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Horseradish, Other Names - Past and Present
Chinese: la gen
Japanese: seiyowasabi (lit. 'Western wasabi')
Korean: seoyang gochu naeng-i
Hindi: mooli / mula / muli
Greek (ancient): thlaspi / persicon
French: raifort / cran de Bretagne / cranson / grand raifort / moutarde des Allemands / moutarde des Capucins / moutardelle / radis de Ceval / raifort sauvage
Spanish: rabano picante / rabano rustico
English: redcole / stingnose / horseradish
Latin (esoteric): raphanus / amoracia
Latin (scientific nomenclature): Armoracia rusticana / Cochlearia armoracia
Background and History
Horseradish is a highly popular spice that has been in the culinary and medicinal repertoire of some parts of the Eastern and a greater part of the Western world since ancient times. A moderately-sized perennial plant (which may take on annual traits given the proper environment), it is related to cabbages, mustard, and wasabi (the famed pungent, Japanese spice), and is actually often employed as either a vegetable (in lieu of cabbage) or as an alternative for both mustard and wasabi. It is generally known for its pungent root, which has long been employed as both a condiment and a spice, most predominantly in the West.
Horseradish is generally characterised by broad, curly to wrinkled dark-green leaves (superficially resembling some species of Chinese cabbage or lettuce), and for its tiny, ivory-white to dirty-white inflorescence tipped with yellow stamens which grow on separate stems from the main branch of the plant itself. The plant, which can grow to a maximum of five feet tall if left to its own devices, was initially wild-crafted, but is now largely cultivated, chiefly for its tapered white roots, which tend to grow quite sizably once the plant reaches maturity. While nearly the whole of the plant's constituent parts are edible, the roots of the horseradish is the most regularly employed part, due to its possessing the most significant amounts of the active compound allyl isotiocyanate (mustard oil) - the compound which gives horseradish its spicy kick and uniquely pungent flaovur and aroma. 
Horseradish is an ancient plant in spite of its generally 'modern' applications. Considered a native of European soil, it has also flourished quite well in the western parts of Asia, although its usage as both a vegetable and a spice has extended to nearly the whole of the globe. The plant's reputation as a potent and unique spice was well-known even during ancient times, with the earliest mention of its employment as both a spice and a vegetable dating back Ancient Egypt (circa 1, 500 B. C.), where its roots have been used as a medicine and a culinary condiment. The plant may have been brought into Egypt by Asiatic traders, or it may have been bartered, traded, or purchased from species which grew on Grecian territories. 
Horseradish initially began as a somewhat commonplace herb for the Grecian culture, although its myriad of uses soon earned it a veritable reputation as a gustatory marvel, perhaps by accident, when the cultivated plants were employed, perhaps in times of famine, as a root-crop. Greek mythology prizes horseradish as a prized plant, with the Oracle of Delphi supposedly professing it to be worth its weight in gold. 
By the Middle Ages, the use of horseradish veered from being both culinary and medicinal to purely medicinal, with only a few selected areas in Europe who employed the root as a condiment and spice. Unlike other spices which tended to be very costly, horseradish was, in a sense, more affordable, mainly due to the profuse number of European species which made it readily available to the Western world at large. In spite of ready access to to the spice, it was only employed as a condiment and a spice by a select number of European cultures (i. e. Germans, Scandinavians, Britannians), while Eastern Europeans and Russians employed the plant's leaves and consumed it more as a vegetable. It was not until much later that the French adopted the use of horseradish root as a seasoning and condiment, although this was primarily due to its pungency and (for some) disagreeable spiciness, which contrasted with atypical French cuisine, which is known for its more mellow or layered flavour palate. 
In modern times, horseradish has become a famed and near-indispensable condiment and spice, added unto, and applied to a wide array of foodstuffs, typically meat-based, although a number of vegetablebased dishes and even some types of drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and desserts also benefit from the addition of horseradish. While initially employed in its fresh state, usually often ground and consumed near instantaneously, as the spice's flavour tends to dissipate if exposed for too long in the air, it is now often bottled in sauce form. Bottled 'prepared horseradish' was among the earliest convenience foods, having first been sold in bottled form in the early 1860s. Some gourmet and artisanal restaurants may opt to grate horseradish fresh for consumption, although most modern applications involve either pre-bottled horseradish and vinegar combinations (referred to as 'prepared horseradish', a still relatively traditional means of preparing the spice), or processed sauce-like concoctions. Whole horseradish is sometimes employed, usually grated fresh as needed. Some countries even employ whole horseradish as a vegetable and root-crop, although this practice is rare. Ground and powdered horseradish, as well as horseradish 'extracts' are also widely available in nearly every grocery isle, although due to the sensitivity and short 'half-life' of the plant's volatile compounds, pre-processed horseradish tend to be somewhat milder than freshly employed ones. Most horseradish preparations available in stores have some sort of artificial stabiliser or preservative that helps to keep the flavours of the spice from fading too quickly, but it is a far cry from fresh horseradish.
