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Horseradish is essentially a restorer of innate warmth to the whole body


Amoracia rusticana / Cochlearia armoracia Brassicaceae

Horseradish is stimulating, hot and pungent, acting to dispel cold, damp and congested conditions with an affinity for the digestive and respiratory systems.

Sustainability Status

Sustainability status

Not currently on risk lists but complete data may be missing on the status of the species. Read more about our sustainability guide.

Key benefits
  • Counteracts effects of cold on the body
  • Digestive remedy
  • Respiratory remedy
  • How does it feel?

    Horseradish is thought to be native to Eastern Europe, specifically parts of southern Russia and the Ukraine. The plant is part of the Brassicaceae family, which includes plants like mustard, wasabi and cabbage. It can grow to heights of between 1.5-2metres and is cultivated across the globe for its large, white root. It is a hardy, upright perennial plant with large, dark green lobed leaves and characteristic small white flowers that grow in bunches towards the top of the plant.

  • What can I use it for?

    Horseradish contains glucosinolates, specifically a constituent known as sinigrin which is broken down to produce allyl isothiocyanate, also known as mustard oil. This volatile oil is hot, stimulating and pungent. When applied externally, it stimulates blood flow to the surface of the skin and encourages vasodilation. When taken internally, these strong volatile components prove particularly effective as decongestants and also as digestive stimulants. Glucosinolates contain portions of sulphur, which exhibit some antibiotic activity and can be useful in fighting chronic infections characterised by mucous congestion.

    Glucosinolates act directly upon the thyroid, and can depress its functioning, which can prove useful in cases of hyperthyroidism, but are contra-indicated in hypothyroidism.

  • Into the heart of horseradish

    horseradish rootHorseradish is suited to cold and damp conditions characterised by a poor circulation and excess mucous or phlegm. Its stimulating pungency ignites the digestive fire and clears toxicity and stuck congestion within the intestines, including yeast and bacterial overgrowths or imbalances. The volatile oils present in horseradish also display antiseptic and analgesic actions within the body, helping to relieve pain influenced by swelling, infection and toxic congestions within the digestive or respiratory system such as phlegm and mucous. Horseradish is also effective against conditions that are characterised by the presence of an obstruction, most commonly within the urinary and respiratory system. The pungency of horseradish will help to eliminate obstructions and expel them from the body in the form of expectoration or through urination.

    Indicated in digestive systems characterised by cold, damp and mucous based conditions such as loose stools, appetite loss, nausea, flatulence, indigestion and abdominal swelling. Its antibiotic and analgesic qualities also indicate horseradish in cases of gastroenteritis. Its hot pungency makes horseradish effective at removing excess microbial overgrowths within the digestive system such as candida or general dysbiosis.

    Horseradish is indicated in cold, damp and mucous based conditions of the respiratory system such as excess mucous production characterised by coughing, sinusitis, chronic bronchitis and chronic asthma. It will remove excess phlegm and stagnation by encouraging expectoration.

    Indicated in conditions of the musculoskeletal system characterised by pain and inflammation such as arthritis and gout but also in neuralgic pain and cold extremities. Horseradish will stimulate the circulation and remove stagnation, whilst also acting as an effective painkiller.

    Horseradish is indicated blocked urination, dysuria, urinary stones and anuria. This herb will help to drain fluid congestion and also remove any obstructions from the urinary tract and kidneys.

    Indicated in chronic infections or infected wounds, also parasitic infections and food poisonings. It can be used to effectively treat flu, nephritis, cystitis and bronchitis.

  • Traditional actions

  • Traditional energetic actions

    Herbal energetics are the descriptions Herbalists have given to plants, mushrooms, lichens, foods, and some minerals based on the direct experience of how they taste, feel, and work in the body. All traditional health systems use these principles to explain how the environment we live in and absorb, impacts our health. Find out more about traditional energetic actions in our article “An introduction to herbal energetics“.

  • Did you know?

    When you cut or grate the horseradish root, enzymes present in the root break down sinigrin, a glucosinolate, that produces allyl isothiocyanate also known as mustard oil. It is this component that is responsible for the ‘biting’ taste present in mustard and horseradish condiments.

Additional information

  • Safety

    May irritate eyes & skin when grating/cutting fresh root. Best preserved in vinegar otherwise it quickly loses potency.

