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Horseradish- The Culinary and Medicinal Crossover

Brittney Offenburg, BS Nutrition & Dietetics student





Horseradish, the herbaceous perennial often associated with its culinary role, has a long history of medicinal use as well. Horseradish’s latin name Armoracia rusticana is strickingling 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 till this day is mostly planted and harvested by hand. In fact, 60% of the world's horseradish is grown right here in the United States, making this plant very common and accessible. 


Botany Characteristics 


Referred to as mountain radish, this plant is believed to be native to southeastern Europe and Asia.  Standing up to two feet high and two feet wide during maturity, horseradish boasts long, green wrinkled leaves. Although the glossy leaves and white flowers are alluring, the magic lies beneath the surface. Very different below ground, the white flesh of the roots are pungent, fiery and not easily mistaken. Horseradish is a member of the Brassicacea family along with broccoli, radish, shepherd's purse and bok choy; all having 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. Caution should be taken when adding horseradish to any herb garden, as the root system can spread rapidly, grow deeply and be difficult to remove. 


Medicinal Value & Use


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. Best to be taken fresh to preserve the nutritional content, horseradish makes a wonderful addition to salad dressings, fresh sauces or pickled to save for a later date. Boasting roughly 37% percent of your daily value of Vitamin C, horseradish is not only medicinal but a nutritive plant as well. Looking for ways to incorporate this beneficial root into your diet? Start in the kitchen! 


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, and enjoy 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 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; offering digestive support, improving circulation and supporting healthy respiratory function. 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. Similarly to other members of the brassicaceae family, this constituent is also found in brussel sprouts, mustard and turnips. The warming nature of horseradish may support the removal of urine from the bladder, thus promoting healthy urinary function. As Peter Holmes best said it, “Horseradish root is nothing less than a restorer of innate warmth.”


A Bridge Between the Medicinal and Culinary World


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 Delphic oracle told Apollo, ``The radish is worth its weight in lead, the beet its weight in silver, the horseradish its weight in gold.” 



Brittney Offenburg believes in empowerment through education. She attended the Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism where she studied western herbalism and is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics from Metropolitan State University of Denver.


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