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What we now about Red Cole

Scientific Name: Horseradish

Other Names: Armoracia rusticana, Cochlearia armoracia, German Mustard, Great Raifort, Horse Radish, Mountain Radish, Pepperrot, Red Cole, Stingnose

Who is this for?

In the United States, horseradish is known mainly as a spicy condiment for sandwiches or meats. Its hot taste and distinctive smell depend on the volatile oils – including mustard oil – that it contains. Volatile oils usually evaporate quickly at room temperature. These oils also give horseradish some medicinal properties. For instance, inhaling horseradish oils or taking horseradish by mouth promotes blood flow in nasal and sinus tissues, thereby possibly relieving upper respiratory congestion. Laboratory studies have shown that horseradish may also have mild antibiotic effects, so it may help to eliminate bacteria that contribute to some respiratory infections. Horseradish is approved for treating upper respiratory tract conditions by the Commission E of the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices, which is the German governmental agency that evaluates the safety and effectiveness of herbal products. The United States does not have a comparable organization.

In Germany, horseradish is also approved as add-on treatment to prescription drugs for relieving the symptoms of urinary tract infections. It is believed that chemicals in horseradish concentrate in the urine, and therefore deliver antibiotic effects to the bladder. They may also activate specific enzymes that help to keep toxins – including known cancer-causing chemicals — from accumulating in the bladder. Additionally, horseradish stimulates the body to eliminate urine, so infective or damaging agents in the bladder may be flushed out sooner than they normally would be eliminated. All these effects may help to treat bladder conditions and also to prevent or limit other bladder conditions.

Occasionally, grated horseradish may be mixed with oil or made into an ointment and applied to the skin. A horseradish poultice may also be used topically. A poultice consists of a soft cloth that has been spread with grated fresh horseradish and then applied to the skin. Topical horseradish is used to relieve muscle or joint aches or, if applied to the chest, to reduce lung congestion. Mustard oil and other chemicals in horseradish are believed to widen blood vessels that are close to the skin’s surface. The resulting increase in blood flow causes the skin to redden and creates a feeling of warmth that relieves muscle or joint aches.

When should I be careful taking it?

Chemicals in horseradish may irritate the gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, taking it may worsen esophageal irritation or stomach conditions such as ulcers, so individuals with gastrointestinal conditions should avoid taking it. Because they may be more irritating for small children than for adults, horseradish supplements should not be given to children less than 4 years old.

Horseradish may be a strong diuretic, meaning that it may promote the production of urine by the body. Increased urine output may worsen kidney conditions, so individuals who have kidney diseases should not use large amounts of horseradish in their diets or take horseradish supplements.

Horseradish belongs to a group of plants that are known to decrease the production of thyroid hormone by the body. Individuals with low thyroid levels and individuals taking thyroid preparations should avoid using large amounts of horseradish.

Precautions

While the amounts of horseradish used as food are considered safe, not enough is known about how horseradish might affect an infant to recommend its supplemental use while breast-feeding.

What side effects should I watch for?

When taken in large amounts, horseradish may produce:

  • Bloody diarrhea or vomit
  • Heavy sweating
  • Upset stomach

Topically, horseradish may cause blisters or chemical burns at the site where it is applied.

What interactions should I watch for?

Prescription Drugs

Some laboratory evidence suggests that horseradish may increase the time blood needs to clot. When it is taken with antiplatelet or anticoagulant drugs, the effect of the drug may be increased, resulting in uncontrolled bleeding.

  • Antiplatelets include Plavix and Ticlid
  • Anticoagulants include heparin and warfarin

The possible anti-thyroid effect of horseradish may interfere with thyroid hormone supplementation. Individuals who take thyroid replacement should avoid ingesting amounts of horseradish larger than would be a normal-sized serving as a condiment.

Non-prescription Drugs

Horseradish potentially can affect the ability of blood to clot after an injury. Aspirin can also delay clotting, so horseradish supplements should not be taken orally at the same time as aspirin.

Herbal Products

Theoretically, if horseradish is used with other herbs that may affect blood clotting, bleeding may occur. Some of the most common herbal products that might inhibit blood clotting are:

  • Danshen
  • Devil's Claw
  • Eleuthero
  • Garlic
  • Ginger (in high amounts)
  • Ginkgo
  • Horse Chestnut
  • Panax Ginseng
  • Papain
  • Red Clover
  • Saw Palmetto

Some interactions between herbal products and medications can be more severe than others. The best way for you to avoid harmful interactions is to tell your doctor and/or pharmacist what medications you are currently taking, including any over-the-counter products, vitamins, and herbals.

Should I take it?

Related to broccoli, cabbage, and mustard; horseradish is thought to have originated in middle Europe. It is still a very popular condiment for foods in Germany and surrounding areas. Although horseradish is now grown as a crop in many mild-climate countries, the majority of the world’s supply comes from the Mississippi River flood plain in southwestern Illinois. A very labor-intensive crop, horseradish seedlings are sprouted from root cuttings. They have to be planted by hand in late winter and most are harvested by hand in the second or third autumn of the plant. Older roots become woody and less flavorful. Eventually reaching up to 4 feet in length, the ruffled leaves of horseradish may be eaten during the spring while they are still young and light green. They may be cooked as a vegetable, added to soups, or eaten raw in salads. The thick, white roots of horseradish plants release hot-tasting chemicals when they are grated or sliced.

