Mustard Plaster – For Stubborn Chest Congestion

mustard seeds

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.

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  1. Jewish Home Remedies on April 24, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    […] 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 on October 12, 2014 at 5:39 pm

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

    • thewells_admin on October 22, 2014 at 10:54 am

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

  3. Tiffany on November 27, 2014 at 6:50 am

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

    • thewells_admin on December 6, 2014 at 10:04 am

      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.

  4. Chris on January 6, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    Can mustard be used with children?

    • thewells_admin on January 14, 2015 at 12:00 pm

      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.

  5. thewells_admin on March 24, 2015 at 10:58 am

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

  6. ginger on February 19, 2016 at 3:56 pm

    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?

    • thewells_admin on February 21, 2016 at 3:37 pm

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

  7. Pamela on March 19, 2016 at 11:24 am

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

    • thewells_admin on March 19, 2016 at 11:25 am

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

  8. thewells_admin on September 16, 2016 at 1:07 pm

    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!

  9. JEAN on October 15, 2016 at 2:09 pm

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

  10. Susan Popkes on October 20, 2016 at 11:20 am

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

    • thewells_admin on October 23, 2016 at 10:44 am

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

  11. Christine on December 21, 2016 at 7:38 am

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

    • thewells_admin on December 23, 2016 at 12:09 pm

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

  12. Sandra on December 23, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    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.

  13. Azeert on June 12, 2017 at 4:29 pm

    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.

    • thewells_admin on June 13, 2017 at 10:10 am

      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!

  14. Vicki P on December 27, 2017 at 9:16 am

    Can mustard you use from store for hot dogs etc work the same? We don’t have dry mustard available here

    • The Wellspring School on January 2, 2018 at 12:25 pm

      Yellow (hotdog) mustard doesn’t work the same as it’s been constituted with water, vinegar, etc. You need mustard powder that you can typically get in the spices aisle at most groceries. Hope that helps!

  15. Catherine Dewberry on December 28, 2017 at 9:44 am

    My mom use to use a pink plaster on me as a child. Now i have sinuses bad in wintry time. I’m going to try this. This Article was very helpful. Thank you very much.

  16. Julie Greenman on December 31, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    I used to get these as a kid, but my mother and grandmother rubbed petroleum jelly on my chest first and then put the plaster right on it. It worked really well for me.

  17. Diane Cooper on January 5, 2018 at 8:45 am

    I did this and applied mustard pwd. And water directly to the skin, left it on maybe an hour and got very burned. Looks like a severe sunburn , sensitive to the touch & hot water. Started itching after3 days, had to jeep a cool rag on it all day long, is finally feeling better. Would not recommend for children except super diluted. Could ruin their fresh skin.

    • The Wellspring School on January 6, 2018 at 10:18 am

      Diane – Thanks for your note! It definitely sounds like you left the plaster on for too long, and perhaps have sensitive skin that might benefit from a more diluted plaster. As part of the protocol, we recommend testing the plaster concentration especially for anyone with sensitive skin. If you’ve never done mustard plasters before or have done them infrequently, then a shorter time frame would be best to start. The skin will be red and we do recommend applying Wan Hua oil or other comparable liniment after removing the poultice. If any application is ever painful, then you should immediately remove, dilute the plaster and try again later. Mustard plasters have proven effective for all ages as long as the above guidelines are followed.

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