Health Benefits and Uses of Wild Mustard

Wild Mustard (Sinapis arvensis) || Health Benefits of Wild Mustard

Sinapis arvensis, the Charlock Mustard, Field Mustard or Wild Mustard, is an annual or winter annual plant of the genus Sinapis in the family Cruciferae that includes Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kale and Brussels sprouts. The plant is native to temperate regions of Europe, Asia Minor, southwest Asia and North Africa. It was introduced into North America, South America, Australia, Japan and South Africa and now occurs throughout all Canadian provinces, as well as in the MacKenzie District, Northwest Territories. Native to Eurasia, Wild Mustard has commonly been used to flavor foods, but more importantly Wild Mustard has been known for its herbal uses. A truly fascinating plant with a myriad of uses, read on to find out how to use Wild Mustard as an herb in the landscape. In North America, Sinapis arvensis, thought to have been introduced by European colonizers about 400 years ago, is one of the most common and abundant wheat pests. However, the use of Mustard is very ancient; It is already found in the Bible. The Romans were great Mustard consumers both as a seasoning for the foods and for the new wine, in which the seeds were pounded and structured. In 1600 it was suggested to use Mustard seeds in the preparation of the courses since it was the best way to exploit its ability to favor digestion. The genus name Sinapis derives is derived from the Greek word “sinapi” meaning "mustard". Linneo called it Synapsi nigra, referring to the name of the ancient Romans, but then another botanist, Koch, baptized her Brassica nigra, using in the name of the Brassica genus. The species name arvensis is a Latin adjective meaning from/of the field’. The name Mustard was first recorded in France in 1288 and has its roots in the Latin for "burning (ardent) must". It was often ground with grape must to make into remedies.

The plant has simple to freely branched stems 10 inches to 3 feet tall, and is very leafy. The lower stems to the whole plant can have stiff to bristly hairs. Wild mustard leaves are alternate, ovate to obovate in outline. The lower leaves are about 4–6 inches long, stalked, with 1-3 very unequal lobes near the base. The rest of the blade tends to be a large end leaflet, coarsely to finely toothed. The upper leaves are smaller and short- to non-stalked. Flowers are numerous in dense, compounded clusters, as much as 12 inches long. Flower stalks are stout, 1/16 to ¼ inch long, erect or ascending. The 4 sepals, 1/5 to 1/8 inch long, are narrowly oblong, spreading, the edges rolled in. The 4 petals are showy, spatulate, 1/3 to ½ inch long, with a narrow, erect claw about half the length of the petal. Fruits are siliques, 1.5 to 2 inches long, about 1/16 inch broad, and hairless to somewhat short-hairy. Siliques are straight or slightly up-curved, and the flattened beak 1/3 to ½ as long as the valves and similarly rather evidently 3-nerved. There are 7-12 seeds, about 1/16 inch long, with fine honey-comb patterns in each silique.

Greens are most succulent when young and tender. Older leaves may be a bit too strong for some palates. Seeds and flowers are also edible. Flowers bloom from spring through summer. The little yellow blossoms have a unique shape, like that of a Maltese cross, a nod to their family name of Cruciferae, or cross like. Wild Mustard can be used as an herb to spice up oils and vinegars, to add flavor to ho-hum eggs or potatoes, and to enliven many other culinary creations. Of course, we can’t forget Mustard’s use as a condiment. Grind the seeds, mix with vinegar and salt. Wild Mustard greens are also delicious and can be cooked down to a nutritious mess of greens. Flowers from Mustard can be tossed into salads for some peppery pizzazz, or used dry in place of pricey saffron. The seeds from Mustard can be dried and then ground into powder and used as a peppery spice. Used whole, the seeds give a kick to pickles and relishes. The seeds can also be pressed to separate their oils, which burn quite well and can be used in oil lamps or for cooking.

