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Armoracia.—Horseradish.

Photo: Armoracia rusticana 2. Preparation: Compound Syrup of Horseradish

The fresh root of Cochlearia Armoracia, Linné. (Cochlearia rusticana, Lamarck; Armoracia rusticana, Gaertner; Armoracia sativa, Heller).
Nat. Ord.—Cruciferae.
COMMON NAME: Horseradish.

Botanical Source.—Horseradish root, very tenacious of life, is a perennial, thick, tapering, white, long, acrid, and from which arise many large leaves. From the center a round or angular, smooth, erect, branching stem arises, about 2 feet in height; those branches which flower are corymbose, smooth, and angular. The radical leaves are nearly a foot long, half as wide, oblong, crenately-toothed, waved, sometimes pinnatifid, of a dark-green color, and upon long, channeled petioles; the cauline leaves are smaller, lanceolate, dentate, or incised, sessile, sometimes entire, and without footstalks; the lower ones are often pinnatifid. the flowers are numerous, small, white, peduncled, and borne in terminal corymbose racemes. Calyx ovate, spreading, and equal at the base; sepals four, concave. Petals obovate, obtuse, entire, claw-like. Stamens without teeth, the length of the calyx; anthers cordate; silicle sessile, oblong, or ovoid-globose, and compressed; dissepiment thin; valves ventricose, thickish; cells many seeded; seeds not bordered, and cotyledons flat and accumbent (G.—W.—L.).

History and Description.—This well-known succulent plant is a native of Europe, and extensively cultivated for the use of its root as a condiment. It flowers in June. The fresh root is the official part, and should be dug in the autumn, as its acrimony is then the strongest; it may be preserved for some time fresh by burying it in a cool place in sand. The root is whitish-yellow externally, white internally, of various lengths tapering to a point, from 1/2 inch to 2 inches or more in diameter at its thickest part, fibrous, fleshy, succulent, of a very pungent taste and odor, producing a flow of tears, and when smelt, violent sneezing. The root is surmounted by several annulated heads. It breaks with a short fracture. Water, alcohol, or vinegar extracts its properties, which are due to the presence of a volatile oil, and which is dissipated by heat or desiccation. Fresh aconite root has been eaten by mistake for horseradish, probably on account of their somewhat similar appearance and odor when fresh.

Chemical Composition.—This root contains a volatile oil, its principal constituent, which passes over when the root is distilled with water; it is of a light-yellow color, possessing the pungent properties of the plant in a high degree, causing irritation and even blistering when in contact with the skin. It is supposed to be perfectly identical with the volatile oil of mustard, and is obtained in minute proportion, 6 parts only of the oil being procured from 10,000 of the root. It is believed not to exist already formed in the unbroken root, but to be developed by the mutual reaction of its constituents when the root is bruised. Dr. A. W. Hoffman, however, has found these two oils to be entirely different, the oil of cochlearia boiling at 160° C. (320° F.), while the oil of mustard boils at 146.6° C. (296° F.); treated with ammonia the oil of horseradish yields a beautifully crystallizing substance, thiosinamin, which fuses at 135° C. (275° F.). The dried root possesses no pungency, and yields no volatile oil when distilled with water, unless white mustard be added, the myrosin of the mustard supplying some necessary principle destroyed by desiccation. In addition the root contains a bitter resin, sugar, gum, starch, extractive, albumen, acetic acid, acetate and sulphate of calcium, water, and lignin. Various other salts and acids were found in the ash by Hilger.

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Stimulant, sialagogue, diuretic, antiscorbutic, and rubefacient. The pungent and acrid nature of the fresh root, with the faucial and nasal irritation and consequent lachrymation, are well-known effects to those who use it as a condiment. Burning pain at the epigastrium, nausea, and vomiting follow an immoderate dose. Externally applied it is rubefacient and may vesicate. It promotes all the secretions, the urinary in particular, and stimulates the stomach when this organ is enfeebled. By its sialagogue and stimulant effects upon the gastric membranes it promotes digestion. The infusion is emetic. It has been used with advantage in chronic affections attended with debility of the digestive organs, and of the general system, as in paralysis, rheumatism, dropsy, and as an antiscorbutic in scurvy. In dropsy an infusion of the root in cider, and drank as warm as could be borne, in large quantities and freely, the patient being warmly covered up, has caused copious diuresis and diaphoresis, and cured the disease in a few weeks; the operation being repeated nightly, or as the strength of the patient would permit. Horseradish was formerly much employed to produce abortion, frequently effecting this object, when other internal agents failed; it was used as follows: A saturated infusion of the recent roots in whiskey was made, of which 4 fluid ounces was the dose, repeating it 3 or 4 times every day, and continuing its use until the desired effect was produced. Locally the vinegar infusion is said to remove tan and freckles. The grated root, with sugar and water to form a syrup, is excellent for hoarseness; a spoonful or two may be swallowed as occasion requires. It has been also used externally as a rubefacient. Dose of the root grated, from 1 to 2 drachms.

The Cochlearia officinalis, or Scurvy grass, is seldom used in medicine; it possesses similar properties.

Specific Indications and Uses.—Hoarseness from relaxed faucial tissues; gastric debility. It is a remedy for atonic conditions only.


King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.



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