History and benefits of ‘Mustard’

The mustard has been used since time immemorial. The seeds have been found in the Stone Age settlements, the Egyptian pyramids had a good supply of them, the Sumerians used it, the wealthy Romans mixed it with wine. The Jews also used it, and it has been mentioned in the Bible. The Gauls used it too. The mustard is basically a Northern Hemisphere plant. Mustard was the primary spice of Europe even before the Asian spice trade. They used mustard much before the use of pepper started in India. Once mustard found its way along the trade route, it was chewed with meat for seasoning from India to Egypt and Rome. In the 13th century Pope John XXII of Avignon was so fond of it that he created the post of a Grand Mustard –Maker to the Pope. Finally a Mustard National Day was declared on the 14th of August!

The name Mustard is derived from mustarde meaning condiment. The monks of Rome and later on the French monks specialised in the preparation of mustard. In Europe and the West, mustard is used by making a paste of it with various vinegars or wines, whereas in the East ‘the seeds’ are used. The monk’s word for mustard was ‘mustum Ardens’ – which means burning wine.

Mustard seeds are generally black ,brown or white. The black mustard is popular mainly in the Middle East and Asia Minor. It is hand harvested and so is not so popular. The brown variety is of Himalayan origin and the white variety of the Mediterranean. There are around forty species of mustard. It belongs to the family of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collard, kale, and kohlrabi.

Mustard seeds contain isothiocyanates and selenium, magnesium.

Consumption of mustard :

  • Prevents the growth of cancer cells, especially in the stomach and colon
  • Reduces severity of asthma
  • Relieves rheumatoid arthritis
  • Reduces high blood pressure
  • Alleviates migraines

Not only tasty, the mustard plant also has significant health benefits. Mustard seeds contain nutrients called isothiocyanates that have been shown to prevent the growth of cancer cells, particularly with regards to stomach and colon cancer. The seeds also contain selenium, which reduces the severity of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis, and magnesium, which may reduce high blood pressure and the frequency of migraines.

There are a wide range of recipes using mustard plant, while the oil extracted from the seeds are used for cooking. Mustard seeds are used for seasoning and preparation of  ‘prepared mustard’.

 Mustard is used as a condiment, medicine and mustard oil is used for massage and aroma therapy too.

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