The medical use of Mustard instead has been for centuries that of cataplasmas, called senapisms, to be applied to cure respiratory ventilations, resulting in irritation of skin ulcerations due to particularly irritating active substances. Wild Mustard has similar health benefits as other cruciferous vegetables. Being a common group of plants, many Mustard family plants have been used ubiquitously in folk medicine, with varying degrees of success. The peppery tasting compounds have been prized for their counter-irritant, inflammation-modulating action on arthritis and rheumatism, but care should be taken with "Mustard poultices" because the skin can actually burn and blister. These plants stimulate the circulation. Historically, though, Wild Mustard herbal use was geared more towards its medicinal properties. Ever heard of a Mustard plaster? A Mustard plaster was (and still is I suppose) crushed or ground Mustard seed mixed with a bit of water to make a paste. The paste was then spread on a cloth and placed herb side up on a person’s chest, sore joints or other areas of swelling and pain. Mustard opens up blood vessels and allows the blood system to draw out toxins and increase blood flow, reducing swelling and pain. Wild Mustard can also help reduce headache pain when taken as a tea or encapsulated. Sinuses can be cleared by inhaling Mustard vapor over a bowl filled with hot water combined with a small amount of ground Mustard. The user drapes a towel over their head and inhales the spicy vapor.

There is also a presence of fixed oil containing oleic, rapic, stearic, linoleic, and arachidic acid. Pentosane, mucilages, gums and salts complement the composition of the Mustard complex.
Mustard seeds have, as mentioned, a pungent flavor that, in addition to identifying it absolutely, also give it digestive properties if taken in moderate amounts as they increase gastric secretion. This action, if it happens before it has ingested food, instead, will develop a certain languorino in the person, stimulating hunger. Mustard also has a strong revolting power, to be irritating and swollen. In the past, cataplasmas were used with Mustard flour to treat acute bronchitis and bronchopneumonia, but also tingling and sciatica. However, this practice has long been abandoned because of the great irritation of the epidermis.

There is some risk associated with using mustard medicinally. Some people are quite sensitive to it, and it can cause stomach problems, eye irritation or skin rashes. Additional uses for Wild Mustard oil can be painted onto items you don’t want your dog to chew on or the cat to scratch. It is, in fact, the active ingredient in commercially prepared products of this nature. Mustard oil can also be used as a lubricant as it thickens but never fully dries out. The plant produces a pale semi-permanent dye and the flowers also a semi-permanent yellow/green dye. Cultivating Wild Mustard as a green manure is arguably one of the best uses for the plant. A green manure is a plant that grows quickly and is then tilled back into the soil to enrich it and Wild Mustard fills this roll beautifully.

Wild Mustard was documented in crops in New York State as early as 1748 and had reached Nova Scotia by 1829 (Mulligan and Bailey 1975). Individual plants are capable of producing 2,000 to 3,500 seeds and can remain viable in soil for up to 60 years (Warwick et al. 2000). Both the seeds and leaves of this plant contain glucosinolates that are capable of causing severe illness in livestock (Warwick et al. 2000).


Herpes Simplex Viruses:

In recent years, with increased the prevalence of viral infections and having no specific for their treatment and also the continuous appearance of resistant viral strains, the finding of novel antiviral agents is necessary.

