External Applications in Anthroposophic Nursing

Mustard Powder Calf Compress

Kind of substance

Mustard powder

Guiding principle for the application

The application of moist, warm mustard powder compresses on the skin triggers a strong, local stimulus, which is perceived by the patient as burning heat after a few minutes. This perception directs an asthmatic patient’s attention and sensation away from acutely felt shortness of breath and spasticity of the respiratory tract, to the place of application on his or her legs. It is a diverting procedure, as it is also used in naturopathy for other clinical pictures and with other means. This application can contribute to a loosening and relieving of respiratory spasticity in acute cases. With chronic diseases such as COPD, it may be necessary to repeat the application for several days in a row until the patient reacts sufficiently (burning and reddening of the skin) in the calf area.

Guiding Principle for the substance


  • Bronchial asthma
  • COPD (see example case)
  • Dissociation



  • Mustard powder should be stored protected from light in an airtight, cool container. Freshly ground mustard powder should be used up as far as possible, as it quickly loses its effectiveness!
  • Apply mustard only to intact, healthy skin!
  • The application must be accompanied carefully by the practitioner because of the skin reaction (redness) to be expected after a few minutes. Late reactions are possible.
  • The aim is an incipient reddening of the skin, so that the treated skin surface is visibly redder than the untreated skin. This effect can be expected within 2–12 minutes. The patient should experience the onset of intense burning on the skin. There are patients who do not feel the skin irritation and/or do not show any skin redness, but who can still burn. That is why it is necessary to pay close attention.

  • 2 outer cloths (it is to be expected that the mustard will seep through the cloths, so that it is not recommended to use wool, as the wool will become hard and felty as a result)
  • One terrycloth towel for each leg as intermediate cloths for moisture protection
  • 2 inner cloths twice the size of the surface to be covered (10 cm x 10 cm)
  • 2 kitchen towels, folded several times to the same size as the inner cloth (10 cm x 10 cm)
  • Container to mix the mustard power in
  • Wooden spatula or spoon
  • 2 hot-water bottles, covered with plastic
  • Hot water
  • Black mustard powder

Prepare the mustard packs:
  • Quickly mix the mustard powder with water to make a paste
  • Place the kitchen paper on the inner cloth
  • Spread the paste as thick as a knife’s back on the kitchen paper and fold it into a pack together with the inner cloth. Place the two finished packs on the hot-water bottles (covered with plastic).
  • Go to the patient with the packs

Wrap each leg one after the other:
  • The patient lies on her back in bed
  • Place the outer cloth, halved in length and rolled up from both sides, under her lower leg.
  • Put the intermediate cloth, rolled up on both sides, on top
  • Place the mustard pack on the intermediate cloth, leaving face up (to the calf) the side with only one layer of fabric
  • Have the patient lay her leg on it
  • Mold all the cloths one after the other around the leg
  • Do the same for the other leg
  • Cover the patient
  • Duration as described above under “Peculiarities” (2–12 minutes)
  • After removing the mustard packs and the intermediate cloth, dab the damp skin slightly with water. If the outer cloths are still dry, you can wrap the lower legs in them again for the post-treatment rest.
  • 30 min. post-treatment rest
  • There are situations in which it is advisable to then “extinguish” the local burning with a little oil (e.g., lavender oil), e.g., when treating children
  • The burning sensation initially continues during the post-treatment rest and then gradually subsides

  • Dispose of the mustard paste and kitchen paper
  • Wash out all the cloths and hang them up to dry
  • The next mustard application can be administered the next day at the earliest, or when the reddening of the skin has subsided

Well-proven in many patients
1 x daily
Onset of effect
Usually after 2–3 minutes, when the burning sensation begins
Length of therapy
  • For asthma, usually once as an acute measure
  • For other indications, both as a single application and over several days to weeks
  • No mustard compresses on reddened, diseased or irradiated skin!
  • Mustard intolerance

General instructions for all mustard applications
  • No treatment should last more than 20 minutes (danger of nerve damage to the skin, and necrosis)
  • Exercise particular caution in cases of sensitive skin, sensory disturbances and lack of body perception

Instructions to download

Case example

A 64-year-old patient with infect-exacerbated COPD suffered from severe shortness of breath with pronounced spasticity of the respiratory tract. He received bronchospasmolytic agents and antibiotic therapy. Only after the fourth application of mustard powder did the patient feel an increasing burning sensation on his calves after 12 minutes (“like stinging nettle”), but no skin reaction was visible yet. After further applications the skin began to redden and in the further course of treatment we observed clear relief of his respiratory spasticity.


BD, Red.


  • Doering et al. Pilot-Senffussbad-Studie, Forsch. Komplementärmedizin 1998; 5:279–282
  • Simon L. Zur Polarität von Senf und Ingwer, in: Ingwerstudie, Verband anthroposophisch orientierte Pflegeberufe, 2nd ed. 2001.
  • Simon L. Senfwickel und entzündliche Krankheitsprozesse bei hysterischer Konstitution. Der Merkurstab 1998; 51: 5–12
  • Gloger et al. Asthma bronchiale in der Anthroposophischen Medizin, Teil 3, Der Merkurstab, 2/2019
  • Deckers B. Senfwickel-Behandlung bei Pneumonie – eine Kasuistik. Der Merkurstab 2014; 67: 141–142.
  • Vademecum Anthroposophische Arzneimittel, 4th ed., “Gencydo”, indication “Asthma bronchiale bei Jugendlichen und Erwachsenen”, see under additional recommendations.