Mustard Plaster – For Stubborn Chest Congestion

Mustard Plasters (also known as Mustard Packs) have been used for centuries throughout the world as a natural folk remedy. Although they have been used to treat maladies from gout to sciatica, today we will focus on its usefulness in treating chest & lung congestion. As we enter the cold and flu season, if you get sick and can feel or hear phlegm in your lungs when you cough and you are finding it hard to cough the phlegm up and out, the mustard plaster can help.

How does it work?

Mustard is a rubefacient, which means it stimulates blood circulation through dilation of the capillaries, which, when applied over the lungs will help open them up and encourage expectoration of mucous that may be trapped. One of the reasons you want to stimulate coughing and moving the phlegm is that it can help prevent infection in the lungs and conditions such as bacterial pneumonia & bronchitis. Exciting right?!?

How do you make a mustard plaster?

Mix: 1 part Dry Mustard – 8 to 10 parts Flour – Enough Warm Water (not hot) to make a paste. Keep adding water and mixing until you get a paste a little thinner than pancake batter.

Get a 3 pieces of cheesecloth or fleece (about 12 inches wide and long enough to wrap around the chest and back) and spread the mixture on the cloth. Then start on top of one of the shoulders (near the neck), wrap diagonally across the chest (like a seatbelt) to the lower ribs, around the back, and diagonally across the chest to the opposite shoulder. You may want to put Band-Aids on your nipples before wrapping, as they can be especially sensitive.

Put on an old t-shirt and leave on for about 20 min. (10 min for a child)

Remove cloth and rinse off skin. Note that the skin will be red like a sunburn. You may continue to cough a lot during and after the Mustard Plaster application. This is normal, and, in fact, sought after, as it will help remove stuck phlegm in your chest and lungs.

You may repeat this once daily for 3 days.


It is important to understand that the warming nature of the mustard seed can be irritating to some people’s skin so the first time you try it you may want to use less mustard seed, and/or be extra cautious when applying, and if the skin feels like it is starting to ‘burn’, you may want to check the skin and be prepared to wash off the plaster. This is not something to be fearful of, just aware of.

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Photo by Dennis Wilkinson on Flickr.

21 responses to “Mustard Plaster – For Stubborn Chest Congestion”

  1. […] eat garlic cloves or onion, or to use a mustard pack on the chest.  The Wellspring explains that a mustard pack is effective at treating congestion because mustard is a rubefacient, which means it stimulates blood circulation through dilation of […]

  2. Marlene says:

    Would it be safe to use on someone who is allergic to ingested mustard, dry mustard being much worse for him than prepared mustard?

  3. thewells_admin says:

    I would not recommend using a mustard plaster on anyone with allergies to mustard.

  4. Tiffany says:

    If I made too much can I save it to use throughout the day?

  5. thewells_admin says:

    A mustard plaster should only be applied once a day for about 3 days.

    So it could be saved for another day – but should not be applied repeatedly throughout one day.

  6. Chris says:

    Can mustard be used with children?

  7. thewells_admin says:

    Yes, the mustard plaster is OK to use for children; be sure to follow the recommendations for people with sensitive skin (use less mustard seed and be cautious when applying). If you have any specific concerns or considerations, please consult your healthcare provider.

  8. thewells_admin says:

    Yes, the poultice should go in between the cloths and not touch the skin directly.

  9. ginger says:

    My grandma used to do this for me when I was little–hated it because of the smell. Now at age 72 I have no sense of smell but do have a chest cold. Your directions use two terms–mustard seeds and dry mustard (powered, I’m assuming). Which is best?

  10. thewells_admin says:

    Dry mustard powder is typically best and easiest to make into the actual plaster.

  11. Pamela says:

    My mustard plaster is not getting warm- is it suppose to? Or could my mustard be too old?

  12. thewells_admin says:

    Your mustard may bee too old or your concentration to weak. How many parts mustard to water are you using?

  13. thewells_admin says:

    We would not recommend using a mustard pack in such a young infant – as it may be hard to ascertain his comfort level and the direct effect. Please check email for more detailed response. Thank you!

  14. JEAN says:

    we used to have to have mustard plasters on us every winter at one time or another. It worked, but I hated the smell.

  15. Susan Popkes says:

    How about a honey plaster? I’ve heard they’re effective too.

  16. thewells_admin says:

    We haven’t worked with or recommended honey plasters for this indication.

  17. Christine says:

    Can I use regular yellow mustard from the fridge and flour to make the paste?

  18. thewells_admin says:

    No. It needs to be the powdered mustard you’d find in the spice section.

  19. Sandra says:

    My grandmother use to do this for me when I was a child. Only thing is she left it on all night and never one on the back. Worked well every time.

  20. Azeert says:

    In the “recipe” you list dry mustard (which I take to mean the powder form.) In the Consideration section it advises “you may want to use less mustard seed.” So which form is to be used, the powder to the seed? A bit confusing.

  21. thewells_admin says:

    Thank you for your comment. Sorry for any confusion. The recipe calls for dry mustard powder. In the considerations section, the reference to mustard seed is intended to reference the properties of the plant part from which the powder is made. So, to clarify, use mustard powder. Thanks!

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