Mustard is one of the oldest spices used by humans. According to an allegorical story by Gautama Buddha (c. 563-480 BC), the Buddha asked a grieving mother who lost her only son to bring a handful of mustard seeds from a family that has never lost a child, husband, parent, or friend. When the mother was unable to find such a family, she realized that death is common to all and thus she should not be selfish in her grief.
In the Quran too, God states that the scales of justice on the Day of Judgment will measure even a mustard seed’s amount, because God is the most efficient reckoner. Jewish texts compare the knowable universe to the size of a seed. An intimate connection between the small mustard seed and faith occurs in the Bible, Quranic Hadiths, and Hindu literature.
Brassica seeds have been discovered in tombs of Pharaohs. They were thought to bring good luck. With the expansion of the Roman Empire, seeds traveled to Gaul, Spain, and England. King Charlemagne introduced them in the gardens surrounding the monasteries of Paris, establishing the now famous industry in France. A 1634 law granted exclusive mustard-production rights to Dijon, now famous for its mustard. In German folklore, brides sewed mustard seeds into their dresses to bring them strength in their new home, perhaps because women were treated as subordinate to men and mustard brought good luck. In northern Europe, mustard seed was said to keep evil spirits away.
Brassica seed is often used in herbal medicine. Hippocrates used mustard in many medicines and poultices. Pythagoras mentions mustard as a remedy for scorpion stings. Mustard was said to increase blood circulation. Mustard plaster helped increase blood flow to inflamed areas and thus hastened healing. By drawing the blood to the skin’s surface, mustard relieves headache, neuralgia, and spasms. Brassica was thought to be an aphrodisiac in Europe and China.
This condiments are not a frequently allergenic food, however when taken in sufficiently large doses, it warms the body. Not only taste, mustard was believed to also have significant health benefits. Mustard was used to relieve toothache, muscle cramps, clogged sinuses, and indigestion. French monks used mustard to treat wounds. A rubefacient poultice provided relief of rheumatic pain. Hot water poured on bruised seeds makes a stimulating bath that is good for achy feet, colds, and headaches. Mustard has been used to treat alopecia, epilepsy, snakebite, and toothache. The seed is also used internally as a digestive, diuretic, emetic, and tonic. Mustard oil is said to stimulate hair growth, and it is a popular hair oil in rural India. However, direct application of the oil has been known to cause severe irritation.
There are three types of mustard popular in human food. The mildest is white mustard (Brassica alba), yellow mustard (Brassica juncea) and black mustard (Brassica nigra). Scientific studies aimed to validate traditional medicinal use have been largely conducted on Brassica nigra.