How To Make A Mustard Plaster

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For centuries mustard plasters were the tried and true home remedy for the flu, coughs, colds, pneumonia and many other ailments. It was used regularly up until the not too distant past since this poultice was thought to sweat out all the “ills” the body held.

IngredientsAs more pleasant cures came on the market, use of the poultice went down in popularity.

This can be an uncomfortable treatment (from the heat it generates), but it was believed that it knocked sense back into the body and did a good job drawing out all the “gunk” flus and congestion bring with them.

This isn’t a 100% guaranteed cure, but IMHO it’s one tough gangster bug that laughs one of these bad boys off.

If you’ve ever wondered how they are made and how to use them, here’s an old recipe I’ve had for years:

4 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons dry mustard
Water (lukewarm)

Directions:

  • Mix the dry ingredients together then add the water to make a paste. The paste should be smooth and easily spreadable but not too thin so that it runs or is watery.
  • Take a clean flour sack towel and spread the paste evenly across top half (one side only), fold up the bottom half of the towel and apply to chest area. Do not apply paste directly to skin or it may cause blistering. Cover with a fresh towel then top with a heavy blanket to encourage sweating (the fresh towel protects the blanket from any staining). If needing a large size poultice, cover an entire flour sack towel with the paste, then top with another flour sack towel (or make two separate ones).
  • Leave plaster on for up to 20 minutes, remove if skin turns deep red and is in danger of blistering. If using on children, watch tender skin carefully (not to be used on children under school age unless directed by doctor). Some reddening is normal as heat & circulation is being drawn to the surface.
  • Remove poultice, wash skin with a warm cloth to remove any traces that may have seeped through, dry and apply a layer of lard or vaseline over the skin.
  • Next apply to back for same amount of time or until danger of blistering appears, again covering with a heavy blanket and following procedure above.
  • This can be reapplied every 4 to 6 hours as needed.
  • A warm bath or shower can bring some comfort to the patient after treatment, but they must be supervised at all times due to their weakened condition from the illness (not left alone for even a minute). This is standard care in all cases of illness.

Tips:

  • I’ve seen some recipes that recommend applying a layer of vaseline on the skin before applying poultice cloth, this apparently helps prevent any blistering…however, still “peek” at the skin every few minutes to watch. It is also thought that by using egg white instead of water to mix the paste, there’s some protection against blistering.
  • Flour sack towels are a cotton tea towel. If you don’t have any, you can apply this paste to an undershirt or some other thin fabric like flannelette. For children, a cotton terry towel can be used.
  • The ratio of ingredients can be adjusted if necessary to accommodate lower tolerance levels (it can get uncomfortable), but remember the purpose is to draw heat (and the illness) to the surface.
  • This stuff is no joke–you really do need to watch for blisters, especially on tender skin. Do not fall asleep with this on–set the alarm clock if you’re treating yourself (for 5 minute intervals).
  • Along with colds & flus, these were also commonly used for treating sore muscles, arthritis, treatment of back pain, poor circulation and gout (and many more things I’m sure). Simply apply to the area afflicted.

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Published: May 4, 2009

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30 Comments to “How To Make A Mustard Plaster”
  1. Cynthia says:

    I think Im going to use this on my three year old, but with more caution and probably adjust the ratio. My daughter is coughing crazy and the since there isnt nothing seriously wrong with her all that congestion and mucus needs to come out, and since there is no medicine out there for her age, im going to do it the natural way.

    • Lana says:

      Try 1 part apple cider vinegar to 1 part raw honey. Natural cough medicine.

    • EvelynU says:

      Keep in mind that poison ivy and arsenic are also all-natural! Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it can’t harm you. Are you sure your daughter doesn’t have whooping cough? (also an all-natural occurence.)

    • Darlene in North GA says:

      Sounds like what my son had. Turns out, he has “cough-specific” asthma. He doesn’t WHEEZE, he COUGHS and clears his throat a lot when he’s having an episode. I’m a former medic and paramedic, but I had never heard of such a thing as “cough-specific” asthma before. However…the Dr. prescribed an inhaler which worked well for a while and then he ended up in the ER with a cough that really wouldn’t stop. They used a nebulizer to break up that episode.

