I had two other ideas for this month’s column, however, horseradish kept pushing it’s snoot—or should I say root—into the equation. We had steamed shrimp Sunday evening and I used the last of my fresh horseradish in dipping sauce. My husband had a sinus headache all day Sunday and after he ate the horseradish sauce, his head opened up and his headache dissolved. Hmm. On Monday, a client came in and asked me what foods they could use for sinus congestion and then yesterday, another client asked what they could try for indigestion and again, sinus and fall allergies. Each time, horseradish came to mind. I had already started this month’s column, however, I put it aside and sat down with horseradish.
Horseradish is that wonderful biting hot flavor (i.e., cocktail sauce or a Bloody Mary) that makes your nose burn, your eyes water and opens your sinuses. This humble plant grows below ground but is an absolutely fantastic ingredient when making soups, sauces (try it with avocado), chili, and anything else to which you want to add a kick. Horseradish root looks like a long white carrot and is in the Brassicaceae family which also includes cabbage, broccoli, wasabi and mustard.
It is a very tolerant plant and likes all but very dry conditions, is easy to grow, but invasive, so if you want to plant it I would suggest you give it a space of it’s own. It will grow in full sun and even partial shade.
You can pick the young leaves to use fresh or to dry and store for future use. Dig the roots anytime to use fresh, but digging a fall harvest of mature horseradish roots and then storing them in a cool, dark place for winter means you will have fresh horseradish year round. Old timers tell me that the roots keep best stored in sand. A really easy way to store the roots is to wash them and place them in a jar filled with white wine vinegar. Or, you can wash, grate or slice and dry. When you are ready to use, wash, grate and enjoy!
Are you saying to yourself, “But what is it good for”? Hold onto your hat and let go of your sinus congestion! In her book Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health Rosemary Gladstar writes about horseradish, “What better remedy is there for sinus congestion and head colds? This is my number one favorite.” Gladstar gives us the following recipe: Horseradish Sauce For Sinus Congestion and Tinnitus; fresh horseradish root, apple cider vinegar and honey. She recommends you leave the food processor unplugged and use a hand grater to get your eyes watering and your nose running. That means, “The effects of horseradish have begun!” (The irritating effects horseradish has on your nasal passages are very beneficial because it cleans out the nasal passages and washes away harmful bacteria at the same time!). Mix the grated horseradish and vinegar together and add honey to taste. The great thing is that if you store in your sauce in the refrigerator in a glass jar it will keep for six months! Gladstar recommends you eat one to two teaspoons daily and says she mixes it with grains and vegetables or spreads it on crackers. A powerful remedy for sinus congestion!
But that’s not all. Horseradish is rich in minerals (including silica, potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc and manganese plus antioxidants) and vitamins including C, and also contains glucosilinates (mostly sinigrin which is a type of antioxidant) asparagine and resin. When crushed or grated, the sinigrin produces alkyl isothiocyaanate which is an antibiotic substance. These antibiotic properties may help with both respiratory (including bronchitis) and urinary tract infections while promoting healthy kidneys (acts as a diuretic) and may be helpful in lowering blood pressure (similar to some blood pressure medications). In fact It is said that it works better than some antibiotics without the unhealthy side effects. Its anti-inflammatory properties help to relieve arthritis as well as other inflammation in the body.
Horseradish is also a great digestive aid, especially when eaten with heavy, meaty meals because it strongly stimulates the digestion, thus increasing gastric secretions. It is considered a mild diuretic and promotes sweating when feverish with colds and flu. Horseradish also increases circulation.
Here is an old folk remedy for hay fever: make a sandwich with freshly grated horseradish root. You could add some stone ground mustard for a modern taste. (I love the flavor of stone ground mustard and horseradish).
Cautions: Overconsumption of horseradish may irritate the gastrointestinal tract, so adjust intake accordingly. Anyone with low thyroid function should avoid eating or do so sparingly.
Horseradish has been used for thousands of years in both medicinal and culinary practices throughout the world. You can buy it freshly grated in a jar as well as whole fresh roots at your grocery store, so don’t be afraid to give it a try. Horseradish will add a little spice to your life while relieving congestion as you settle until fall!Important Note! The information in Wholistically Speaking is for educational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose and/or treat diseases. If you have a health problem, I highly recommend you consult a competent health practitioner and educate yourself before embarking on any course of treatment.