Black Mustard (Brassica nigra)

Sinapis nigra.
Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Black Mustard
Brassica nigra

A semi-drying oil is obtained from the seed, as well as being edible it is also used as a lubricant, illuminant and in making soap[17, 21, 46, 100].

The plant is often grown as a green manure, it is very fast, producing a bulk suitable for digging into the soil in about 8 weeks[100]. Not very winter hardy, it is generally used in spring and summer. It does harbour the pests and diseases of the cabbage family so is probably best avoided where these plants are grown in a short rotation and especially if club root is a problem.

Mustard oil (allyl isothiocyanate) is used in commercial cat and dog repellent mixtures[269].

  • Medicinal Use

    Mustard seed is often used in herbal medicine, especially as a rubefacient poultice[4]. The seed is ground and made into a paste then applied to the skin[4, 21, 46, 213] in the treatment of rheumatism, as a means of reducing congestion in internal organs[4, 222]. Applied externally, mustard relieves congestion by drawing the blood to the surface as in head afflictions, neuralgia and spasms. Hot water poured on bruised seeds makes a stimulant foot bath, good for colds and headaches. Old herbals suggested mustard for treating alopecia, epilepsy, snakebite, and toothache[269]. Care must be taken not to overdo it, since poultices can sometimes cause quite severe irritation to the skin[K]. The seed is also used internally, when it is appetizer, digestive, diuretic, emetic and tonic[4, 21, 46]. Swallowed whole when mixed with molasses, it acts as a laxative[213]. A decoction of the seeds is used in the treatment of indurations of the liver and spleen. It is also used to treat carcinoma, throat tumours, and imposthumes[269]. A liquid prepared from the seed, when gargled, is said to help tumours of the “sinax.”[269]. The seed is eaten as a tonic and appetite stimulant[4, 21, 46, 222].

    Hot water poured onto bruised mustard seeds makes a stimulating foot bath and can also be used as an inhaler where it acts to throw off a cold or dispel a headache[4].

    Mustard Oil is said to stimulate hair growth. Mustard is also recommended as an aperient ingredient of tea, useful in hiccup. Mustard flour is considered antiseptic[269].

  • Edible Use

    Leaves – raw or cooked[2, 85, 100]. A hot flavour, they can be finely chopped and added to salads or cooked as a potherb[183]. The seedlings can also be used as a salading when about one week old, adding a hot pungency to a salad[2, 27, 183, K].

    Immature flowering stems – cooked and eaten like broccoli[183].

    Mustard seed is commonly ground into a powder and used as a food flavouring and relish[4, 5, 17, 27, 34]. This is the black mustard of commerce, it is widely used as a food relish and as an ingredient of curry[183]. Pungency of mustard develops when cold water is added to the ground-up seed – an enzyme (myrosin) acts on a glycoside (sinigrin) to produce a sulphur compound. The reaction takes 10 – 15 minutes. Mixing with hot water or vinegar, or adding salt, inhibits the enzyme and produces a mild bitter mustard[238]. The seed can also be used whole to season pickles, curries, sauerkraut etc[183, 238]. Black mustard has a stronger more pungent flavour than white mustard (Sinapis alba) and brown mustard (B. juncea)[238].

    An edible oil is obtained from the seed[2, 21, 171].

  • Cautionary Notes

    When eaten in large quantities, the seed and pods have sometimes proved toxic to grazing animals[85].

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – sow in situ from early spring until late summer in order to obtain a succession of crops. The main crop for seed is sown in April.
An easily grown plant, black mustard is suited to many types of soils except very heavy clays, it grows best on light sandy loams, or deep rich fertile soils[269]. Succeeds in full sun in a well-drained fertile preferably alkaline soil[200]. Prefers a heavy soil in an open position[16]. Another report says that it prefers a light well-drained soil and some shade in the summer[52]. The plant tolerates an annual precipitation of 30 to 170cm, an annual average temperature range of 6 to 27¡C and a pH in the range of 4.9 to 8.2[269]. Black mustard is adapted to a wide variety of climatic conditions, it is often grown in the temperate zone though it is mainly suited to tropical areas, and grown chiefly as a rainfed crop in areas of low or moderate rainfall[269]. Black mustard is often cultivated for its edible seed, though it is going out of favour because it rapidly sheds its seeds once they are ripe and this makes it harder to harvest mechanically than the less pungent brown mustard (Brassica juncea).. This is used especially as a food flavouring, though it is also sown with the seeds of garden cress (Lepidium sativum) to provide mustard and cress, a salading eaten when the seedlings are about one week old. Black mustard is also grown as a medicinal plant. It germinates freely and quickly grows rapidly and makes a very useful green manure. The plants are not very winter hardy so the seed is best sown in the spring when grown for its seed whilst it can be sown as late as late summer as a green manure crop. The flowers have a pleasing perfume, though this is only noticed if several flowers are inhaled at the same time[245].
C. Europe. Occasionally naturalized in S.W. Britain[17].

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.