Common / Popular Uses
Horseradish is predominantly used as a spice and a condiment throughout the majority of the Western parts of the world, with a history of usage that dates back to the time of the Ancient Egyptians and Greeks. Horseradish is considered a highly popular condiment, as is consumed with just about as much relish as is mustard or chili sauce, and may even be used as a substitute for either in some recipes. Because the active ingredients found in horseradish is extremely volatile, immediate consumption (or integration of the ground, grated, or sliced parts in an acidic solution, i. e. acetic acid or ascorbic acid), helps to preserve its flavour and pungency. If left untreated, the spiciness of the herb eventually degenerates, until the whole becomes somewhat bitter. While this can be undesirable for recipes which call for the spice's unique flavour, when employed as a root crop or vegetable, the lessening of the often uncomfortably spicy flavour is desired. Horseradish may be added to any type of meat or meat-based dishes, usually when grated or sliced from a whole root. It can likewise be incorporated into soups and stews, or employed to flavour roasts. Prepared horseradish may be added onto sandwiches, burgers, and the like as a condiment, or otherwise integrated into salads, and even some varieties of dessert. Because it contains natural antibacterial and antiseptic substances, foodstuffs that contain horseradish tend to remain fresh for longer. It's antimicrobial properties also combat the presence of food-borne bacteria such as Ecoli, Listeria, and staphyloccocus. 
In the medicinal field, its employment dates back to the time of the Ancient Greeks, who used horseradish root as a stimulatory spice for the relief of muscular pains, the reduction of swelling usually brought about by blunt trauma, and as a mild expectorant.  The Ancient Greeks also integrated horseradish root into an assortment of foodstuffs in the belief that it possesses aphrodisiac qualities.
Horseradish was predominantly employed medicinally during the Middle Ages, where it was usually grated or sliced and then strongly decocted, or otherwise bruised, crushed, and applied directly as a poultice. Horseradish root (and, as it was then believed by Mediaeval apothecaries it's leaves) possesses potent stimulant, rubefacient, diuretic, aperient, and antiseptic properties. It was often incorporated as a spice to hearty or heavy meals to help aid digestion and whet the appetite.  Mediaeval herbalists often macerated whole bruised horseradish roots in vinegar, and the resulting solution then diluted with water or wine and drunk to help act as a digestif. When gently heated in wine or incorporated into mulled cider, it was drunk to relieve flatulence, diarrhea, indigestion, and even mild fever. When integrated into foodstuffs and partaken of by sick individuals, it can help to reduce the severity of fevers, coughs, and flu. Hot meals or warm drinks containing horseradish makes for an excellent means to rid oneself of nasal congestions brought about by colds or flu, as well as to alleviate headaches. 
In folkloric medicine, horseradish may be employed for the treatment of scurvy, dropsy, and chills. It is usually crushed or bruised and strongly decocted, often with the addition of crushed mustard seed and crushed black peppercorns, and the resulting liquor then consumed (at a trifle of three tablespoonfuls) thrice daily until the illness abates. Horseradish may even be given to individuals with flagging appetites or convalescent individuals with impaired digestion and general weakness. Freshly sliced horseradish root combined with orange peel, crushed nutmeg, a stick of cinnamon, three or four crushed cloves, and a halfa-cup of honey combined and decocted in two glasses of brandywine makes for an excellent stimulatory pick-me-up.
Horseradish root is also a highly powerful analgesic, and may be employed in lieu of mustard plaster to help alleviate the symptoms of arthritis, rheumatism, gout, and general aches and pains. Fresh horseradish may be ground and applied unto the affected area, after which it may be covered with a bandage and allowed to remain until the tingling, hot sensation brought about by the release of its volatile compounds dissipates and the localised pain is abated.  When allowed to infuse in oil and the subsequent salve applied to areas affected by rheumatism, arthritis, or gout, it provides excellent relief from pain. Because horseradish helps to improve and increase circulation, it may even be applied as a hair-oil to help facilitate and hasten hair-growth. The leaves of the horseradish also possess mild analgesic properties, and may be employed as a ready poultice through the simple application of bruised, heated leaves to the affected area. In folkloric medicine, it is often applied to the nape, the forehead, and the throat to relieve headaches, migraines, and hoarseness of voice. 
Within the range of topical applications, freshly sliced or ground horseradish root infused in vinegar (with or without the addition of a minute amount of witch hazel extract) can be employed as a local antiseptic and astringent, and was used by Mediaeval ladies as a means to rid their skin of pimples, freckles, and other blemishes. This similar mixture, when slightly modified to do away with the witch hazel extract, and to replace the vinegar with lime, lemon, or orange juice, may be made into a powerful cough syrup with the addition or raw sugar, jaggery, or honey, and given to young children and adults who suffer from sore throat, hoarseness of voice, whooping cough, and asthma. 
