Horse Radish (_radix_ A Root)
The Horse Radish of our gardens is a cultivated cruciferous plant of
which the fresh root is eaten, when scraped, as a condiment to
correct the richness of our national roast beef. This plant grows wild
in many parts of the country, particularly about rubbish, and the
sides of ditches; yet it is probably an introduction,  and not a
native. Its botanical name, Cochlearia armoracia, implies a
resemblance between its
leaves and an old-fashioned spoon,
cochleare; also that the most common place of its growth is ar,
near, mor, the sea.
Our English vernacular styles the plant a coarse root, or a Horse
radish, as distinguished from the eatable radish (root), the
Raphanus sativus. Formerly it was named Mountain Radish, and
Great Raifort. This is said to be one of the five bitter herbs ordered
to be eaten by the Jews during the Feast of the Passover, the other
four being Coriander, Horehound, Lettuce, and Nettle.
Not a few fatal cases have occurred of persons being poisoned by
taking Aconite root in mistake for a stick of Horse radish, and eating
it when scraped. But the two roots differ materially in shape, colour,
and taste, so as to be easily discriminated: furthermore the leaves of
the Aconite--supposing them to be attached to the root--are not to be
mistaken for those of any other plant, being completely divided to
their base into five wedge-shaped lobes, which are again sub-divided
into three. Squire says it seems incredible that the Aconite
Root should be mistaken for Horse Radish unless we remember that
country folk are in the habit of putting back again into the ground
Horse Radish which has been scraped, until there remain only the
crown and a remnant of the root vanishing to a point, these bearing
resemblance to the tap root of Aconite.
The fresh root of the Horse radish is a powerful stimulant by reason
of its ardent and pungent volatile principle, whether it be taken as a
medicament, or be applied externally to any part of the body. When
scraped it exhales a nose-provoking odour, and possesses  a
hot biting taste, combined with a certain sweetness: but on exposure
to the air it quickly turns colour, and loses its volatile strength;
likewise, it becomes vapid, and inert by being boiled. The root is
expectorant, antiscorbutic, and, if taken at all freely, emetic. It
contains a somewhat large proportion of sulphur, as shown by the
black colour assumed by metals with which it comes into touch.
Hence it promises to be of signal use for relieving chronic
rheumatism, and for remedying scurvy.
Taken in sauce with oily fish or rich fatty viands, scraped Horse
radish acts as a corrective spur to complete digestion, and at the
same time it will benefit a relaxed sore throat, by contact during the
swallowing. In facial neuralgia scraped Horse radish applied as a
poultice, proves usefully beneficial: and for the same purpose some
of the fresh scrapings may be profitably held in the hand of the
affected side, which hand will become in a short time bloodlessly
benumbed, and white.
When sliced across with a knife the root of the Horse radish will
exude some drops of a sweet juice which may be rubbed with
advantage on rheumatic, or palsied limbs. Also an infusion of the
sliced root in milk, almost boiling, and allowed to cool, makes an
excellent and safe cosmetic; or the root may be infused for a longer
time in cold milk, if preferred, for use with a like purpose in view.
Towards the end of the last century Horse radish was known in
England as Red cole, and in the previous century it was eaten
habitually at table, sliced, with vinegar.
Infused in wine the root stimulates the whole nervous system, and
promotes perspiration, whilst acting likewise as a diuretic. For
rheumatic neuralgia  it is almost a specific, and for palsy it has
often proved of service. Our druggists prepare a compound spirit of
Horse radish, made with the sliced fresh root, orange peel, nutmeg,
and spirit of wine. This proves of effective use in strengthless,
languid indigestion, as well as for chronic rheumatism; it stimulates
the stomach, and promotes the digestive secretions. From one to two
teaspoonfuls may be taken two or three times in the day, with half a
wineglassful of water, at the end of a principal meal, or a few
minutes after the meal. An infusion of the root made with boiling
water and taken hot readily proves a stimulating emetic. Until cut or
bruised the root is inodorous; but fermentation then begins, and
develops from the essential oil an ammoniacal odour and a pungent
hot bitter taste which were not pre-existing.
Chemically the Horse radish contains a volatile oil, identical with
that of mustard, being highly diffusible and pungent by reason of its
myrosin. One drop of this volatile oil will suffice to odorise the
atmosphere of a whole room, and, if swallowed with any freedom, it
excites vomiting. Other constituents of the root are a bitter resin,
sugar, starch, gum, albumen, and acetates.
A mixture of the fresh juice, with vinegar, if applied externally,
will prove generally of service for removing freckles.
Bergius alleges that by cutting the root into very small pieces
without bruising it, and then swallowing a tablespoonful of these
fragments every morning without chewing them, for a month, a cure
has been effected in chronic rheumatism, which had seemed
For loss of the voice and relaxed sore throat the  infusion of
Horse radish makes an excellent gargle; or it may be concentrated in
the form of a syrup, and mixed for the same use--a teaspoonful, with
a wine-glassful of cold water.
Gerard said of the root: If bruised and laid to the part grieved with
the sciatica, gout, joyntache, or the hard swellings of the spleen and
liver, it doth wonderfully help them all. If the scraped root be
macerated in vinegar, it will form a mixture (which may be
sweetened with glycerine to the taste) very effective against
whooping cough. In pimply acne of the skin, to touch each papula
with some of the Compound Spirit of Horse Radish now and again
will soon effect a general cure of the ailment.