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What is Horseradish?

Horseradish is a large-leafed, hardy perennial native to eastern Europe and western Asia. It is grown commercially for its thick, fleshy, white roots that have a strong, irritating, and intensely pungent taste.

Scientific Name(s)

Armoracia rusticana, A. lapathiofolia

Common Name(s)

Horseradish is also known as pepperrot, mountain radish, red cole, and great raifort.

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Horseradish has been cultivated and used as a medicine and condiment for approximately 2,000 years. Early settlers brought the horseradish plant to America and the plant was commonplace in gardens by the early 1800s. Hardy varieties were obtained through plant selection and grown easily in the Midwest.

The horseradish root is used as a condiment and may be grated and mixed with other flavorings to make sauce or relish. Young, tender leaves have been used as a potherb and as a salad green. Horseradish is 1 of the 5 bitter herbs (horseradish, coriander, horehound, lettuce, nettle) consumed during the Jewish holiday of Passover. The root has a long history of use in traditional medicine. It has been used to treat lung and urinary tract infections, inflammation of the joints and tissues, sinus congestion, and swelling. It was applied to the skin to reduce pain from sciatica and facial pain. Internally, it was used to expel afterbirth, relieve colic, increase urination, and to kill intestinal worms in children.

General uses

Horseradish has been used internally as a condiment, GI stimulant and diuretic, and to treat intestinal worms, and externally for sciatica and facial pain. However, there are no clinical trials to support any therapeutic use for horseradish. Animal data suggest potential antibacterial and blood pressure-lowering effects.

What is the recommended dosage?

Traditional use for colds and respiratory infections was 20 g/day of fresh root. Externally, preparations with 2% mustard oil have been used.


Horseradish should not be used in patients with ulcers and in those with kidney impairment. Not recommended for children younger than 4 years.


Documented adverse effects. Avoid use. Use should be avoided during pregnancy and lactation because toxic irritants are released upon crushing. Horseradish may cause miscarriage.


None well documented.

Side Effects

Irritant effects on lining of the mouth, stomach, and intestines. External use may cause redness and rash. Horseradish is part of the cabbage and mustard family, and may impair thyroid function. Crushed horseradish may irritate mucous membranes upon contact or inhalation.


Ingestion of large amounts may cause bloody vomiting and diarrhea.


1. Horseradish. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons [database online]. St. Louis; MO: Wolters Kluwer Health Inc; April 2011.

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