Although it's probably best known for its culinary role spicing up some of your favorite dishes, Horseradish, an herbaceous perennial, has a long history of medicinal use as well.
Horseradish's Latin name, Armoracia rusticana, is strikingly beautiful — Amoracia meaning "near the sea," and rusticana meaning "of the country." For me, this paints a clear picture of the landscapes in which these roots are cultivated. Given the unique formation of the root system, Horseradish is primarily planted and harvested by hand, and 60% of the world's Horseradish is grown right here in the United States, making this plant accessible to the average American.
Horseradish Botanical Description
Also referred to as mountain radish, Horseradish is believed to have originated in southeastern Europe and Asia. Standing up to two feet high and two feet wide during maturity, Horseradish has long, green, wrinkled leaves. Although the glossy leaves and white flowers are alluring, the real magic lies beneath the surface. Very different below ground, the white flesh of the roots is pungent, fiery, and not easily mistaken. Horseradish is a member of the Brassicaceae family, along with Broccoli, Radish, Shepherd's Purse and Bok Choy; all have four-petaled flowers in common.
If you provide full sun to part shade, well-draining soil, and adequate water, Horseradish should provide a healthy harvest. However, caution should be taken when adding Horseradish to your herb garden, as the root system can spread rapidly and grow deeply, making it prone to taking over more than its intended space and difficult to remove.
Horseradish Medicinal Uses
Horseradish has a very complex nutritional profile. Inside the roots, you will find a host of nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, calcium, zinc, folate, and phosphorus. In fact, studies have shown that one serving of Horseradish boasts roughly 37% percent of your daily value of vitamin C, making it not only delicious but nutritious as well. It's best consumed fresh to preserve the nutritional content. Looking for ways to incorporate this beneficial root into your diet? Start in the kitchen! Horseradish makes a wonderful addition to salad dressings and fresh sauces, or it can be pickled to save for a later date.
You may get your daily Horseradish fix from creating oxymels, or sweet vinegar extracts. Oxymels are an ancient folk method of using vinegar to extract medicinal components of plants. Perhaps one of the most commonly known oxymels is fire cider, which combines a number of immune-supportive ingredients into a fiery tonic. Simply combine Apple cider vinegar, Horseradish, Garlic, Ginger, Cayenne and honey into a glass jar, cover, and let sit for four weeks. Once your infusion is ready, simply strain, drink, and enjoy all the digestive and immune support fire cider offers.
You may also tincture Horseradish, create a cold-water infusion, or simply juice the fresh root. Historically, a topical poultice using Horseradish has been used to support healthy inflammation levels at the site of a sprain or similar injury.
The medicinal benefits of Horseradish are quite impressive. The root offers digestive support, improves circulation, supports healthy respiratory function, and extends aid during allergy season. When taken internally, Horseradish has an affinity for the sinuses, opening up the pathways and potentially relieving congestion of the upper and lower respiratory tract. The root's potent smell can be attributed to allyl isothiocyanate, or Mustard oil, which is released when the plant's skin is broken or disturbed. Similar to other members of the Brassicaceae family, this constituent is also found in Brussels sprouts, Mustard, and Turnips. The warming nature of horseradish may support the removal of urine from the bladder, thus promoting healthy urinary function.
Peter Holmes said it best: "Horseradish root is nothing less than a restorer of innate warmth."
Horseradish: A Bridge Between the Medicinal and Culinary Worlds
This medicinal plant is particularly approachable, as many are familiar with Horseradish already. Herbs, roots, and rhizomes that have a dual purpose for culinary and medicinal use are very special, as they bridge the gap between these two worlds whose similarities often get overlooked. Are you new to herbal medicine? Do you enjoy cooking and nutrition? Perhaps Horseradish can be added to your routine not only for taste, but for the health benefits it offers.
In Greek mythology, the Delphic Oracle told Apollo, "The Radish is worth its weight in lead, the Beet its weight in silver, the Horseradish its weight in gold."
- Holmes, P. (2007). The Energetics of Western Herbs: A Materia Medica Integrating Western and Chinese Herbal Therapeutics, Volume 1 (Revised, Enlarged ed.). Snow Lotus.
- Horseradish.org. Horseradish. [Cited October 7, 2010].
Brittney Offenburg (she/her) believes in empowerment through education. She attended the Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism where she studied medical herbalism and is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Integrative Healthcare from Metropolitan State University of Denver. Brittney is a customer journey representative at WishGarden Herbs.
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or sell any product.