Description: Natural Order, Cruciferae. This is the well-known horseradish, cultivated in our gardens for the value of its root as a table condiment. The root is fleshy, long, tapering, white, perennial, and extremely pungent. Numerous radical leaves-nearly a foot long, wavy, and oblong-rise directly from the root; and in the center of these rise one to several stems two or three feet high, bearing a number of small, sessile, lanceolate, toothed leaves, and corymbose racemes of small, white flowers, with the cruciform arrangement of the petals. June.
The root of this plant, when scraped, gives off an extremely pungent odor; and its taste is hot and acrid, especially if gathered in autumn. It contains a very small quantity (one part in ten thousand) of a pale-yellow and very volatile oil, which may be obtained by distillation with water. This oil is extremely acrid, and will cause blistering; but it is readily dissipated by heat, and the medical properties of the dried root are not dependent on it. This oil is identical with the volatile (not the fixed) oil of mustard; and its development seems to depend upon a chemical reaction that takes place in the presence of water when at a nearly boiling temperature. Vinegar acts well on the dried roots; and water and alcohol extract most of their virtues.
Properties and Uses: The fresh roots are excitant to a high degree, and will provoke inflammation and blistering. The dried roots are not possessed of these powers, but form a pleasant, efficient, and somewhat sharp glandular stimulant. Their chief powers are expended on the kidneys and skin, and they gradually raise the general capillary and then the arterial circulation; but a considerable portion of their influence is expended upon the stomach, and some upon the gall-ducts and the secretions generally. The roots arouse a gentle warmth and fair gastric secretion in the stomach; and are good in decidedly atonic, viscid, and semi-paralyzed conditions of that organ. It steadily increases the flow of urine, and the amount of insensible perspiration; procures warmth of the surface, and greater fullness and firmness of the pulse, and favors an increase of alvine action. It is useful only in very sluggish conditions; and should not be given in any case of local or arterial excitement, nor to sensitive patients. The manner in which it arouses to the general casting out of excretions, makes it peculiarly useful in all half-paralyzed and viscid conditions, where accumulations of tenacious mucus clog the secernents. Such conditions are common in dropsy; and are also met in some cases of jaundice and rheumatism. The article is most suitable in chronic cases; though a warm infusion used very freely, the patient being well covered, will usually incite a remarkably copious diaphoresis, and may be given in dropsies. Half a drachm to a drachm of the grated root may be given three times a day.
Pharmaceutical Preparations: I. Compound Spirit of Horseradish. Sliced horseradish, twenty ounces; bitter orange peel, twenty ounces; bruised nutmeg, half an ounce; proof spirit, one gallon; water, two pints. Mix, and distill off a gallon with a moderate heat. This is a preparation of the U. S. Pharmacopoeia, mostly used as a stimulating addendum to various diuretic preparations. Dose, one to two fluid drachms.
II. Compound Tincture. Horseradish, (dried,) mustard seeds, juniper berries, barberry bark, orange peel, each two ounces; cider, slightly fermented, three pints; diluted alcohol, one pint. Macerate one week, press, and filter. This is a preparation of my father-in-law's, the late Dr. J. Masseker, of New York; and by him was used largely and successfully in dropsies with biliousness. Dose, half to a whole fluid ounce three times a day.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com