Mustard — A spiritual and historical overview

Photo via

by Sudhir Ahluwalia | |

The relationship between mustard and faith is mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew and others. Mustard represents insignificance of the self and the world in the eyes of God. Mustard also represents humility.

Mathew 17:19-21

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not drive it out?” And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.  “But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

Mustard is one of the oldest spices used by humans. According to an allegorical story by Gautama Buddha (c. 563–480 BC), the Buddha asked a grieving mother who lost her only son to bring a handful of mustard seeds from a family that has never lost a child, husband, parent, or friend. When the mother was unable to find such a family, she realized that death is common to all and thus she should not be selfish in her grief.

Mustard seeds have been discovered in tombs of Pharaohs. They were thought to bring good luck. With the expansion of the Roman Empire, mustard traveled to Gaul, Spain, and England. King Charlemagne introduced mustard in the gardens surrounding the monasteries of Paris, establishing the now famous mustard industry in France.

In German folklore, brides sewed mustard seeds into their dresses to bring them strength in their new home, perhaps because women were treated as subordinate to men and mustard brought good luck. In northern Europe, mustard seed was said to keep evil spirits away.

Hippocrates used mustard in many medicines and poultices. Pythagoras mentions mustard as a remedy for scorpion stings. Mustard was said to increase blood circulation. Mustard plaster helped increase blood flow to inflamed areas and thus hasten healing.

There are three types of mustard popular in human food. The mildest is white mustard (Brassica alba), yellow mustard (Brassica juncea) and black mustard (Brassica nigra). Scientific studies aimed to validate traditional medicinal use have been largely conducted on Brassica nigra.

About Sudhir

Sudhir Ahluwalia is a business consultant. He has been management consulting head of Asia’s largest IT outsourcing company Tata Consultancy Services, business advisor to multiple companies, columnist and author of upcoming book on herbs-Holy Herbs. He has been a member of the Indian Forest Service. His webpage is: