Horseradish - a powerful root for our health
Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) is a perennial plant, whose stem reaches a maximum height of 50 cm. Its leaves, small and of an intense green, are perfectly edible, and can be added as desired to flavor a salad. Its flowers bloom in early summer, and are small and white. The part that is mostly used is the root. Whitish, tapered, totally odorless if intact. The typical intense and balsamic aroma is released when the root fibers are broken by the grater. Since ancient times its properties have been exploited in natural medicine, and today its use is increasingly widespread in the kitchen. Let's find out more about this root, which must always be used with awareness.
Armoracia rusticana belongs to the same family as radishes, turnip, mustard and cabbage. It is almost 95% made up of water, and contains residual percentages of carbohydrates, fiber and proteins, with only 0.1% fat. So much so that a portion of 100 g of horseradish contains approximately 14 Kcal. In addition, the beard (as it is also known) is rich in vitamins C - from which its antioxidant properties are derived, vitamin B1, beta carotene, iron, sodium and potassium, a useful element in the metabolism of body fluids. Its strong aroma is due to the presence of a mustard oil glycol, the sinigrin.
Horseradish in medicine
The constituent substances make horseradish a root rich in properties that are very influential on our health. The sinigrina, with its strong balsamic aroma, is excellent for freeing and purifying the airways during the seasonal ailments. It has a stimulating action on the gastric mucosa, therefore it promotes digestion, while at the intestinal level it helps the natural elimination of gas stagnation. It also stimulates the production of bile which, together with the spicy property, promotes the metabolism of fats, providing good support in low-calorie diets and counteracting loss of appetite. As for the excretory system, horseradish has powerful purifying qualities, and helps healthy kidneys to carry out their normal activity, increasing diuresis. Like garlic, horseradish is also considered a natural antibiotic, again thanks to the synigrin. It has an antioxidant action thanks to the high content of vitamin C, and helps blood circulation with beneficial effects for the entire cardio-vascular system. Finally, the pulp of the grated root can be mixed to form a mixture with alcohol or grappa, which applied with gauze on painful joints or muscles has a good analgesic effect.
Horseradish in the kitchen
By now the horseradish root is widely used in cooking, especially in dishes of oriental origin, perhaps due to its similarity to the more prized wasabi, with which in fact it is often confused for its quite similar flavor. The fresh rhizome can be grated on roasted meats or in soups, to add a decisive and exotic touch. But horseradish has roots in the kitchen - and here we cannot avoid a play on words, even in our south. In fact, the Matera radish is famous, a sort of omelette made with eggs, horseradish and cheeses, very tasty and rich from a nutritional point of view.
When horseradish is to be avoided
All that glitters is not gold, and since the properties of horseradish are so powerful, it goes without saying that there are cases in which it is better to avoid using them. In fact, due to its strong flavor, it is definitely not recommended for children. Not even pregnant or breastfeeding women can consume it, whose milk would take on a truly unpleasant taste for the infant. Given its influence on the gastric walls, horseradish must be absolutely avoided in case of ulcers or heartburn, symptoms often linked to hyperchlorhydria (stomach acid). Finally, its decisive spiciness could prove annoying in the case of headache, increasing tearing, a phenomenon that can also negatively influence cases of eye irritation or conjunctivitis.