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.
As 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
- 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.
- 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.