DEAR SUN SPOTS: I want to say thank you for all the times you have helped me out. Do you know the saying, “Curiosity killed the cat?” When I was in my teens, I came down with bronchitis. My mother used to make mustard plasters. Have you ever heard of it? If so, do you know how it’s made and how to use it?

I do know it smelled horrible, but it certainly worked. —No name, no town

ANSWER: I do remember the mustard plaster. My grandparents used to make and use it. When reading your letter, the scent of it came back to me instantly.

Remember, I’m not a licensed health care professional. I’m only answering your question. However, some naturopathic doctors still recommend this mighty treatment for chest congestion. Proceed carefully if you decide to give it a try. The mustard plaster can burn or blister the skin if it’s too strong or if it’s left on too long. You must be awake during this treatment and have someone looking after you or set an alarm because you don’t want to fall asleep with this remedy left on your skin.

You’ll need 1 part (4 tablespoons) mustard powder mixed with 1 part (4 tablespoons) flour. Add warm (not hot) water and stir until it turns into a thin paste like pancake batter.

Spread out a cotton towel and spread the paste with a spoon onto 1/4 of the towel, or onto the area of the towel that will be enough to cover the chest of the person being treated and still be able to fold the towel in half and then in half again to cover the mustard mixture. Slightly fold over the sides of the towel to ensure the mustard preparation doesn’t seep out.


Apply coconut or olive oil to the skin where the mustard plaster will be applied. This is critical to protect your skin.

Apply the folded mustard plaster over the area being treated, ensuring the mixture lays closest to the skin. Cover this with a bath towel to help contain the heat on the area.

At this point, within minutes, the skin will begin feeling hot and prickly and turn red. This is the expected response the plaster will have on the skin to create its medicinal actions.

Lift the mustard plaster every 1-2 minutes to ensure the skin is not beginning to blister. Again, the purpose of the plaster is to bring heat, blood, and redness to the surface. It’s important to ensure the plaster is not burning or blistering the skin.

Continue checking the skin every couple of minutes while maintaining the application on the skin for no longer than 15 minutes.

Once complete, remove the mustard plaster and thoroughly wash the remaining oil off the treated area to ensure that all oil is fully removed and doesn’t continue to burn the skin following treatment.


Repeat the mustard plaster on your back, over the lungs, if necessary.

It’s normal for the skin to remain red for hours following the treatment. For best results, repeat every 4-6 hours (or at least one time per day for three consecutive days), preferably at night before bed, then have a warm bath or shower.

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