What would say to this skin care recipe from the Middle Ages: Women made a tightening cream of chickpeas, barley, almonds, horseradish seeds, and milk? It seems the medieval women were on to something, don’t you think?

Fresh horseradish, photo by Alpha

Even if you don’t often see horseradish as an ingredient in skin care products, it can be a potent albeit smelly ally for your sin. So, how does a root that is commonly used as a condiment make its way into skin care?

A flavourful, if not pungent plant

Horseradish is a root vegetable. Its scientific name is armoracia rusticana and also goes by other names such as red cole and mountain radish. It belongs to the brassicaceae family that also includes

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Brussels Sprout
  • Mustard
  • Wasabi (Japanese horseradish)

They are also called cruciferous vegetables. These are known for their plant compounds called glucosinolates.

The root is edible and has a pungent and strong, almost irritating flavour. It’s grated and used as a popular condiment to add a spicy, hot, and sharp taste. Its use in the kitchen is similar to mustard and wasabi. Usually, it’s eaten in small quantities as it can make your eyes water.

When you cut, ground, or grate the root, it releases enzymes that in turn release volatile oils such as mustard oil from the plant cells. It’s these volatile oils that make the scent and strong flavour of fresh horseradish. Mustard oil is quite irritating and pungent. It can affect the sinuses and eyes of those who smell it. Therefore, it’s advisable to cut horseradish in an area with good ventilation.

If you want to make horseradish sauce, chances are that you want to control how strong and spicy it’ll taste. You can do that by adding vinegar or lemon juice. Adding vinegar stops the enzyme activity and therefore the release of the volatile oils. The earlier you add vinegar, the milder the it’ll taste.

What is horseradish good for?

Since ancient times, horseradish has been used as medicine and as food. It’s been mentioned in traditional Chinese medicine for different ailments.

Generally, horseradish, and for that matter wasabi, is consumed fresh. Both have a strong, spicy, and pungent flavour so that horseradish is often used as a substitute if you can’t find wasabi. Still, there are distinct differences between the two. For one, wasabi has a richer and more complex flavour. Then obviously the colour and appearance are different. And lastly, wasabi is more difficult to grow and cultivate.

Horseradish is known to be a very important source of

  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Potassium
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin B
  • Vitamin C
  • Dietary fibre

Along with phytochemical compounds and volatile oils. The phytochemicals (or phytonutrients) aren’t essential in our diet but they’re thought to fight certain ailments.

The phytonutrients of horseradish include glucosinolates and sinigrin. The root also contains antioxidants and enzymes. This is why it is thought to fight off diseases with antioxidants and prevent bacteria growth, and of course, provide a healthy mix of vitamins and minerals for a balanced diet.

Traditionally, horseradish has been used to clear the nose and to dissolve mucus in the respiratory tract. It’s been used to fight colds, coughs, and to treat flu symptoms. It’s still used like this today.

Studies have shown that the phytochemical glucosinolates and sinigrin have chemopreventive properties. This means eating horseradish can help make the human body more resistant to cancer.

The glucosinolates protect the plant from toxic and harsh environments. Horseradish contains 10 times more glucosinolates than broccoli so even if you only eat a little, you can reap a lot of benefits.

Eating horseradish may help with reducing inflammation and pain. Thanks to the volatile oils, it has antibacterial properties and can help protect against microbes and bacteria.

And for your skin?

Seeing the nutrient profile of horseradish, it can help you address a range of concerns. The minerals and vitamins nourish your skin and help it to regenerate. Similar to ginger (so be careful) it increases blood circulation. This will bring a glow to your skin since more oxygen and more nutrients are brought.


Zinc is anti-inflammatory why helps relieve swelling and redness. Together with the antimicrobial effect of horseradish, it can help you treat blemishes by warding off the bacteria that cause acne. The increased blood flow brings more nutrients to your skin and helps it to flush out waste, having a cleansing effect on your skin.

It also helps you to exfoliate and get rid of dead skin cells. The enzymes contained in horseradish loosen and detach the dead skin cells from the surface of the skin so that they can easily be whisked and washed away. This is especially helpful for oily and acne-prone skin.

Evens out skin discolourations

Dark spots appear on your skin if you’re (over)exposed to the sun. The skin reacts to UV by producing the pigment melanin so that it can protect itself and counteract the negative effects of the sun.

As a good source of vitamin C, horseradish helps to curb the overproduction of the pigment melanin in the skin. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, so, it helps evening out your skin in 2 ways. For one, it goes around and neutralises free radicals which helps prevent dark spots from forming.

Secondly, it is a so-called tyrosinase inhibitor. Tyrosinase is an enzyme needed to produce melanin. And when that is suppressed, melanin production can’t go ahead. So, this lightens the pigmentation without lightening the surrounding skin.


As an antioxidant, vitamin C protects your skin from free radical damage. This is manifested in the appearance of not only dark spots but also fine lines and wrinkles. Vitamin C protects your skin against environmental aggressors.

And, it’ll boost collagen production in your skin. If you want to know why collagen is often mentioned together with anti-ageing, read how it’s responsible for your skin its structure and firmness.

How to use it?

If you want to use horseradish as a condiment to spice up anything from your sandwich to steak, you can find it all year round in the stores. Choose a root that is firm and doesn’t have green or moldy portions. Most of the time, you’ll only find the root. But should it still have leaves, don’t just throw them out. If they’re young and tender, you can use them to make a salad (or in a DYI face pack).

The easiest condiment to make is chopped horseradish preserved in vinegar and salt. You can also eat it raw, pickled, or cooked.

The easiest though not necessarily cheapest way to use horseradish in your skin care is to find it as an ingredient in a product. If you’re up for DYI, you can make a horseradish paste (you can limit the release of volatile oils by adding vinegar or lemon juice) that you can apply directly to the affected area of your skin. Let it sit for 10 minutes before rinsing off. You can use the paste 2-3 times a week.

Final words

When you cut horseradish, it releases volatile oils and the fumes can be irritating. Therefore, it would be best not to use a juicer and cut it near an open window or in a well-vented area.

Even if horseradish is traditionally used for its many different health effects and considered generally safe, bear in mind that it can be irritating when you eat it. It can irritate the lingo of the mouth, stomach, and intestines. It may also cause redness when you apply it, so patch-testing is advisable.

If you like DIY recipes with horseradish or have any thoughts, leave it in the comments.

Save Smelly But Edible Skincare Horseradish Does Wonder On Your Skin for later

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