      I’ve also found that when I get sick, 2 Tbs of lemon juice, 2 Tbs of alcohol (vodka, rum, whatever you have), and 1 Tbs of honey mixed together and taken a spoonful every hour or so will break up a cough that otherwise won’t go away for 6 months. For the kids, the Dr. said to use 1 tsp of it. For me, one Tbs of it. Personally, I don’t drink and only tried this because it was try it and hoped it worked or be hospitalized after having gone through 6 months worth of different antibiotics and steroids! It worked! I was well in 3 days time. Also, I do NOT take any of this and drive anywhere at all. But then I’m very conservative when it comes to any kind of painkiller/alcohol and driving anything. hth

      • lmc says:

        I’ve had this same problem that just got worse as I became an adult. I was tested for allergies, asthma and, after ruling out EVERYTHING else, the doctor came up with what seems to be the correct diagnosis and treatment for the issue;
        Diagnosis:
        non-allergic rhinitis
        Prescription/course of action:
        stay away from things that cause me to cough, create mucus, including nose that runs with a thin, nearly water-like, clear trickle of discharge. If I can’t avoid these things that trigger it, then I am to take a medicine such as Mucinex DM Extra Strength (pills – cheapest place to purchase is Costco – 44 count, 24 hour extended release pills cost, on sale, $19.99. And, if I take them BEFORE I am exposed or if the exposure is minor, I am able to split the pill in half and it works for the 24 hour period. It doesn’t impact the extended release mechanism, either.
        Triggers: dust, smoke, residual smoke on clothing, cloth and wood furniture, spray air fresheners EXCEPT Fabreze Brand, anything that creates a super fine mist or a that can float in the air including old, degrading carpet and backing fibers that may not even be visible. Pet hair/dander can be a problem, but if I shave my pet with the shortest level clipper blade, no problems with breathing arises – and it DRAMATICALLY cuts down on clean-up of and after the pet, too!
        I do know that there may be gases that come out of the stomach that then enter the esophagus and are carried into the lungs and these fumes can cause mucus production in in the lungs and coughing – but this typically occurs in older people, not children – and it will not cause a running nose. For a while, I continued to take Nexium, “The Put purple Pill”, for awhile, but I eventually stopped taking the medicine once I was successfully diagnosed and treated. When I quit taking the Nexium, I didn’t notice a difference so acid reflux was ruled out and now I can nearly always rely on my Mucinex DM, Extra Strength with the occasional use of an old fashioned steroidal inhaler.

        If I fail to catch the congestion, it inevitably turns into serious, long term bouts of bronchitis and even, on a couple of occasions, it turned into such a severe case that it was eventually ruled to be “walking pneumonia”. I would get this YEARLY, it would start in mid-fall and last to mid-spring – nearly 6 mos. out of EVERY YEAR. It was terrible until I learned to counter it, attack it before it set in, taking my Mucinex DM, XStrength at the first sign of the trickle of my nose! Oh, and if I am going to be in contact with the items that cause irritation and production of mucus, I try to not participate in the situation if at all possible or, I take my MDM -ES before coming into contact with it. I haven’t had a case of bronchitis or pneumonia for nearly 5 years now – since following these precautions and taking my MDM-ES.

        But, as I am reading these posts, many of them “ring true” for me, also – and this is what I went through for the first 38 years of my life until I was correctly diagnosed and treated. I had to go to a reputable pulmonary/allergies doctor.

        I promise that this is not an advert for Mucinex products and another clarification – it MUST BE Mucinex DM EXTRA STRENGTH (stressing DM EXTRA STRENGTH)!

        Good Luck !

    • Sharon says:

      Please take VERY seriously the fact that this stuff will burn! I did not get proper instructions years ago when I used it for a frequent head cold which always resulted in Laryngitis. (several times in a 6 month period)
      I wore it overnight, not knowing the proportions of mustard to water and flour. I had burned the upper part of my chest like a very bad sunburn . Aside from the fact that I did receive burns,the poultice worked, the cold broke, my voice came back!

    • Jill says:

      My grandmother used milk instead of water. She said it stopped the skin from burning.

  2. Ron says:

    If a tsp. of baking soda is added to the mustard & flour, the risk of skin burn is alleviated or greatly reduced.

  3. Marie says:

    My family has used this since the late 1940s and the recipe they’ve used is 3 tblsp flour; 2 tblsp dry mustart (as fresh as possible); and 1 egg white. The egg white prevents blistering. Once burning begins, leave 20 min. This has never burned/blistered anyone in our family in all these years and this remedy works!! We got this from our family doctor in 1948.

  4. Ray says:

    followed recipe but no heat from plaster. any ideas?

    • TipNut says:

      It could be the dry mustard is stale, try a fresh batch. If that’s not it, try increasing the mustard amount. Hope that helps!

  5. Lou says:

    Thank You, Thank You! This is greatly helpful!

  6. Rose says:

    I frequently got bronchitis as a child in the 50’s and my mother always used mustard plasters on me. Thank you all for your recipes because I lost mine and
    they did work.

    My mother added 2-3 tablespoons of crisco to the mix and it became a dough which was easier to manage in a towel.

  7. barbara says:

    My grandmother treated me with mustard plasters when I was a child back in the 50’s. They work. I can remember her coming over every day and treating me, then covering me with heavy blankets. She passed away many years ago and I never got her recipe. Thank you for printing this.

