Humble Horseradish: Pungent Root MedicineCarol Little, RH December 4, 2020
As a traditional herbalist and food writer, I have long been interested in the healing power of food and the benefits of plant medicine. Horseradish belongs in both camps – as a powerful food and a medicinal plant.
Horseradish offers a variety of health benefits when added to meals. A study by the University of Illinois showed that it contains substantial quantities of glucosinolates – compounds known to increase human resistance to cancer. The power of this ‘humble hot shot’ root is created chemically when it is grated or agitated to release constituents that, working together, produce magic! An effective daily dose of horseradish can be as little as one gram, or less than a teaspoon.
In addition, this humble root contains antibacterial, antibiotic, anti-parasitic, anti-anemic, and aperient properties. It is also a coronary vasodilator, a digestive, a diuretic, and an expectorant, which means that it stimulates a number of body systems and can be used to aid mild circulatory problems, weak digestion, and water retention. A potent digestive elixir can be created by combining horseradish with carminative herbs and apple cider vinegar.
According to Richard Mabey, author of The New Age Herbalist, “Horseradish is a powerful circulatory stimulant with antibiotic properties due to the mustard oil it contains. It is effective for lung and urinary infections because mustard oil is excreted through these channels.”
Culinary Herbalist Pat Crocker, author of 23 healthy herb books, is also a fan of horseradish: “Long before it found its way onto Sunday dinner plates between the mashed potatoes and the roast beef, horseradish was used medicinally. Indeed, Delphi, the most important oracle in Greek mythology, told Apollo that the radish was worth its weight in lead, the beet its weight in silver, and the horseradish its weight in gold.”
Sinus pain due to blocked sinus passages and/or infection is probably the most common ailment for which I have personally used horseradish. Sometimes all that you need is a quick, old-fashioned remedy: Grate horseradish and put a smidge (1/4 tsp or so) in your mouth, holding it there until the flavor subsides, usually within 30 seconds, before swallowing. People tend to initially shy away from this remedy, but those who try it often find that blocked mucous loosens and drains, thus relieving sinus pressure in a short time. Doing this daily for a few days has resulted in the complete clearing of sinus infections for some of my clients.
CHRZAN: Polish Horseradish Condiment
Years ago, I had the good fortune to visit Poland with my friend Grace. The entire trip was a feast, an adventure in new tastes. Thanks to Grace for sharing her family recipe for “Polish Horseradish”. It is historically made from horseradish root and white wine vinegar, prepared by hand. I confess to using a food processor, which makes this recipe much easier to prepare.
1 pound fresh horseradish root, peeled and grated
1/2 cup white wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
1/4 teaspoon each sea salt and pepper (to taste)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon demerara sugar (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a glass bowl. Pack into clean, sterilized pint jars. The condiment can be stored, covered, in the fridge for up to two weeks.
(Note: I have sometimes made a huge batch by using 2 pounds of roots and adapting the recipe above accordingly.)
CWIKLA: Polish Horseradish & Beet Condiment Recipe
This is a tasty pretty PINK condiment – and a totally fabulous flavor enhancer!
1 pound beets (cooked, peeled, cooled, and grated)
2 cups grated fresh horseradish root (or ‘prepared’ horseradish sold in jars in the fridge section of grocery store)
1 tsp unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp brown sugar (optional)
In a large bowl, mix vinegar, brown sugar, horseradish and salt until well combined.
Add grated beets and mix thoroughly.
Spoon into clean, sterilized glass jars and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Recipe Note: The sugar in this recipe goes with the traditional way to make this condiment. However, I have found that the beets provide enough sweet flavour. Leave it out if sugar is not a part of your lifestyle.
Cold Kicker Honey
I love to add herbs to raw honey to create cold remedies. They’re easy to make and simple to change to suit what’s needed. Honey helps to coat the throat and relieve irritation. Both antimicrobial and antioxidant, honey also helps to fight bacteria and viruses. Ginger helps to overcome the most common type of cold virus, the rhinovirus, due to a high sesquiterpene content. Horseradish packs a nutritive punch, and also helps liquefy phlegm which can clear and relieve a cough. Prepare this sweet remedy in advance for the next time you feel a cold coming on:
2 cups raw honey
1/2 of one ginger root, sliced or grated
1/2 of one horseradish root, grated
Combine grated fresh ginger root and horseradish root in a pot of good quality honey. Place the formula in a glass jar, seal, and let sit for a couple of weeks, if possible.
Eat this potent honey by the spoonful to soothe sore throats and alleviate cold or cough symptoms, or add a teaspoon to a cup of sage tea.