Today, horseradish is rarely used in the United States for medicine. It is cultivated mainly for use as a condiment to enhance the flavor of foods – particularly meats. Historically, however, it has had many medical uses. It was mixed with lard or made into a poultice and applied to the chest for relief of the coughing and chest congestion associated with colds and other respiratory conditions. Believed to be one of the first “cough syrups” a mixture of horseradish and honey or horseradish boiled with sugar water was also given for coughing. Because it promotes the production of urine, horseradish has been used to relieve bloating or swelling. At one time, children were given horseradish preparations regularly to eliminate intestinal worms. In general, all of these medical uses have been replaced by drugs that are more effective. Currently most known as a condiment, horseradish may be useful in other ways. For example, an enzyme found in horseradish has been tested to remove some types of pollution from water supplies.

Dosage and Administration

The German E commission recommends an oral daily dose of 20,000 mg (20 grams) – about 4 teaspoons – of fresh horseradish root for treating respiratory conditions. Capsules and tinctures containing horseradish concentrates are available for oral use, as well. Some sources recommend against taking a powdered form of horseradish, however, because much of its volatile oils are lost in drying. If a commercial preparation is taken, the directions on the package should be followed for the condition being treated.

Commercial topical horseradish products should contain 2% or less of mustard oil.

Summary

In addition to its primary use as a flavoring for foods, horseradish taken by mouth may be useful for relieving coughs from respiratory conditions and for treating urinary tract infections. When applied to the skin, horseradish may alleviate joint or muscle aches.

Risks

Individuals with kidney, stomach, or thyroid conditions should avoid using horseradish in amounts greater than what would be used occasionally to enhance food. Pregnant or breast-feeding women and children under 4 years of age should not take supplemental horseradish, either.

Side Effects

Oral doses of horseradish as medicine may cause bloody diarrhea or vomit, sweating, and upset stomach. On the skin, horseradish may cause chemical burns or blisters.

Interactions

Horseradish may increase the effects of drugs or herbals that slow down blood clotting. It may also interfere with thyroid hormone replacement therapy.

References

Anon: Horseradish. In: DerMarderosian A, Beutler JA, eds. Facts and Comparisons: The Review of Natural Products. St. Louis, MO, Facts and Comparisons. February 1991.

Blumenthal M, Gruenwald J, Hall T, Rister RS, eds. The Complete German Commission E Monographs. Austin, Texas: American Botanical Council; 1998.

Grieve M. Horseradish. In: A Modern Herbal. New York: Dover Publishers, 1971. Available at: http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/mgmh.html Posted 1995. Accessed September 30, 2003.

HealthNotes, Inc. Horseradish. 2002. Available at: http://www.mycustompak.com/healthNotes/Herb/Horseradish.htm. Accessed September 30, 2003.

Herbs2000. Horseradish. No date given. Available at: http://www.herbs2000.com/herbs/herbs_horseradish.htm. Accessed October 21, 2004.

Jellin JM, Gregory P, Batz F, Hitchens K, et al, eds. Pharmacist's Letter/Prescriber's Letter. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, 3rd Edition. Stockton CA: Therapeutic Research Facility, 2000.

Kienholz M. Studies of antibacterial substances from horseradish (Cochlearia armoracia), nasturtium (Tropaeolum maius) and garden peppergrass (Lepidium sativum) [Article in German] Archives of Hygiene and Bacteriology. 1957;141(3):182-197.

Kienholz M, Kemkes B. The antibacterial action of ethereal oils from horseradish root (Cochlearia armoracia L.) [Article in German] Arzneimittelforschung. 1960 Nov;10:917-918.

Maslov AK, Luzhnova SA, Kalyanina OV. Effects of horseradish root on functional activity of phagocytes, total blood cell count, and state of the liver in mice with experimental leprosy. Bulletin of Experimental Biology in Medicine. 2002;134(2):156-158.

McCann J. The horseradish plant. Global Gourmet. No date given. Available at: http://www.globalgourmet.com/food/egg/egg1297/horsplnt.html. Accessed September 30, 2003.

Mehta RG, Pezzuto JM. Discovery of cancer preventive agents from natural products: from plants to prevention. Current Oncology Reports. 2002;4(6):478-486.

Munday R, Munday CM. Induction of phase II detoxification enzymes in rats by plant-derived isothiocyanates: comparison of allyl isothiocyanate with sulforaphane and related compounds. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2004;52(7):1867-1871.

Munday R, Munday CM. Selective induction of phase II enzymes in the urinary bladder of rats by allyl isothiocyanate, a compound derived from Brassica vegetables. Nutrition in Cancer. 2002;44(1):52-59.

Peirce A. The American Pharmaceutical Association Practical Guide to Natural Medicines. New York: Stonesong Press; 1999.

Smith TK, Lund EK, Parker ML, Clarke RG, Johnson IT. Allyl-isothiocyanate causes mitotic block, loss of cell adhesion and disrupted cytoskeletal structure in HT29 cells. Carcinogenesis. 2004;25(8):1409-1415.

Talalay P. Chemoprotection against cancer by induction of phase 2 enzymes. Biofactors. 2000;12(1-4):5-11.

Tonegawa M, Dec J, Bollag JM. Use of additives to enhance the removal of phenols from water treated with horseradish and hydrogen peroxide. Journal of Environmental Quality. 2003;32(4):1222-1227.

Walther J. Treatment of diseases of the respiratory tract with an extract from Cochlearia armoracia (horseradish). [Article in German] Medizinische. 1959;4(2):78-79.

Weil MJ, Zhang Y, Nair MG. Colon Cancer Proliferating Desulfosinigrin in Wasabi (Wasabia japonica). Nutrition in Cancer. 2004;48(2):207-213.


(Note: The above information is not intended to replace the advice of your physician, pharmacist, or other healthcare professional. It is not meant to indicate that the use of the product is safe, appropriate, or effective for you.)

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