    Can you pls clarify if the cooking mustard oil can be applied on knees for lubricating it? is there any side effects of this oil’s massage?


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