Sunday, December 29, 2013


Horseradish-Armoracia Rusticara, Cochlearia Armoracea, Rorippa Armoracia

Also known as:  red cole, great raifort, mountain radish

Parts used:  root

Meridians/Organs affected:  respiratory, digestive, circulatory, immune, kidneys, skin

Properties:  expectorant, diuretic, counter-irritant, stimulant, antibiotic, antimicrobial, bitter, antioxidant, aperient, rubefacient, diaphoretic, condiment, antiscorbutic, antiseptic

Horseradish is a member of the Cruciferae or Brassica family and as such is part of the cruciferous 12 vegetables/plants.  It is a hardy perennial with dock-like leaves that are bright green with wavy edges and can get up to 12 inches long and 4-5 inches wide.  Horseradish has white flowers that have 4 petals and are quite fragrant (the scent somehow reminds me of allysum).  It has a long, thick taproot with a white center.  It is a native of Russia, southeastern Europe and the Orient but is now grown all over the globe. 

Horseradish dates back to ancient times, long before the root was ever discovered and used, the young leaves were eaten raw in salads and sandwiches or cooked much like spinach and eaten.  The leaves are also one of the 5 bitter herbs that the Jewish people partake of at Passover.

Horseradish has been used as a spice for over 2000 years and was commonly used to mask the taste of spoiled meats.  It was first mentioned in 1597 in John Gerard's 'General Historie of Plantes'.  He spoke of crushing it into vinegar and then using it as a sauce for meat or fish.  Creamed horseradish was popular in France and England and can now also be found all over the world.

Aside from the culinary aspect of things, horseradish has many medicinal uses.  Theopharastus mentioned using it as a diuretic and Discorides touted it for all kinds of intestinal issues and to stimulate digestion.  Galen recommended it to women with menstrual difficulties and fluid retention.  It also has been used or all kinds of rheumatic and lymphatic conditions.  The fresh root was slowly eaten to help with receding and inflamed gums.  Thin pieces of it were also rubbed around the gums to firm them up.  It was also said to be a sure cure for hair loss.  It was often mixed with a few other oils for this (grapeseed, wheatgerm, and almond oils).  Horseradish produces a mustard-like oil (almost identical to mustard oil, actually) that acts much like an enzyme-breaking down the cell structure of cooked meat to help prevent indigestion and food poisoning (in cases where the meat may have been spoiled).  It improves digestion and causes an immediate reaction among the mucus membranes, often clearing the sinus passages.  In that regard it has been used as an expectorant for all kinds of respiratory ailments with great success and in helping with fevers, flus, colds and other illnesses.  The cut root has been used on stiff and aching joints and muscles and to warm the skin.  (For people with sensitive skin this can cause blistering so always put down a protective layer of oil before using horseradish on the skin).  It was also used a lot for boils and other skin eruptions (as a poultice or liniment).  John Pechey (1707) once noted that "horseradish provokes the appetite, but it hurts the head."   AMEN...LOL  Which is why it is also known as red cole because people believed it was akin to ingesting red-hot coals.  Parkinson (1640) stated that, "...the roote bruised and laid to the place grieved with the sciatica-gout, joint ach, or the hard swellings of the spleene and liver, doth wonderfully helpe them all."

Horseradish cools the body by increasing perspiration-helping the body to rid itself of toxins via the skin.  Horseradish poultices were common for arthritis, infected wounds, and pleurisy.  Dr. Christopher said that it is one of the most prolific stimulants we have-especially for the skin, kidneys, digestive organs and the circulatory system.  It is effective against urinary and lung infections due to the fact that it is excreted through those channels in the body.

Horseradish is a counter-irritant, which means that if you were ingesting spoiled meat all month long the horseradish would irritate the mucous membranes of the digestive tract to produce a protective coating that would prevent further inflammation, irritation or nausea and possibly also absorb some of the spoiled substances in the food. 

Horseradish has also been used very effectively for such things as bronchitis, asthma, allergies and other respiratory maladies.  It is also believed to be an immune stimulant as it can increase the amount of white bloods cells in the bloodstream.

Horseradish should not be used by those with thyroid issues or are using thyroid medications as it depresses (slows) thyroid function.  It should also not be used by pregnant women as it stimulates the lower intestine and uterus.

As is customary with my posts I am including some links below for your perusal. Use them as you deem fit.  Live long and prosper!

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