Parts used and where grown: Horseradish likely originated in Eastern Europe, but today it is cultivated worldwide. The root is used as both food and medicine.
Horseradish has been used in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual health concern for complete information):
Common cold/sore throat
Urinary tract infection
Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
An herb is primarily supported by traditional use, or the herb or supplement has little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.
Historical or traditional use (may or may not be supported by scientific studies): Horseradish, known for its pungent taste, has been used as a medicine and condiment for centuries in Europe. Its name is derived from the common practice of naming a food according to its similarity with another food (horseradish was considered a rough substitute for radishes).
Horseradish was utilized both internally and externally by European herbalists. Applied to the skin, it causes reddening and was used on arthritic joints or irritated nerves. Internally, it was considered to be a diuretic and was used by herbalists to treat kidney stones or edema. It was also recommended as a digestive stimulant and to treat worms, coughs, and sore throats.1
Active constituents: Horseradish contains volatile oils that are similar to those found in mustard. These include glucosinolates (mustard oil glycosides), gluconasturtiin, and sinigrin, which yield allyl isothiocynate when broken down in the stomach. In test tubes, the volatile oils in horseradish have shown antibiotic properties, which may account for its effectiveness in treating throat and upper respiratory tract infections.2 At levels attainable in human urine after taking the volatile oil of horseradish, the oil has been shown to kill bacteria that can cause urinary tract infections3 and one early trial found that horseradish extract may be a useful treatment for people with urinary tract infections.4 Further studies are still necessary, however, to confirm horseradish’s safety and effectiveness in treating urinary tract infections.
How much is usually taken? The German Commission E monograph suggests an average daily intake of 4 teaspoons (20 grams) of the fresh root for adults.5 Alternatively, 1/2–1 teaspoon (3–5 grams) of the freshly grated root can be eaten three times per day. Horseradish tincture is also available and is sometimes taken at 1/2–3/4 teaspoon (2–3 ml) three times daily. The German Commission E also recommends external use of horseradish for respiratory tract congestion as well as minor muscle aches. A poultice can be prepared by grating the fresh root and spreading it on a linen cloth or thin gauze. This is then applied against the skin once or twice per day until a burning sensation is experienced.
Are there any side effects or interactions? If used in amounts higher than recommended, horseradish can cause stomach upset,6 vomiting, or excessive sweating. Direct application to the skin or eyes may cause irritation and burning. Horseradish should be avoided by people with hypothyroidism, gastritis, peptic ulcer disease, and kidney disorders. Horseradish should not be used by women during pregnancy or breast-feeding or by children under four years of age.7
1. Grieve M. A Modern Herbal, vol 2. New York: Dover Publications, 1971, 417–9.
2. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum, 1988, 207.
3. Kienholz VM, Kemkes B. The anti-bacterial action of ethereal oils obtained from horse radish root (Cochlearia armoracia L.). Arzneim Forsch 1961;10:917–8 [in German].
4. Schindler VE, Zipp H, Marth I. Comparative clinical investigations of an enzyme glycoside mixture obtained from horse radish roots (Cochlearia armoracia L). Arzneim Forsch 1961;10:919–21 [in German].
5. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 150.
6. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 150.
7. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 150.
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The information presented in VitaminLore Online is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over-the-counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2006.