A 2017 study "Susceptibility of herpes simplex virus type 1 to monoterpenes thymol, carvacrol, p-cymene and essential oils of Sinapis arvensis L., Lallemantia royleana Benth. and Pulicaria vulgaris Gaertn" published in Cell Mol Biol (Noisy-le-grand) by J Sharifi-Rad, B Salehi, P Schnitzler, S A Ayatollahi, F Kobarfard, M Fathi, M Eisazadeh, M Sharifi-Rad, monoterpenes of thymol, carvacrol, p-cymene and essential oils from Sinapis arvensis L., Lallemantia royleana Benth. and Pulicaria vulgaris Gaertn. were screened for their inhibitory effect against herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) in vitro on Vero cell line CCL-81-ATCC using a plaque reduction assay. The antiviral activity of three monoterpenes (thymol, carvacrol and p-cymene) and three essential oils were evaluated by cytotoxicity assay, direct plaque test. In addition, the modes of antiviral action of these compounds were investigated during the viral infection cycle. Results showed that the inhibitory concentrations (IC50) were determined at 0.002%, 0.037%, >0.1%, 0.035%, 0.018% and 0.001% for thymol, carvacrol, p-cymene, S. arvensis oil, L. royleana oil and P. vulgaris oil, respectively. A manifestly dose-dependent virucidal activity against HSV-1 could be exhibited for compounds tested. In order to determine the mode of the inhibitory effect, compounds were added at different stages during the viral infection cycle. At maximum noncytotoxic concentrations of the compounds, plaque formation was significantly reduced by more than 80% when HSV-1 was preincubated with p-cymene. However, no inhibitory effect could be observed when the compounds were added to the cells prior to infection with HSV-1 or after the adsorption period.

These results indicate that compounds affected HSV-1 mostly before adsorption and might interact with the viral envelope. Thymol exhibited a high selectivity index and seems to be a promising candidate for topical therapeutic application as antiviral agent for treatment of herpetic infections.


A 2019 study "Antioxidant and Mineral Composition of Three Wild Leafy Species: A Comparison Between Microgreens and Baby Greens" published in Foods by Anna Lenzi, Alessandro Orlandini, Roberta Bulgari, Antonio Ferrante, Piero Bruschi hypothesized that the wild greens could be profitably grown as microgreens and baby greens, specialty products whose market is increasing. We compared three wild leafy species (Sanguisorba minor Scop., Sinapis arvensis L., and Taraxacum officinale Weber ex F. H. Wigg.) harvested at the microgreen and baby green stages. Seedlings were grown hydroponically in a half-strength Hoagland nutrient solution under controlled climatic conditions. At harvest, the yield was assessed, and chlorophylls, carotenoids, anthocyanins, phenolic index, nitrate, and mineral elements were measured in the two types of product. The potential contribution to human mineral intake was calculated, and the possible risk due to the presence of metals potentially detrimental for health was estimated. Results showed that micro/baby greens of the studied wild plants achieved competitive yields and could contribute to the dietary intake of macroelements, microelements, and non-nutrient bioactive compounds. On the other hand, the wild greens showed high amounts of nitrate and traces of some metals potentially detrimental for health, suggesting the need for caution in the use of wild species for producing microgreens and baby leaves.

Traditional Uses of Wild Mustard:

  • The Navajos used Sinapis arvensis as a ceremonial medicine.
  • It is good for stimulating the appetite.
  • It is said to be good for the treatment of melancholy or depression.
  • Famine of Ireland, Wild Mustard was a common famine food, even though it often caused stomach upset.

Culinary Uses of Wild Mustard:

  • Edible semi-drying oil is obtained from the seed.
  • Leaves can be consumed raw or cooked.
  • Somewhat hot, the young leaves are used as a flavoring in salads, where they add a piquant flavor.
  • Older leaves are used as a potherb.
  • It is best to use just the young shoots and leaves in the spring, older leaves are bitter.
  • Flowering stems can be consumed after being cooked.
  • Pleasant, cabbage/radish flavor, they can be used as a broccoli substitute before the flowers open.
  • Stems should be lightly steamed for no more than 5 minutes.
  • Flowers can also be cooked as a vegetable or used as a garnish.
  • Seed can be sprouted and eaten raw.
  • It can be added to salads and sandwiches.
  • Seed can be ground into a powder and used as a food flavoring.
  • Leaves of Wild Mustard are edible at the juvenile stage of the plant they are usually boiled.

Other Uses of Wild Mustard:

  • The seeds contained in the siliques make it appealing to the most common grazing birds, for which it is a great food.
  • A type of oil can be extracted from the seed which has been used for lubricating machinery.
  • It is also used in making soap and burns well so can be used for lighting.

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