  8. Carla says:

    My grandmother used mustard plasters on my brother and me as well. She also used the Vicks vapo rub on the chest covered with one of my grandfather’s handkerchiefs. I didn’t like the process but it always worked.

  9. Nicky Capp says:

    I was treated to mustard plasters all during the 40’s and 50’s. After having been burnt once, my mom started preparing the plasters with dry mustard and olive oil. No flour, no water. She would mix both ingredients to form a soft paste, spread it on half of a flannel cloth, fold it in 2 and put 2 facecloths on the side that would face away from my skin. Then, with the soggy side next to my chest, she would tie it to my camisole and leave it on all night. No heat – no burn – and best of all – it works! I have always had bronchitis and this breaks up the phlegm in my chest. I still use it to this day and will be turning 70 in a short while.

    • Linda says:

      How much of Mustard and Olive Oil ratios. I am a massage therapist and when we use a hot oil that starts to burn we turn down the heat by adding our mixer oil which is olive oil or grape seed oil or one of the non-nut oils. That is probably why this works as the oil from the mustard is very hot, just like the Chinese hot mustard that you eat is hot, same thing as when you add whole milk it is the fat in the milk that calms down the heat.

  10. DeAnn says:

    Memories… As a chld, I really didn’t like the mustard plaster treatment, but it certainly did make me feel like I was being cared for!

  11. KathyJ says:

    My mom would make mustard plasters for my dad who was prone to getting pnumonia. She would mix the dry mustard with lard tho, and we would wear it all night. You wake up with greasy skin and bed clothing but it works!She always said “you can tell when (insert name of one of us kids here)is REALLY sick, he/she asked me to make a mustard plaster.”

  12. Rose Spike says:

    Growing up Mom used mustard plasters on all 8 of us kids and it worked. She is 88 now and I told her about my cold and pain in my lower back and she said to use a mustard poulice but wasn’t sure of the ingredients. Thanks to this web site I was able to read it to her and she told me how she did it. We always was given raw honey and apple cider vinegar for the cough as well
    treating an upset stomach
    I just tried the olive oil with the mustard but I never felt any heat so went back to mustard, flour and water.I feel better.

  13. barbara says:

    be very careful with a child when using mustard plasters. my son was coughing for a whole day, i used a combination of lard and dry mustard on a flannel cloth like my grandmother used to do for me and the next morning he was very blistard. he had measles! the pediatritionj told me i was too youg to be using old-fashoned remedies! my kids still wanted me to make one for them (which i did) but i always made sure that the doc checked them out for childhood normal diseases! good luck, the most important thing when mixing is to be sure there is no “lumps” in your mixture before spreading onto the flannel.

  14. Loree says:

    I am glad I found this info! My grandmother was a full-blood Cherokee from the South, and she used this on us when we were little. It really does work! She would rub Vicks VapoRub on our skin, then layers of cheesecloth or old sheets, apply the mustard paste on both chest and back, then apply more cloth and tie it into place. We would sleep with this on all night, and the next morning our congestion would be gone. I never took an antibiotic until I was in high school.

    Unfortunately, she died several years ago and none of my older relatives remembered how she used to make this. Thank you for the information–I will start using this again!

  15. Gloria Druss says:

    Back in the ’50s when I was a youngster, my brocnitis wouldn’t clear up, and my doctor said if I wasn’t better by the next morning, she’d put me in the hospital. My grandmother made me a mustard plaster, and the next morning I not only didn’t have to go to the hospital, I was able to get up, go out and resume my normal life!

    I just recommended a mustard plaster to a friend with brochitis, and because I never found out how to make one, she went online and found this site, and forwarded the information to me. I don’t get as many bronchitis attacks now, but I’m filing this info just in case. Mustard plasters rule!

  16. Christine says:

    I’m 60 now and my mother made this for me lots as a child but I had to endure goose grease as a base.She also made poultice out of warm milk and bread wrapped in towels.

  17. debbie says:

    can I use a wet mustard for this.

  18. Doug says:

    It really works. In the ’60s we used this on a cow, after 5 previous ones had died, and it worked. The culprit was pneumonia resulting from pigeon droppings on the hay.

  19. Hally says:

    This really works… the only thing that I would add to the dry mixture is a bit of baking soda to prevent burning the skin with the plaster compress on flannel or I have tried I used a t-shirt fabric. And to keep mustard compress mixture soft I have put and 1 teaspoon of olive oil

  20. Laura says:

    Has anyone ever used this for gout? I am very curious since this is the first time I have seen this suggested. Thanks!

  21. Kate Florida says:

    I have a sore, inflamed toe. Do you think a mustard plaster might work on it? I don’t know why my toe is inflamed. I do NOT think it is a fungus.


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