Horseradish appears to have originated in Western Asia and Southern Europe and was well known in Egypt. Its value as an important and powerful medicinal root has been known for thousands of years. The early colonists in North America brought horseradish to their new land.
By the mid 1800s the potash rich Mississippi river bottom lands near the tip of Southern Illinois became the best place to grow horseradish commercially and remains today as the producer of over half of the world’s horseradish.
The health benefits of horseradish are many. Vitamin C, folate, potassium, magnesium, calcium, zinc, fiber, enzymes and oils are packed into its white fleshy root.
The phytochemicals in horseradish give it the pungent taste and odor have been found to be extremely beneficial in preventing cancer. The isothiocynate and sinigrin help to enhance the strength of the immune system stimulating the production of the body’s main line of defense, the white blood cells. The sinigrin, a glucosinolate, is a specific antioxidant that inhibits the mutation of healthy cells into cancerous cells. By adding just a small amount of horseradish to the diet these components will help to fight off cancer and if cancer is already present will inhibit its metastasis. Glucosinolates increases the liver’s capacity for detoxifying carcinogens.
Related to broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, horseradish is even more powerful and has ten times the amount of glucosinolate than the other vegetables. The glucosinolates are broken down into isothiocynates and indoles. These are thought to be the primary cancer preventative factors.
Interestingly, horseradish in one of the few vegetables in which processing increases the antioxidant and cancer inhibiting compounds. By opening the root of the horseradish and then grating it the beneficial aspects of the plant are increased and released.
Sauce or juice taken from the root of the horseradish has been used to alleviate sinus discomfort and destroy bacteria that resides in the throat. Some recommend taking a half-teaspoon of fresh grated horseradish twice a day without any liquids for ten minutes. This, of course, causes an extreme feeling in the head but has been known to clear the sinuses.
Urinary tract infections are another target of the horseradish root. The German Government has even approved it as a corresponding therapy to help eliminate bacteria found in the bladder. The use of horseradish has a two-fold purpose since it also stimulates the elimination of urine causing the bacteria and toxins to be more readily evacuated from the body.
In addition to its positive effects in the body, horseradish can be used externally by rubbing on the skin to help ease the pain of arthritis and muscle aches. It acts by increasing the blood flow to the affected areas
Currently there is ongoing research being conducted on the positive effects of the horseradish root. The results are leading in a positive direction.
Below are some recipes for those who are not used to eating horseradish. Since horseradish is strong and pungent, it can be toned down by adding it to vegetables like potatoes or brussel sprouts.
Horseradish mashed potatoes
5 medium russet potatoes cooked and cut into pieces
¼ Cup sour cream
¼ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 t tablespoon of chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
Prepare cooked potatoes by mashing and adding the above ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste and for added flavor top with crumbled bacon.
Lemon Horseradish Dressing
6 tablespoons of mayonnaise
1 eight ounce container of sour cream
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate.
A great dressing to add to salads or to pour over prepared vegetables.