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, [270] 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 [271] 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 [272] 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

otherwise intractable.

For loss of the voice and relaxed sore throat the [273] 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.