(NaturalNews) A lot of people lump mustard into the same category with ketchup as a condiment to slather on burgers and hot dogs. Many health conscious consumers therefore make the mistake of overlooking the health benefits offered by this familiar substance.
The condiment we use comes from the seeds of the mustard plant, a member of the cabbage family. Mustard plants thrive in temperate climates and are native to areas of Europe and Asia. The plant has forty different varieties, but three have become commonly used. White mustard seeds, which are actually yellow in color, have the mildest taste and are the source of most mustard commonly used.
If you prefer dark mustard, you are consuming the product with slightly stronger brown mustard seeds. The condiment is made by grinding these seeds and combining them with vinegar, wine and other ingredients. Black mustard seeds, which have the most pungent taste, are commonly used in Indian cooking.
Mustard seeds have been part of human civilization for hundreds of years. The Bible mentions mustard seeds, as do ancient Sanskrit texts. The ancient Greeks used them for cooking, as did the ancient Romans, who appear to have invented an early form of the condiment used today. The ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates, used them medicinally.
The traditional system of healing in India, Ayurveda, continues to use mustard seeds for their healing properties. The Ayurvedic system prescribes medicines as a means of balancing the three doshas, or types, recommends mustard seeds as a means of increasing pitta (fire) while minimizing vata (air) and kapha (earth and water). All three varieties of mustard have medicinal value, but stronger healing properties correlate to more pungency in taste.
In terms of nutritional value, mustard is an excellent source of antioxidants. Its high content of selenium and magnesium give it anti-inflammatory benefits. A small amount, as little as a teaspoon, packs a powerful nutritional boost, providing both omega3 and omega6-fatty acids, as well as potassium, calcium and phosphorus. The dense nutrition in mustard speeds up body metabolism while lowering blood pressure.
Mustard has been used to heal such common ailments as a cold, flu and headaches. In larger quantities, it has been used as a purgative to induce vomiting in case of accidental poisoning. In addition, one of its traditional uses is in an external healing poultice applied to aid against pneumonia, bronchitis, rheumatism, sciatica, gout, aching muscles and joint pain.
To experience the full range of mustard's health benefits, you may want to keep dried powdered mustard, mustard seeds or mustard oil on hand. Dried mustard does not have a highly pungent taste on its own, the characteristic sharpness of mustard comes from an enzymatic process initiated when the powder mixes with water.
Hot rather than cool water, or the addition of an acidic substance, such as vinegar, moderates the sharp flavor. Indian food uses mustard oil and/or black mustard seeds in many dishes.