Horseradish possesses an unforgettable flavor and has been used for thousands of years as both a vegetable and herb. Today, you'll probably see it used most frequently as a pungent condiment often served with steak or roast beef.
Besides tasting good (if you like spicy condiments), horseradish also packs in quite a few health benefits. If you've ever tried it, you've probably already experienced its sinus-clearing ability for yourself.
Here's more about the power of horseradish and how it might be able to help you stay well.
What Is Horseradish?
Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) is believed to have originated in eastern Europe, possibly in Russia. It belongs to the Brassica family of vegetables, which makes it related to broccoli, cabbage, mustard greens, wasabi, and radishes.
Though technically a vegetable, horseradish is used most often as a spice. Both the leaves and the roots can be used, although the root is much more commonly used today.
The long, white roots contain a compound known as sinigrin, which gets broken down and released as an oil when the root is cut. This is what gives horseradish its very distinct smell and taste- and health-boosting properties. (1)
No one knows for sure how horseradish got its name. One theory is that it comes from a mistranslation of "sea radish" from German into English. (The German word for "sea" is somewhat similar to the word for "mare" or "old horse".)
Top Health Benefits of Horseradish
Packed with Nutrients and Antioxidants
Horseradish isn't extremely high in any one nutrient, but it does contain a good variety of vitamins and minerals.
Top nutrients include vitamin C, folate, potassium, magnesium, zinc, calcium, and manganese. The root also has a good amount of dietary fiber and is low on calories. (2)
To go along with these nutrients, horseradish also contains powerful antioxidants and plant compounds that contribute to its health-promoting effects. This includes glucosinolates, which have cancer-fighting properties. (3)(4)
Gives Your Immune System a Boost
Horseradish is one of the traditional ingredients in fire cider because of its immune-boosting power.
It has long been used for coughs and colds and has antimicrobial properties that may help fight off infection. So far, the oil that gets released from the root and isolated compounds from the root have particularly shown activity against certain bacteria and fungal pathogens. (5)(6)
If your immune system could use some extra support, try something like this Rapid Immune Boost Extract with horseradish.
Helps Clear Congestion
One obvious benefit of horseradish is that it can help relieve congestion both in your chest and sinuses. It has expectorant and anticatarrhal properties, which means it encourages a productive cough and thins mucus.
Some studies also show that horseradish may provide special support for respiratory infections. In one instance, a preparation of horseradish root and nasturtium was just as effective as an antibiotic at treating sinus infections and bronchitis. (7)
Horseradish contains enzymes and plant compounds that stimulate digestion and promote liver health. It's considered a cholagogue, which means it stimulates the production of bile, a substance that helps your body digest food.
In fact, one reason horseradish is traditionally consumed with some type of beef is because it improves digestion of protein and heavy foods.
In addition to kickstarting your digestion, horseradish also has antibacterial effects against a few common pathogens that cause stomach infections. This includes E. coli, Helicobacter pylori, and Salmonella. (8)(9)
Diuretic Effect That May Help UTIs
Another one of the traditional health benefits of horseradish is using it as a diuretic. A diuretic is something that stimulates urination, which can help relieve fluid retention and flush toxins out of the kidneys and bladder.
This action, plus some of the active compounds in horseradish, may also help treat urinary tract infections (UTIs).
In one study, an herbal "drug" made of horseradish and nasturtium was nearly as effective as an antibiotic at clearing up UTIs. Notably, it had a much better safety profile than the antibiotic. (7)
May Help With Aches and Pains
While we most often think of eating horseradish, it also has some applications when used externally.
Horseradish was once used as a natural pain-reliever for back and joint pain (including all the way back in ancient Greece). It does have anti-inflammatory properties, which could help with pain, and can be rubbed into joints or muscles to promote circulation. (10)
If you want to try it for this purpose, just remember that horseradish is hot and may irritate sensitive skin.
How to Use Horseradish
Unless you grow horseradish yourself, you'll most likely only be able to find the roots to work with, which are the most potent part of the plant.
Of course, you can use horseradish as a condiment, even using fresh roots to make your own version of a sauce. Just a tiny bit of the root or a homemade sauce can help with sinus congestion and stimulate digestion.
For extra immune-boosting power, look for fresh horseradish root in the store and combine it with apple cider vinegar, garlic, onions, peppers, and other ingredients to make homemade fire cider.
Horseradish can also be made into an herbal infusion by pouring boiling water over the grated root and letting it steep. In times past, it was even infused into wine for a very potent remedy.
The biggest precaution with horseradish is to remember its strong, spicy nature. A little bit goes a long way, and too much of it may do more harm than good.
For those with sensitive stomachs, even a little horseradish can be too overpowering and cause nausea, a burning sensation, and indigestion. In this case, it's probably not the best herb to use.
Most experts recommend against large amounts of horseradish during pregnancy and breastfeeding (small culinary amounts may be fine, depending on the person). Also, it's not the best herb for young children who are likely to be sensitive to the heat.
Finally, use caution if you want to try using it topically. It can cause skin irritation, especially if large amounts of the oil come in contact with your skin.
Horseradish for Health
There are few herbs more pungent and potent than horseradish. It isn't everyone's cup of tea, but if you like the flavor, feel free to use more of this root, especially during the cold and flu months of fall and winter.
Adding horseradish to a heavy meal can help you digest it better and just a small amount is sinus-clearing and helps with congestion.
Use this fiery veggie/herb with respect and be ready for some powerful results!
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and should not be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your health care provider, herbalist, midwife, or naturopathic physician before taking herbs, supplements, etc. Here's the link to our full disclaimer.