Plain decoctions of crushed horseradish, when sweetened with sugar, can be given to small children in moderate dosages to act as a purgative that expels most common intestinal parasites, although such remedies are best left for expert herbalists to undertake as excessive consumption of horseradish can be a very powerful emetic. Very potent decoctions of the herb can even be employed as a rinse for open wounds and an assortment of topical infections brought about by fungi or bacteria and may even be used to medicate bandages. Milder decoctions of horseradish may be given to children above the age of five as a remedy for colic.
The moderate consumption of foodstuffs which contain horseradish, either as a condiment, a spice, or a vegetable has also been reported to prevent and combat certain types of cancers. Studies have shown that certain enzymes found in horseradish may promote anti-carcinogenic benefits once it is broken down by the body. Horseradish's anti-carcinogenic compounds not only help to protect the body from cancer, but it also helps to combat already present cancer-cells by facilitating apoptosis (cell-death) of malignant cancerous cells, while allowing for the flourishing of healthy, non-cancerous ones.  Horseradish, when consumed moderately, is also said to possess significant antioxidant properties that help to fight the ravages of aging, as well as boost the body against infections and general malaise. The slew of antioxidants found in the plant's roots and leaves (abeit only in trace amounts for the latter), is also beneficial for detoxification.
Esoteric / Magickal Uses
Because it is a spice known to several ancient cultures, horseradish also has a long-standing history of esoteric usage, and has been employed by many societies as a protective, banishing, and empowering herb. Folkloric magick attributes warding properties to horseradish root, with grated or powdered dried roots having been employed as protection for households when sprinkled before the threshold or otherwise employed to create a barrier around the whole of the house. Some cultures employ its roots as a talisman prior to building homesteads, generally by burying roots in the four corners of the property prior to staking out foundations. It is believed that doing so will help the inhabitants of the house to prosper and be free from grave illnesses, discord, and misfortune. Horseradish may also be burnt as a incense (albeit with often uncomfortable drawbacks) and used to purify a place or one's person from negativity. This extremely pungent and uncomfortable incense may also be employed for the purposes of exorcisms, and is a frequent fixture in Germanic spellwork. Alternatively, one can opt to strongly decoct the roots or leaves and employ it as a purifying and de-hexing rinse, or as 'holy water' for the purposes of (nonChristian) exorcisms.
Horseradish also plays a somewhat integral role in some branches of shamanism. Germanic shamans have long employed horseradish as a means to contact other-wordly beings such as Fire Jotuns, as it is believed that horseradish is a highly valued plant for such beings. The root of the plant, when graven with runic markings, are employed as 'bartering goods' for favours, or as protective talismans against supernatural entities.  Some branches of hoodoo employ horseradish root as a talisman for contacting and communing with long-departed ancestors, and for the facilitation of a deeper connection with the Spirit World. 
The leaves of the plant have even been employed in Orthodox Judaism as a bitter herb, typically consumed during Passover. Due to the strictures on sorcery set about by the Mosaic Laws, very little esoteric usage of the spice within the Judaic context can be culled, although it may have been employed by Kabbalistic practitioners as a protective herb in the context of sympathetic magick.
While horseradish is generally considered safe if consumed in moderate amounts as a condiment or a food, it can nevertheless be a very powerful allergen. The presence of mustard oil in the leaves and root may cause moderate to severe discomfort in some individuals, characterised by a burning sensation in one's oesophagus, nasal passages, digestive tract, and urinary tract. It may cause urinary tract infection or uncomfortable bowel movements if consumed in excess. Overconsumption of horseradish may result in diarrhea, vomiting (sometimes accompanied by traces of blood), and hypothyroidism.
When employed topically, horseradish may cause allergic reactions, especially in individuals who have sensitive skin. If one employs topical remedies containing horseradish, a routine patch-test is required prior to applications, lest allergic reactions occur. As a general given, pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised to limit their intake of foodstuffs that contain horseradish, as the active compounds found in the spice can be toxic to the developing foetus, and may in fact cause accidental miscarriage if consumed regularly or consumed overmuch. Similarly, individuals who have peptic ulcers, intestinal ulcers, or people who have inflammatory bowel disease and other related problems with their digestive tract should likewise steer clear from the consumption of any products or foodstuffs which contain horseradish, as it may be an irritant that may aggravate their condition. Similarly, individuals who have kidney problems or who are under diuretic medications (whether natural or synthetic) should likewise limit their intake of horseradish, as its own diuretic properties may aggravate the condition or otherwise interact with the prescribed medications. When consuming horseradish for medicinal purposes always check with one's personal health care provider to ensure one's overall safety.
   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horseradish
Main article researched and created by Alexander Leonhardt. © herbs-info.com 2013
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