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Horseradish: A Condiment with a Kick.

Updated on April 2, 2015
anglnwu profile image

A certified health and wellness coach, I love discussing food, health benefits and how to keep weight in check.

Horseradish: Enhances flavor and health.

Courtesy of
Courtesy of

No horsing around, horseradish can pack quite a punch. It is one condiment with an attitude. Full of spunk, it can knock the wind out of you if you’re not cautious. But ask any horseradish fan, and they will tell you that certain dishes just aren’t complete without a dash of the spicy grated root. Cocktails would be blah, your roast beef sandwiches would be mundane and the Passover meal would lose its meaning without the ubiquitous presence of horseradish. Horseradish was one of the bitter herbs used to commemorate the “bitterness” of their enforced slavery.

So, what’s the deal with horseradish? To get to the root of this ancient root, let’s start with some basics.

What is Horseradish?

If the name gives, then horseradish is most decidedly a root. The prefix “horse” (meaning big or coarse)was given to distinguish it from its daintier cousins, the smaller radishes. A perennial plant, a member of the mustard family which includes famous siblings such as mustard, wasabi, broccoli and cabbages, horseradish can holds its own because it produces large white, tapered root which is used extensively for its culinary and medical capabilities.

Freshly grated horseradish can kick quite a punch

courtesy of
courtesy of

What Gives?

The root has hardly an aroma at all. But bruise or grate it and the potency escapes with a mighty force. It is said that one drop of the essential oil of horseradish can infuse the whole room.

Grating horseradish cause the cells to break down and release two active ingredients: Sinigrin, a crystalline glucoside and Myrosin, an enzyme found in the root. When these two ingredients come together, they produce a spicy pungent volatile oil called Allyl isothiocyante. And watch out, these Allyl guys (not its official name, but one I assign), can run amok and assail your nostrils and attack your taste buds with kicks and bites.

But Ally isothiocyanate breaks down easily in the presence of air and heat. It loses its sting and will darken in color if not mixed with vinegar.

Tracing its ancient roots

As far back as 1500 B.C., the Egyptians were using it. The Passover feast (linked to the Exodus of Jews from Egypt) included horseradish as one of the bitter herbs used. The early Greeks tapped the spicy heat of horseradish and use it as rub for lower back pain and as an aphrodisiac.

However, some sources believed that horseradish originated in Central Europe because of its name. The German word for horseradish, “meerrettich” means sea radish and since horseradishes grow by the sea, it makes sense.

Horseradish consumption spread during the Renaissance from Central Europe to Scandinavia to England. By the 1600s, horseradish was commonly used to as a condiment for beef and oysters among Englishman. The Early settlers brought the root to North America and cultivated it in the colonies.

By 1890s, a thriving horseradish industry had taken roots in the fertile soil of Illinois. Today, Collinsville, Illinois produces two-thirds of the crop.


Horseradish can be found in various forms. The basic horseradish is prepared with distilled vinegar. Spices and other ingredients added to enhance or preserve flavor include salt, sugar, cream and vegetable oils.

You can find various varieties of prepared horseradish in the supermarkets: Cream Style Prepared horseradish, horseradish sauce, beet (red) horseradish and dehydrated horseradish. They come with various added ingredients and their texture runs from smooth to coarse.

Tap into the zing and zest of horseradish and use it for a number of food preparations or eat it as accompaniment to your food. Below are a number of ways horseradish can be used in food:

  • Cocktails.
  • Cocktail sauce.
  • Dips.
  • Marinades
  • Casseroles
  • Soups
  • Enhances sandwiches, wraps, ommelettes, cold cuts, hot entrees and seafood.

Need ideas? Check these out:

Recipes for Horseradish

Horseradish recipes

Horseradish at its Best

Since horseradish loses its pungency and bite upon exposure to light and heat, only buy the amount you need to use. Once it is opened, keep it in tightly covered jar and keep it refrigerated to protect freshness.

When serving, serve only desired amount in a glass or ceramic bowl and it tarnishes silver.

Health Benefits

So what good is taste without of dollop of health benefits? Thankfully, horseradish delivers both flavor and health.

  • Fights Obesity

This is good news for some 97 million Americans grappling with the weight problem. The National Hear, Lung and Blood Institute accorded horseradish high marks for fighting fat with its low-fat, high flavor qualities.

  • Anti-Bacterial

The Agricultural Research Service and Oklahoma State University revealed that horseradish fights Listeria, E.coli, Staphylococcu aureus and other food pathogens found in your food.  What better way to kill these bacteria than to add a dash of horseradish?

  • Helps Digestion

When taken with oily fish or rich meat, it proves to be an excellent stimulant to the digestive organs, aiding digestion.

  • Cosmetic Benefits

By applying an infusion of slices of fresh horseradish steeped in milk, it can clears skin and restore freshness. When horseradish juice is mixed with vinegar, it can lighten freckles when applied topically.

  • Relieve Whooping Cough

The same mixture mentioned above when diluted with water and sweetened with glycerine brings relief to whopping cough.

  • Clears Mucus

According to UCLA History & Special Collection, a gargle can be made with ground horseradish, water and some honey to improve mucus clearance.


Submit a Comment
  • anglnwu profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago

    Thanks, Blossom, glad you enjoyed the read. Have a great day.

