Black Mustard

(Brassica nigra) This is the mustard used as a condiment. It first appeared in Britain in 1720, but it is apparent from an edict of Diocletian of AD301 that it was already regarded as a condiment by that time, at least in the eastern parts of the Roman empire (Fluckiger & Hanbury); further west, though, it seems to have been used more as a medicine than a condiment (Lloyd). It was apparently used as a symbol of indifference (Leyel. 1937).

Mustard seeds were chewed for toothache, taken internally for epilepsy, lethargy, stomach ache and as a blood purifier (Lehner). Externally it was used in the form of a poultice as a powerful stimulant, though it was rarely used in the pure state, and would usually be found to contain some white mustard. Anyway, it would be dangeroius to leave a mustard plaster on too long, as it is such an irritant. They would be used for the treatment of rheumatism, sciatica, etc. The American Indians used it medicinally, too, in spite of the fact that it is not a native plant there. Some groups ground the seed to use as a snuff for a cold in the head (H H Smith. 1928). Mexican Indians have used it for a children's cough remedy, by heating the oil from the seed and rubbing it on the chest, which was then covered with a flannel cloth (Kelly & Palerm), a remedy that sounds very like similar practices in Europe. But people like the Totonac (Mexico) use the seed to cope with something they call "malviento", almost like illness caused by an evil spirit, or an evil eye. For this, they burn the seed, and blow the smoke on the victim, or the patient has to bathe in water in which the plant has been rubbed (Kelly & Palerm). The seed was used in the southern states of America in black "conjure" ceremonies to break up a home, or to protect one from "conjure" (Hurston).

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