  • Dosage

    Fresh: 2 to 4 grams before meals

    Tincture: 0.25-0.5ml (25%) daily

    External: Can be applied as a poultice to painful joints & for chest infections

Horseradish (Amoracia rusticana/Cochlearia armoracia)
An ‘aromatic’ remedy, high in volatile essential oils, was most often associated with calming and sometimes ‘warming’ the digestion. Most kitchen spices and herbs have this quality: they were used both as flavouring and to ease the digestion of sometimes challenging pre-industrial foods. Many aromatics are classed as ‘carminatives’ and are used to reduce colic, bloating and agitated digestion. They also often feature in respiratory remedies for colds, chest and other airway infections. They are also classic calming inhalants and massage oils, and are the basis of aromatherapy for their mental benefits.
Astringent taste
The puckering taste you get with many plants (the most familiar is black tea after being stewed too long, or some red wines) is produced by complex polyphenols such as tannins. Tannins are used in concentrated form (eg from oak bark) to make leather from animal skins. The process of ‘tanning’ involves the coagulation of relatively fluid proteins in living tissues into tight clotted fibres (similar to the process of boiling an egg). Tannins in effect turn exposed surfaces on the body into leather. In the case of the lining of mouth and upper digestive tract this is only temporary as new mucosa are replenished, but in the meantime can calm inflamed or irritated surfaces. In the case of open wounds tannins can be a life-saver – when strong (as in the bark of broadleaved trees) they can seal a damaged surface. One group of tannins, the reddish-brown ‘condensed tannins’ are procyanidins, which can reduce inflammation and oxidative damage.
Bitters are a very complex group of phytochemicals that stimulate the bitter receptors in the mouth. They were some of the most valuable remedies in ancient medicine. They were experienced as stimulating appetite and switching on a wide range of key digestive functions, including increasing bile clearance from the liver (as bile is a key factor in bowel health this can be translated into improving bowel functions and the microbiome). Many of these reputations are being supported by new research on the role of bitter receptors in the mouth and elsewhere round the body. Bitters were also seen as ‘cooling’ reducing the intensity of some fevers and inflammatory diseases.
Blue-purple colouring
Any fruits with a blue-purple colouring contain high levels of the polyphenols known as anthocyanins. These work 1) on the walls of small blood vessels, helping to maintain capillary structure to reduce a key stage in inflammation, and improving the microcirculation to the tissues; 2) to improve retinal function and vision; 3) to support connective tissue repair around the body.
Traditional ‘cold’ or cooling’ remedies often contain bitter phytonutrients such a iridoids (gentian), sesiquterpenes (chamomile), anthraquinones (rhubarb root), mucilages (marshmallow), some alkaloids and flavonoids. They tend to influence the digestive system, liver and kidneys. Cooling herbs do just that; they diffuse, drain and clear heat from areas of inflammation, redness and irritation. Sweet, bitter and astringent herbs tend to be cooling.
Traditional ‘hot’ or ‘heating’ remedies, often containing spice ingredients like capsaicin, the gingerols (ginger), piperine (black or long pepper), curcumin (turmeric) or the sulfurous isothiocyanates from mustard, horseradich or wasabi, generate warmth when taken. In modern times this might translate as thermogenic and circulatory stimulant effects. There is evidence of improved tissue blood flow with such remedies: this would lead to a reduction in build-up of metabolites and tissue damage. Heating remedies were used to counter the impact of cold, reducing any symptoms made worse in the cold. .
Mucilages are complex carbohydrate based plant constituents with a slimy or ‘unctuous’ feel especially when chewed or macerated in water. Their effect is due simply to their physical coating exposed surfaces. From prehistory they were most often used as wound remedies for their soothing and healing effects on damaged tissues. Nowadays they are used more for these effects on the digestive lining, from the throat to the stomach, where they can relieve irritation and inflammation such as pharyngitis and gastritis. Some of the prominent mucilaginous remedies like slippery elm, aloe vera and the seaweeds can be used as physical buffers to reduce the harm and pain caused by reflux of excess stomach acid. Mucilages are also widely used to reduce dry coughing. Here the effect seems to be by reflex through embryonic nerve connections: reduced signals from the upper digestive wall appear to translate as reduced activity of airway muscles and increased activity of airway mucus cells. Some seed mucilages, such as in psyllium seed, flaxseed (linseed) or guar bean survive digestion to provide bulking laxative effects in the bowel. These can also reduce rate of absorption of sugar and cholesterol. .
New-mown hay aroma
The familiar country odour of haymaking, of drying grass and other plants, is largely produced by coumarins (originally isolated from tonka beans – in French coumarou) and widely used in perfumery. They are chemically categorised as benzopyrone lactones and are important phytochemicals, with strong antioxidant activity in the laboratory and likely effects in modulating inflammation. They were most often associated with the calming effect linked to their use in stuffing mattresses and pillows and plants, high In coumarins were commonly used for these properties.
Resins are most familiar as tacky discharges from pine trees (and as the substance in amber, and rosin for violin bows). They were most valued however as the basis of ancient commodities like frankincense and myrrh (two of the three gifts of the Three Wise Men to the baby Jesus) and getting access to their source was one benefit to Solomon for marrying the Queen of Sheba (now Ethiopia). Resins were the original antiseptic remedies, ground and applied as powders or pastes to wounds or inflamed tissues, and were also used for mummification. With alcohol distillation it was found that they could be dissolved in 90% alcohol and in this form they remain a most powerful mouthwash and gargle, for infected sore throats and gum disease. They never attracted much early research interest because they permanently coat expensive glassware! For use in the mouth, gums and throat hey are best combined with concentrated licorice extracts to keep the resins in suspension and add extra soothing properties. It appears that they work both as local antiseptics and by stimulating white blood cell activity under the mucosal surface. They feel extremely effective!
The salty flavour is immediately distinctive. A grain dropped onto the tongue is instantly moistening and a sprinkle on food enkindles digestion. This easily recognisable flavour has its receptors right at the front of the tongue. The salty flavor creates moisture and heat, a sinking and heavy effect which is very grounding for the nervous system and encourages stability. People who are solid and reliable become known as ‘the salt of the earth'.
The sharp taste of some fruits, and almost all unripe fruits, as well as vinegar and fermented foods, is produced by weak acids (the taste is generated by H+ ions from acids stimulating the sour taste buds). Sour taste buds are hard-wired to generate immediate reflex responses elsewhere in the body. Anyone who likes the refreshing taste of lemon or other citrus in the morning will know that one reflex effect is increased saliva production. Other effects are subjective rather than confirmed by research but there is a consistent view that they include increased digestive activity and contraction of the gallbladder.
In the days when most people never tasted sugar, ‘sweetness’ was associated with the taste of basic foods: that of cooked vegetables, cereals and meat. In other words sweet was the quality of nourishment, and ‘tonic’ remedies. Describing a remedy as sweet generally led to that remedy being used in convalescence or recovery from illness. Interestingly, the plant constituents most often found in classic tonics like licorice, ginseng are plant steroids including saponins, which also have a sweet taste.

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