Horseradish is a perrenial plant native to Southeastern Europe and Western Asia in the Brassicaceae family that is cultivated worldwide. It has long, white, fleshy roots, large rough basal leaves with wavy, toothed margins, and panicles of small white flowers. As a companion plant, growing horseradish near potato plants will increase the potatoes resistance to diseases. Left to it’s own devices, horseradish will grow and spread invasively in the garden. It prefers full sun and can tolerate any soil as long as it’s well drained. It does well with little care, but weekly watering and a little mulch helps it look its best. It’s grown easily by root divisions, and requires a frost or cold winter dormancy period to be successful. The roots are best collected in the winter after it’s first year and stored in sand.
Horseradish is a stimulant, carminative, rubefacient, mild laxative, and diuretic. It has heating properties often used for fevers and the flu with or in place of cayenne pepper, and it’s oils can help clear the sinuses, eliminate mucus, and treat inflamed gums, especially when combined with raw honey. It also stimulates the digestive system, which in turn can ease flatulence and pain. It is often used in a poultice for it’s stimulating actions on blood flow and rheumatic joint pain, and applied to the chest for bronchial infections. Its antibiotic and diurectic properties make it a useful treatment in gout and urinary tract infections as well.
Horseradish has been documented since the time of the ancient Greeks; in mythology, the Oracle at Delphi to Apollo that horseradish was worth it’s weight in gold. It’s documented in Roman cultures in murals at Pompeii and in Pliny the Elder’s writings. It was used in Medieval and renaissance Europe as a condiment and vegetable throughout Scandanavia, Britain, and Germany. It was introduced to North America with the colonists. Today Horseradish is a common ingredient in Eastern European and Jewish cooking, and is often prepared in a type of relish by grating the fresh root into white vinegar and letting it stand for about ten days, sometimes with grated beets as well, known as Chrain. The fresh leaves can also be eaten raw or cooked. It’s high in calcium, sodium, magnesium, and vitamins B and C.
Horseradish can be taken as a tea at about 1 teaspoon of the root to a cup of water, infused for 5 minutes. It can be drunk throughout the day, especially when treating the flu, fevers, or chest congestion. It can be used as a poultice by grating the fresh root into cloth and pressing to the skin – direct contact with the skin should be avoided. It’s also often prepared as a vegetable or condiment, but due to it’s fiery and mild laxative properties, ingesting large amounts of horseradish should be avoided. Only the fresh herb is effective, and can be kept fresh in the refrigerator or packed in damp sand.
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