A new addition to my repertoire is a simple beet relish, courtesy of my friend Julie. It complements virtually any meat or vegetable entrée with a big punch of flavor. It’s easy to make and is addictive.
8 cups raw beets, grated or finely diced
1 cup raw horseradish, grated
1 cup raw onions, finely chopped
1/4 – 1/2 cup organic cane sugar (optional)
1 tsp sea salt
4 cups unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
Combine all ingredients in a pot and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes. Pour hot mixture into sterilized jars, seal, and refrigerate. Keeps for one to two weeks.
Healing Soup for Winter
I’ve come to realize that I feel a lot better when I choose foods that stoke my digestive fire and stimulate my eyes to tear and my nose to run; in other words, foods that help my body eliminate accumulated toxins while enhancing immune system function. In winter, I like to make a huge batch of chicken soup that friends, family, and clients have dubbed ‘healing soup’ due to its wonderful effects on well-being.
Vegetarians can substitute vegetable broth for the chicken stock and use shiitake mushrooms instead of chicken. This recipe is just a guide – the most important aspect of the soup is the combination of healing and warming herbs. Everything else is optional. I use the same “pack of healers” when making cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, squash, leek, potato, or corn chowder. Sometimes I add pesto or a combination of shiitake, reishi, and turkey tail mushrooms, which have been ‘brewed’ and frozen into ice cube trays. Keep leftover soup in the freezer for a handy supper on cold winter nights.
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 – 3 onions, chopped
10 – 12 peeled garlic cloves
4 cups chicken (free-range or organic) in cooked, bite-sized pieces
Chicken stock – low sodium organic
2 cups of celery, carrots, parsnips, corn, peas (combined)
1 cup horseradish root, grated
2 inches ginger root, grated
1 tsp cayenne powder
In a soup pot over medium heat, heat the oil and add onions; sauté until tender. Add 1 to 2 crushed garlic cloves at the beginning, but keep most until the very end to ensure garlic’s medicine is intact.
Add the chicken stock, horseradish, ginger, cayenne, and a dash of salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the vegetables and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the cooked chicken. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add the remaining garlic and serve.
At home, we like to add piquant or pungent condiments to both lunch and dinner. I’m a bit of a wimp with cayenne – it causes lips to burn or become numb – so I rely more heavily on ginger, onions, garlic, and horseradish. A number of quick condiments can be made using a basic recipe with many possible substitutions. It can be a paste, spread, sauce, or herbal butter. Play with the ingredients and use your imagination. Have fun.
3 Tbsp horseradish root, grated
1/2 cup tahini (or hummus, cream cheese, or 1/2 stick unsalted butter)
1-1/2 Tbsp minced chives (or thyme, rosemary, or your choice of herbs)
2 tsp prepared mustard (or 1 tsp dried mustard) or to taste
1-2 Tbsp fresh lime or lemon juice
1/2 – 1 tsp sea salt (to taste)
Measure all ingredients into a glass bowl and combine thoroughly. Serve with any dish that needs a flavourful boost.
Note: If making an herbal butter, I sometimes finish it with cracked peppercorns, lavender, or finely chopped calendula (or other edible flowers from the garden).
Zesty Apple Salsa
This easy-to-make spicy condiment has been well-received in my home for years. This recipe came from a friend, so I don’t know its original source. I’ve since altered it and tried it with pears as well. It adds spark to conventional traditions.
4 tart apples (Granny Smith or similar), grated
1-2 Tbsp unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
4 Tbsp fresh horseradish, grated
1-2 tsp paprika or 1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp apple juice or white wine (optional)
Grate the horseradish into a bowl. Add the apples, vinegar, and paprika or cinnamon. If more moistening is desired, use white wine or unsweetened apple juice. Mix well and serve fresh with vegetable, meat, or cheese dishes.
Whichever way you decide to use this powerhouse herbal heat wave, I am confident that horseradish will enhance your life by adding a kick to your daily meals, and by doing so, bring a happy tear to your eye and a spring to your step.
Carol Little R.H. is a traditional herbalist in Toronto where she has a private practice working primarily with women. Carol writes an herb-infused blog filled with seasonal tidbits, helpful hints and ways to embrace herbs and healing foods. Come for a visit @ https://www.studiobotanica.com She offers a seasonal newsletter with additional recipes and ideas for living a herbalicious life! She is a past board member and current professional member of the Ontario Herbalists Association. She writes a chapter each year in the “Herb of the Year” book for the International Herb Association. Check out her 2 popular ebooks, available at Studio Botanica. Follow her on social media here: FaceBook @ http://www.facebook.com/studiobotanica Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/herbgal Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/studiobotanica