Family: Brassicaceae (Cruciferae), Armoracia rusticana P. Gaertn., B. Mey. & Scherb.

Source: Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. 1984. Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate Zone. Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT.

Horseradish, Armoracia rusticana P. Gaertn., B. Mey. & Scherb., is a perennial herb native to Europe and Asia and naturalized in North America. This species has also been classified as Cochlearia armoracia L., Nasturtium armoracia (L.) Fries, Radicula armoracia (L.) B. L. Robinson, Rorippa armoracia (L.) A. S. Hitche., and Armoracia lapathiofolia Gilib. Reaching a height of one meter, the plant has deep, fleshy roots and bears white flowers on terminal panicles in late spring. Horseradish may be an interspecific hybrid and is generally reported to be sterile. However, viable seed has been produced (14.1-7). Principal production areas are located in the United States and, to a lesser extent, in Europe.

The reported life zone of horseradish is 5 to 19 degrees centigrade with an annual precipitation of 0.5 to 1.7 meters and a soil pH of 5.0 to 7.5 (4.1-31). The hardy horseradish thrives in moist, semi-shaded environments of the north-temperate regions of North America. Although the plant will grow on any soil type, best growth is in deep, rich loam soil high in organic matter.

Horseradish is planted with root crowns and root cuttings. Traditionally grown as a perennial in eastern Europe, the plant is cultivated as an annual in the United States. The originally planted root cuttings are harvested for market and the newly developed lateral roots are broken off and stored in the dark for planting during the following season. The planted roots increase in diameter, but not length, by the end of the growing season (October or November). Of the two types of horseradish produced, the crinkled-leaf or common horseradish is thought to be of higher quality but more susceptible to disease than the smooth-leaved Bohemian type.

The intense pungency and aroma of horseradish is the result of isothiocyanates released from the glucosinolates sinigrin and 2-phenylethylglucosinolate by the naturally occurring enzyme myrosinase (6.4-103, 14.1-7). Though the undisturbed root has little odor, pungency develops upon crushing or grinding the tissue. The roots are usually processed under refrigeration immediately after dicing, because of the high volatibility of the oil (6.4-103).

As a condiment the horseradish root is usually grated or minced and mixed with vinegar, salt, or other flavorings to make sauce or relish. These are often used with fish or other seafood or as an appetizer with meats. The plant material is also employed as an ingredient in some catsups and mustards. Horseradish is available in a dehydrated form.

The fresh root of horseradish has been considered an antiseptic, diaphoretic, diuretic, rubefacient, stimulant, stomachic, and vermifuge. The material has also been used as a remedy for asthma, coughs, colic, rheumatism, scurvy, toothache, ulcers, venereal diseases, and cancer (14.1-14). Peroxidase enzyme is extracted from the plant root and used as an oxidizer in chemical tests, such as blood glucose determinations. Horseradish has strong irritant activity and ingestion of large amounts can cause bloody vomiting and diarrhea (11.1-136). Livestock feeding on tops or roots of horseradish may be poisoned (11.1-96). The volatiles of horseradish root are reported to have herbicidal and microbial activity (1.8-127, 11.1-136).

Japanese horseradish, Wasabia japonica (Miq) Matsum., a glabrous perennial herb with creeping pungent rhizomes, is found wild along streams in Japan. Like regular horseradish, it is cultivated and used as a condiment (14.1-25). The horseradish tree, Moringa pterygosperma C. F. Gaertin (formerly Moringa oleifera Lam.) is a fragrant, flowering native of India with edible roots and fruits that belongs to the Moringaceae family (14.1-4).

Horseradish is generally recognized as safe for human consumption as a natural seasoning and flavoring (21 CFR section 182.10 [1982]).

[Note: References listed above in parentheses can be found in full in the original reference].

Aromatic and Medicinal Plants Index

Last modified 6-Dec-1997