Introduction and History of Mustard
Mustard is one of the omnipresent spices in the Indian kitchen along with Cumin Seeds (jeera), Turmeric (haldi), Fennel (saunf), Coriander (dhaniya), and Fenugreek seeds (methi). It finds extensive mention in Ayurvedic texts for its medicinal and nutritional benefits. Its history and usage go back to multiple thousand years for its reference in literature from India, i.e. Atharva Veda and across the globe.
Mustard is a common name for the plant species Brassica juncea of the family Brassicaceae. There are several variations of the condiment found across the globe. However, Brassica campestris (Brown), Brassica alba (White), Brassica nigra (black), and Brassica juncea (Indian) are considered to be the four main varieties. These variations differ in color and taste profile, hence finding their local names.
It is widely cultivated in India, the United States, Eastern Meditarrian, Europe, Britain, Greece, Rome, Hungary, Canada and in the Middle East. In India, mustard is known by different names such as Rai, Sarso, Shorshe, Kadugu in different languages.
Mustard in Ayurveda
Mustard is suggested both for culinary and medicinal uses. Mustard leaves find use as a vegetable and its seeds are used both as a condiment and as culinary oil-seed. An important plant with significant and potent properties, it should be used in moderation to get health benefits and avoid the side effects of excessive consumption.
The leaves and seed oil is recommended for cleansing of the cranial cavity. It has the following properties:
- Slightly Hot or Hot in potency
- Alkaline, Pungent, Saline, and Mildly Sweet in taste
- Penetrating and triggers inflammation
- Reduces feces and urinary excretion
- Reduces Kapha and Vata Dosha
- Promotes indigestion and aggravates Pitta Dosha
Usually, there are three main varieties of mustard are grown worldwide for use.
- White mustard seeds (Sinapis alba or Brassica alba) are light straw-yellow colored, somewhat larger than the other two varieties and show mild pungency.
- Black mustard (Brassica nigra) seeds are sharp and more pungent than the other two varieties due to high glucosinolate content.
- In sub-Himalayan plains of Northern India, Brown mustard (Brassica juncea) seeds are found.
Nutrition and Benefits
- Mustard seeds are excellent sources of phytonutrients, minerals, vitamins, and anti-oxidants. The minerals such as calcium, manganese, copper, iron, selenium, and zinc are present in these seeds.
- These seeds provide enough essential oils and plant sterols. The important sterols present in mustard seeds are brassicasterol, campesterol, sitosterol, avenasterol, and stigmasterol. Some of the glucosinolate and fatty acids in the seeds include sinigrin, myrosin, erucic, eicosanoic, oleic, and palmitic acids.
- Mustard seeds also provide essential B-complex vitamins such as folates, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), pantothenic acid, etc. Our body requires these vitamins from external sources to replenish as these B-complex groups of vitamins help in the synthesis of the enzyme, the function of the nervous system and regulation of body metabolism.
- These seeds have flavonoid and carotenoid antioxidants such as carotenes, zeaxanthin, and lutein. Besides the seeds make a small number of vitamin antioxidants such as vitamin-A, C, and vitamin-K.
- The seeds are also very high in calories. For example, 100g of seeds provide 508 calories.
- 100 g of mustards contain 4.733 mg of niacin (vitamin B-3). Niacin is a part of nicotinamide coenzymes which help reduce blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
- The seeds are a rich source of vitamin-E and gamma-tocopherol. Vitamin-E, the powerful lipid-soluble antioxidant, needed for maintaining the integrity of the cell membrane of mucosa and skin by protecting it from harmful oxygen-free radicals.
- Black seeds and their oil from the seed are used to make medicine. Oil from black seed can treat the common cold, painful joints, and muscles (rheumatism), and arthritis.
- The seeds were used to treat stomach trouble such as flatulence or cramps.
- Black seeds treat vomiting; relieve water retention (edema) by increasing urine production, and also increase appetite.
- Its seeds help treat respiratory congestion by clearing the mucus in the respiratory tract. Thus it can treat bronchitis/asthma and helps easy breathing.
- Cures constipation by improving easy bowel movements and keep the colon healthy when consumed in moderation.
- Heals nerve damage by exciting nerve impulses to enhance the healing effect.
- Several people apply ground black mustard seed paste to treat pneumonia, arthritis, pain, and swelling (inflammation) of the lining of the lungs (pleurisy), lower back pain (lumbago), and aching feet.
- In India, people apply mustard oil to the scalp to stimulate hair growth.
- The powdered seeds act as a laxative, nourishment to the gastric mucosa and boost intestinal secretion.
- It has an anticancer property and it lowers the risk of colorectal and gastrointestinal tract cancer formation.
Mustard is widely used in cooking in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Mediterranean region, and Germany. It is consumed as a condiment as whole seeds, or powdered form, or used in pastes, sauces, and dressings.
Mustard oil is widely used in cooking as it does not degenerate at high temperatures. The essential oil, sinalbin present in mustard seeds create the aroma and pungent flavor of these.
- In northern India, Mustard oil is used as cooking oil for dry vegetables or stir-fries.
- The oil is also added to the pickles and aids in the preservation of raw fruits and vegetables (mango, carrots, radish, turnips, etc) that is pickled along with other spices. Since it is hot in nature, the use of mustard oil is highlighted for the winter season.
- The seeds are extensively added to curries, chutneys, and stir-fried vegetables. Refer to our recipes for ideas on this.
- In India, both brown and white seeds are added in powdered form as a pickling agent to raw mango, gooseberry, chili, lemon, bitter gourd, etc.
- The powdered form of both brown and yellow seeds are also added to beetroot and carrots to make a delicious fermented drink known as kanji in India.
- People use black seeds as a spice and to flavor mustard condiment.
- Mustard paste along with garlic and chili is usually added to vegetables and seafood to make delicious curries and meals in India.
- Mustard paste (hot pepper mustard) is added to sandwiches, salad dressings, hot-dogs, and mayonnaise.
- People in many countries use different varieties of mustards with herbs, spices, honey, tomato, etc.
Side effects of excessive consumption
The usual recommended amount for mustard is 2-3 teaspoons seeds for adults and 1-2 for children. This includes both oil and seeds as they are added to the meals. Overconsumption of the seeds and greens might cause different side effects:
- Cause allergic reactions like hypersensitivity and skin irritation.
- Excessive intake can cause gastric irritation, bleeding from the stomach and intestinal mucosa.
- Raw seeds have goitrogens, a compound which disrupts the normal functioning of the thyroid gland
- Oxalates in the seeds hinder the normal absorption of calcium in the body. As a result, it could create problems for kidney stones.
Selection and Storage
Whole mustard seeds do not show flavor and smell at all. But, if you heat or crush them, mustard seeds release irritant gasses. You may find all varieties of whole seeds, ground powder, pastes and different mustard sauces in grocery stores.
You can easily store whole, dry mustards well for months at room temperature in cool, dry and humid free conditions. But, ground seeds and other preparations of mustards like sauce, paste, etc should be kept in tight, air seal containers inside the refrigerator for a long time.