There is no clear documented evidence related to the origin of Horseradish. However, the therapeutic properties of the herb are well documented since ages. In this article, the medicinal properties and other important considerations related to this herb are elaborated.
What is Horseradish?
Horseradish is botanically known as Armoracia rusticana and the herb belongs to the brassicaceae/ Cruciferae family. Other members of this family include the following – cabbage, radish, kale, broccoli, wasabi, mustard etc.
Horseradish is a perennial herb that had been extensively used centuries ago for medicinal purposes. During the Middle Ages the roots and leaves of the herb were used as medicines. The herb is also popular for its strong seasoning and spicy flavor. Even centuries ago, Horseradish was also used as an accompaniment to fish and meat. It is used in various recipes and also is used as a preserving agent for canned food products during winter.
Horseradish is predominantly seen in the following regions – South Eastern Europe, America and Western Asia. The medicinal parts of Horseradish include its long white tapering root and green leaves. The herb can grow up to a height of 2 meters and generally needs cool climate with good sunlight to thrive.
Intact roots of the herb do not have effect on the human senses. However, when the root is cut open it releases the pungent smelling chemical known as allyl isothiocyanate that can irritate the eyes and sinuses.
How does it work?
The herb is low in calories and fats, and is rich in fiber and minerals. Horseradish has the following constituents – Vitamin C, B-Complex vitamins such as folate, pyridoxine, niacin, riboflavin and Pantothenic acid, minerals such as potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc, Volatile oils such as mustard oil, Phytochemicals such as allyl isothiocyanate and phenylethyl isothiocyanate and micro nutrients such as glutamine and glucose.
The mustard oil in the herb has anti-bacterial properties due to the presence of allyl isothiocyanate. The herb contains approximately 80 mg of Vitamin C per 100 grams of raw horseradish root extract. The chemicals present in the herb have anti-oxidant and detoxifying effects.
Health benefits of Horseradish
Horseradish has the following positive effects on the human body – anti-biotic, anti-oxidant, expectorant, immuno-stimulant, coronary vasodilatator, bronchodilatator, anti-parasitic, anti-anemic, diuretic, appetite-stimulant, cardiotonic, aphrodisiacal etc.
Teeth & Gums
It is said that Native American Indians chew the roots of Horseradish to prevent toothaches. Also, it is believed that gargling tincture of horseradish root with water helps in preventing mouth and gum diseases.
Diuretic, Expectorant and Emetic
The herb is also popularly used as an expectorant and for removing waste from the human body. The herb also has been used by herbalists to treat kidney and bladder related ailments as it has powerful diuretic effects.
Horseradish can also be used to fight infections such as cold and flu. The herb has anti-biotic properties due to its high sulphor content and therefore is effective against treating different types of infections such as urinary tract infections and even hay fever. Horseradish is extensively used in treating symptoms of sinusitis and tonsillitis.
Historically, horseradish has been used as a natural treatment for curing rheumatic and arthritic problems and to relieve joint pain. Fresh leaves of the herb can also be used externally on the forehead to treat headache.
Horseradish has also been extensively used to treat respiratory disorders such as lung congestions and bronchitis as it helps in clearing mucous from the airways.
The herb can be used with honey to treat persistent cough and even asthma. In children and adults, the herb can be powdered or pasted and applied like a balm on the chest for treating lung congestions.
Clinical studies have shown that the glucosinolates present in the roots of Horseradish have anti-oxidant properties and can prevent cancer in humans. The chemical helps in increasing human resistance against cancer cell growth by helping the liver to detoxify and eliminate carcinogens. Glucosinolates are also found in broccoli, cauliflower, mustard and other herbs from this family. However, it is even said that horseradish contains more glucosinolates than broccoli or any other herb from the mustard family.
Many use Horseradish to treat thyroid dysfunction as it is believed that the Glucosinolates present in the herb help in treating hypothyroidism.
Horseradish has high fiber content and therefore acts as a stimulant for the digestive system. The herb helps in increasing secretions from the intestinal glands, pancreas and gall bladder. In a scientific study it was shown that Horseradish extracts can even fight E.Coli bacteria. The herb is recognized as a gastric and appetite stimulant.
Other Important Health Benefits
Horseradish has also been used as a tonic for fatigue and tiredness. More specifically, the herb acts as a tonic for the human liver and spleen. The herb with its vermifuge effect helps in expelling worms from the system. Traditionally, horseradish was also used (external application) in removing spots and blemishes from the skin. May say conditions such as anemia and facial paralysis can be treated using this herb.
There is no recommended minimum or maximum dosage level for horseradish. For treating sinus infection, herbalist Dr Christopher recommends holding (for few minutes) ¼th teaspoon of freshly grated root of this herb in the mouth. For removing nose congestion, two spoons of grained horseradish can be applied on the nose and forehead.
Side Effects, Overdose & Other Considerations
Horseradish is a relatively safe and non-toxic herb. However, possible side effects may include the following – sinus and eye irritation, gastrointestinal upset, sneezing, vomiting, skin irritation, stimulated bladder, diarrhea etc. The herb should not be used by pregnant women as it may lead to miscarriage.
Those under the following categories should also avoid the herb as it may aggravate their existing conditions – stomach ulcers, those taking low BP medications, those with renal problems and lactating mothers.
Horseradish is an herb that has been approved by the US FDA under the Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) category. In the market, Horseradish is available in the following forms – fresh and dried roots, tincture, horseradish vinegar, flour and as horseradish cataplasm. If available always use fresh roots & leaves of the herb. Fresh harvested roots of the plant would be stony hard, white colored and devoid of sprouts. Apple cider vinegar may be mixed with grated horseradish for prolonged use.
Horseradish may interact and have additive effects with the following – antibiotics, anti-coagulants, NSAIDS, low BP medications, anti-inflammatory agents, medications for treating thyroid disorders and anti-cancer drugs.