Horseradish, Cochlearia armoracia, is a pungent herb that people generally love or hate, not much middle ground. Horseradish has a real sting to it. When it is grated or crushed isothiocyanates are released. The vapors travel up your nasal cavity and into the sinuses and tingles your nose. Some people can’t stand the tingle while others love it.
Horseradish is related to mustard, and has thick fleshy white roots. It is a member of the Brassica family which includes milder relatives like broccoli, kale and Brussel sprouts. It is native to eastern Europe and is one of the 5 bitter herbs of the Jewish passover.
On the nutritional scene horseradish is a real super-star. containing fiber, vitamin C, folate, potassium, magnesium, calcium, zinc, phosphorus, enzymes, and oils. The vitamin C content is very high and boosts the immune system. Horseradish has a constituent called sinigrin, a glucosinolate, that helps prevent cancer. Horseradish is good for respiratory problems because it contains mustard oil. It is useful for flu, tonsillitis and urinary tract infections. A tea can be brewed that helps with the common cold, painful joints, and headache pain. Horseradish has antibiotic properties.
Horseradish can be used in several ways. The fresh grated root can be taken, or an infusion, or the fresh juice can be used or it can be made into a syrup. It is most commonly used as a condiment in cooking and can be used the same way as mustard.
Horseradish can have side effects, like irritation of the mouth, throat, nose, digestive system and urinary tract. It can cause upset stomach and diarrhea. As always, be sure to discuss using horseradish for medicinal purposes with your health care provider. Many herbs and medicines do not mix and professional guidance is necessary.