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4 Health Benefits of Horseradish

This spicy root helps fight cancer, bacteria and inflammation

Bowl of horseradish

Horseradish is a spicy vegetable with a funny-sounding name. Yes, it’s related to the radish. And no, it has nothing to do with horses.

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“We don’t often eat horseradish fresh or even see it in most grocery stores,” says registered dietitian Amanda Igel, RD, LD, “but that is starting to change.” Some grocery stores are now carrying horseradish root and some steakhouses have begun to offer freshly grated horseradish.

“As a prepared sauce, it’s delicious on meat and roasted vegetables,” says Igel. “And the health benefits of horseradish, such as its anticancer properties, may surprise you.”

Igel shares how eating horseradish can boost your health.

What is horseradish?

The horseradish we eat comes from the root of the Armoracia rusticana plant, a member of the mustard family. Like its spicy plant relative wasabi, horseradish root contains oils that can irritate your sinuses and make your eyes water.

“Horseradish is especially great on beef,” says Igel. “And it’s one of the healthier sauces, especially if you choose one without a lot of added oil and sugar.”

Horseradish sauce, the form you typically see, contains grated or pureed horseradish root and vinegar. It also may be made as a creamy sauce, prepared with mayonnaise or sour cream.

Is horseradish good for you?

“Not only does horseradish have an interesting, zippy flavor, but it’s also good for you,” confirms Igel. It’s low in carbs and fat and offers some vitamin C. One tablespoon of prepared horseradish contains approximately:

Here are four more potential health benefits of horseradish:

1. Lowers inflammation

Horseradish can help you fight inflammation, which can play a role in developing conditions like:

The anti-inflammatory action of horseradish comes from a chemical called sinigrin. This compound is also in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

A research report suggests sinigrin disrupts your body’s inflammation process, stopping it before it really flares up. In the same report, nonhuman lab studies showed sinigrin may help combat the inflammation that causes atherosclerosis, a hardening of your arteries. That’s good news for your heart health because atherosclerosis can lead to a heart attack.

“We need more research to say conclusively that horseradish reduces inflammation in humans,” notes Igel. “But sinigrin has many proven benefits.”

2. Provides cancer-fighting nutrients

The same study shows sinigrin also has anticancer properties. And researchers have observed the cancer-fighting abilities of several other molecules in horseradish. For example, it contains isothiocyanates, a phytochemical that shows anti-tumor properties in cancer cell studies (nonhuman studies done in the lab).

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“Plants in the Brassicaceae family, which includes vegetables such as horseradish, cabbage, kale and cauliflower, contain a range of compounds that have the ability to disrupt cancer cells,” explains Igel. “These compounds do this by either killing the cancer cells, slowing their ability to multiply or stopping their growth altogether.”

3. Fights bacterial and fungal infections

Isothiocyanates also appear to destroy bacteria and fungi. “A handful of studies suggest the isothiocyanates in horseradish have a powerful antibacterial effect against some pretty strong bugs,” says Igel.

Evidence includes:

Isothiocyanate’s antimicrobial effects appear to extend to fungus, too. A lab trial showed this compound stops the growth of four different fungi that cause skin and nail fungal infections. These types of infections are difficult to clear up, and horseradish may offer a possible natural remedy.

“Unfortunately, very few studies have been conducted in humans to truly understand the therapeutic effect of isothiocyanates,” says Igel, so more research is needed.

4. Helps clear sinuses and lungs

Horseradish’s antibacterial properties give it potential as a natural antibiotic.

Researchers studied the effectiveness of an herbal preparation containing horseradish in treating lung and sinus infections. They found that the herbal therapy was just as effective as standard antibiotic drugs for clearing sinusitis and bronchitis.

Even better, the researchers concluded that the herbal preparation is safer than conventional treatments like antibiotics.

“The spiciness of horseradish also increases mucus production in your sinuses,” shares Igel. “This helps flush out microbes and clear the infection.

Next time you’ve got a congested cough or the sniffles, try reaching for horseradish sauce and pour a generous dab on your food. The burning in your nose just might be worth it.

Can you eat horseradish every day?

“You can eat horseradish every day as long as it’s not causing irritation,” says Igel. “If you get too much stinging in your mouth, nose, stomach or throat, give it a break.”

If you have inflammatory digestive issues, horseradish might worsen symptoms, so Igel advises caution if you have conditions such as:

If you’re looking for ways to incorporate horseradish into your food, add a bit of the sauce on fish, meat or vegetables. Try this recipe for twice-baked potatoes or substitute fresh horseradish root anywhere you’d normally use fresh ginger for a slightly different zing.

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