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Science Says Mustard Could Help Manage COVID, Strengthen Lung Health & More

Numerous research papers highlight how since ancient times to current ones, mustard has been an effective treatment against colds, coughs and infections of the respiratory tract, among other benefits.

Science Says Mustard Could Help Manage COVID, Strengthen Lung Health & More

On 21 April, India recorded 11,692 COVID cases taking the number of active cases to a whopping 66,170. As the country busies itself while stocking up on vitamin C, adding ginger and lemon to their teas, and taking all essential precautions to build a healthy immune system, the science gods have now found that there is one ingredient that can certainly help — Mustard.

Here, we explore the beneficial effects of adding mustard to your diet, backed by science.

While the varieties of mustard are well over 40, there are two main varieties that India consumes — the black (rai) and the yellow (sarson). Often called “a seed with spunk”, as it does not have too many specifications when it comes to growth conditions required, the mustard seed has rarely been explored for its health benefits. But, as it turns out, there are several.

1. Reduces inflammation

Mustard oil is said to be rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including alpha-linolenic acid, which is involved in regulating inflammatory processes in the body and reducing oxidative stress. Adding mustard oil to your food can help calm and subside any sort of inflammation, which is often among the first signs of response to an attack by external stressors.

2. Antimicrobial activity

In a paper titled, ‘The Glucosinolates: A Sulphur Glucoside Family of Mustard Anti-Tumour and Antimicrobial Phytochemicals of Potential Therapeutic Application’, it was found that when mustard is added to food, it can fight potential bacteria.

Interestingly, certain varieties of plants develop a defence system over the years that helps them become resistant to aphids and pests. This anti-microbial property is due to their glucosinolate component, that when ingested by humans is converted into allyl isothiocyanate (AITC) and sulphoraphanin (SFN) by an enzyme β-sulphoglucosidase myrosinase. These components are responsible for mustard’s antimicrobial activity.

3. Fight against colds and respiratory infections

In a study conducted in 2020, the role of mustard in fighting against infections of the respiratory tract was assessed. As part of the study, people with respiratory tract infections above the age of 18 were invited to participate and divided into an intervention and control group. For six days, the intervention group was given a mustard seed foot bath (water at 40 degrees Celsius in which 3 tbsp of ground black mustard seeds have been added and stirred) once a day, while the control group was given the usual supportive care. 

The study noted that “Footbaths as a complementary treatment option have a positive impact on the immune function and on the patients’ health due to its thermographic effect. It was also found that footbaths can lead to a reduction in stress. Therefore, the relaxing effects of footbaths in combination with mustard plants could lead to a reduction in the perception of symptoms of RTI.”

Mustard seeds have been used since time immemorial to help with respiratory congestion due to the heat they generate
Mustard seeds have been used since time immemorial to help with respiratory congestion due to the heat they generate, Picture source: Instagram: @eternal_pine

4. Reduces blood sugar levels

A study conducted in the Philippines found that taking blood sugar-lowering medication along with a mustard decoction could lower the sugar levels in the blood in people experiencing type 2 diabetes.

5. Antidote to pain

Mustard oil contains allyl isothiocyanate, whose potential in helping arthritis pain is well known. In fact, centuries ago, the application of mustard plaster to the chest was common as a remedy for chest congestion and coughs. The allyl isothiocyanate is responsible for the heat generated when the mustard comes in contact with the skin, and this heat draws blood to the area and increases circulation to the region. However, the heat generated is enough to cause blisters and so the plaster must not be applied to bare skin.

6. Supports heart health

Mustard oil is high in monounsaturated fatty acids that are responsible for a myriad of benefits — such as lowering blood sugar, blood pressure and triglyceride levels — which leads to improved heart health.

7. Help with migraines

The mustard seed is a storehouse of magnesium, and thus the seed is a potential help to people who suffer from migraines. Research suggests that magnesium helps in blocking signals in the brain that cause migraines, while also blocking signals that cause pain.

mustard seeds
Mustard seeds are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids that help in reducing cholesterol and triglyceride levels, Picture source: Instagram: @sujino_co

8. Helps in asthma attacks

Mustard contains high levels of copper, magnesium, iron and selenium which are said to help with asthma and the effects it brings about. Since asthma is linked to high oxidative stress, the above-mentioned elements, which are antioxidants, help to alleviate the stress. In addition to this, mustard’s antiinflammatory properties come into play and help people with asthma.

(Edited by Pranita Bhat)

8 Benefits of Mustard Oil, Plus How to Use It by Healthline, Published on 3 June, 2020. 
The Glucosinolates: A Sulphur Glucoside Family of Mustard Anti-Tumour and Antimicrobial Phytochemicals of Potential Therapeutic Application by James Melrose, Published on 19 August 2019. 
Use of Mustard Seed Footbaths for Respiratory Tract Infections: A Pilot Study, Published on 23 January, 2020. 

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