  • BlossomSB profile image

    Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

    6 years ago from Victoria, Australia

    I love horse-radish and wasabi so this hub is very interesting. You have included quite a bit of information and I especially enjoyed the historical section. Thank you.

  • anglnwu profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago

    LOL, hypnodude, I know who can stand a chance in the presence of such potency? Thank you so much for your generous comments and I hope to see you more often on hubpages.

  • hypnodude profile image


    8 years ago from Italy

    Hi anglnwu, great hub as usual, well, you know I love your hubs even if in these times I'm not that much around HP. :)

    Anyway in Italy horseradish is used mainly in the North especially served with meat, it's called Cren, and the strong type makes you cry seconds after opening the can, imagine chewing it. But I like it a lot. And as for its anti-bacterial properties, well, who can survive in the same place with strong horseradish? lol

    Rated up and useful. Stumbled and shared with followers. :)

  • anglnwu profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago

    Thanks, Maita. Glad to see you.

  • prettydarkhorse profile image


    8 years ago from US

    awesome again I love horseradish angel, but it is different here the one I bought at Asian store too, Maita

  • anglnwu profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago

    habee, it an honor to have you drop by--the queen of food hubs. Care to share the prime rib sauce with horseradish? I'm going to join your fan club!

  • habee profile image

    Holle Abee 

    8 years ago from Georgia

    Hubby and I love horseradish in my sauce for shrimp, crab, and oysters. I also make a great prime rib sauce with it. Enjoyed the read!

  • anglnwu profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago

    De Greek, thanks for letting me know. I'm now your fan and hope to stop by to read some of your stuff.

  • anglnwu profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago

    Jill dear, appreciate your comments. Give it try and you may just like it. Thanks also for linking my hub and yes, it worked. You're so sweet!

  • anglnwu profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago

    Money, I agree horseradish on its own can be spicy and sometimes bitter but if you add it to ketchup--viola--cocktail sauce, it tastes good. So add it to any number of things and enjoy the benefits. Always a pleasure to see you. Thanks!

  • De Greek profile image

    De Greek 

    8 years ago from UK

    You have been recommended by jill of alltrades as a worthwhile author, here:

  • jill of alltrades profile image

    jill of alltrades 

    8 years ago from Philippines

    Wow, I learned so much about horseradish here. What a wonderful hub my friend!

    I am not so fond of spicy food. However, after you talked about horseradish with such gusto, I am now interested in giving horseradish a try.

    Thanks for sharing anglnwu!

  • Money Glitch profile image

    Money Glitch 

    8 years ago from Texas

    Wow, I did not know that horseradish was so good for you. I will have to start using it more in soups and casseroles, I'm not to crazy about its taste. However, with such great health benefits I'll get it down some how. LOL! Thanks for sharing and rating up! :)

  • anglnwu profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago

    Shari, can't tell u how nice to see u again. Just like a long-lost friend coming home to mama--ok, i'm being dramatic and stupid, so ignore. Wow, the courage to make beet-stained horseradish. Kudos. Next Peseach, we'll make the fresh one together in SD. Thank you so much for rating it up, Jia Yu buddy.

    And if you hurry, go to the contest page and vote for my hub--top 10. Hurry, ends at noon today. Many hugs and thanks.

  • wavegirl22 profile image


    8 years ago from New York, NY

    ang - once again my Jia Yu girl hits a winner out of the ball park! I love love Horseradish . . one year I decided to make my own for some fish . . you know the red kind where you have to puree beets! Ha you had to see my kitchen . but I must say it was the best horseradish i had ever eaten. Great info here . well researched and presented in the way that only you can do it:) And of course I rated it up and awesome!

  • anglnwu profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago

    akirchner, appreciate your comments. I know--I learned so much just researching to write about this. Now, I have more incentive to eat it. :)

  • akirchner profile image

    Audrey Kirchner 

    8 years ago from Washington

    Great pick for a condiment and so informative! Even though I use it I never thought to investigate it. Thanks for the helpful information to add to my cooking info that I try to store in my head.

  • anglnwu profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago

    RGNestle, I love horseradish and wasabi too. More reasons to eat these! Thanks for taking time off to comment.

  • anglnwu profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago

    Amber, I agree it's a love or hate thing. I was first introduced to horseradish by my Jewish husband and love it, in part because I love anything spicy. Appreciate your visit.

  • anglnwu profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago

    Pamela, thanks for your comments. Good point--God makes interesting foods and they all serve a purpose. Thanks for dropping by.

  • anglnwu profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago

    Thanks, Sandy for dropping by. I know, horseradish is an acquired taste.

  • RGNestle profile image


    8 years ago from Seattle

    Wow! I never knew! I love horse radish and wasabe, and knowing more about the health benefits makes it all the better! Thanks for the Hub!

  • Amber Allen profile image

    Amber Allen 

    8 years ago

    Hi anginwu

    Horseradish is either a love it or hate it taste. I fall in the latter group but this was still a very interesting and well researched hub.


  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Anginwu, One thing I've learned reading these hub is that many of the things we eat have been around for thousands of years. I just never thought about that before. This is a very interesting hub although I am not crazy about horseradish, my brother just loves it.

  • Sandyspider profile image

    Sandy Mertens 

    8 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

    I know it is good for you but I can't stand the taste. Nice hub.


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