Learning about Spices
What is a spice?
Why were spices important?
Sources of spices
Perfumes and Incenses 
Use of spices as aphrodisiacs
Use of spices as medicines
Culinary herbs
A spice timeline

Table of Spices
Allspice (Pimento)
Black Pepper
Chile Pepper
Coriander (Cilantro)
Frankincense and Myrrh
Nutmeg and Mace

Contacts and Acknowledgments
Click image to enlarge
Genus SpeciesAmoracia rusticana
Origin Southern Russia, Balkans
Cultivated Northern and South-eastern Europe and in Scandinavia
Description The word horseradish is derived from the German word for “sea radish”, since it grows in coastal areas in Europe. Although horseradish (Amorica rusticana) does not fulfill the criteria of being an aromatic or exotic herb for use in cooking, it can be classified along with mustard, garlic and onion as a pungent condiment. However, despite its popularity for garnishing meat dishes, and some forms of prepared fish, it is rarely incorporated as a basic flavor component in any cooked dish. In distinction to mustard, it has not been regarded as having an affinity for being combined with wine, although it was formerly used as a “pick-me-up” in beer. The origin of horseradish may have been Russia, but it has spread widely; in the U.S.A. it was formerly grown mainly in the Midwest, but now about 40% of the country’s supply comes from around Tule Lake in northern California.

The related wasabi, which has a fiery taste comparable to horseradish mixed with mustard, originated in Japan; much is now grown in New Zealand and in Oregon. The spice continues to be used mainly as an accompanying condiment for sashimi and sushi, or as a snack flavor. It is common experience that oral intake of wasabi or horseradish constitutes the best therapy for sinusitis and nasal congestion.

The common radish is still regarded as a pungent salad vegetable rather than a spice. It is of interest that radish seedlings contain S-carboxymethyl-cysteine, which is marketed as a synthetic mucolytic in Europe. Allyl isothiocyanate (“allyl mustard oil”) is the major chemical produced by horseradish and mustard; several other related sulfur compounds contribute to the pungent taste and initiating odor. These chemicals are very toxic when used in large amounts.

Ground-up horseradish can be added to a glass of water sweetened with honey; this suspension can be used as a gargle to improve mucus clearance. Radish seedlings were used in ancient times for asthma, and any benefit presumably results from its effect on mucus. Ground-up horseradish can be used on a poultice to serve as a rubefacient and a topical counter-irritant in comparable manner to a mustard plaster. Most people today, however, are only able to appreciate the stimulating and activating effects as the "therapeutic" outcome of a stiff dose of the horseradish type of spices. See a list of spices by Taste and Hotness.
Useful Parts The root is the source of horseradish; the leaves are sometimes used in salads.
Medicinal Properties The medical use of horseradish and wasabi includes the treatment of sinus, throat and lung problems, since pungent spices loosen up impacted mucus. Horseradish has also been described as a diuretic and is used as a source of Vitamin C. Its value as an antihelminth and for treating infections has never been proved
See chemicals in spices.
Historical View “It has the same properties as mustard, being stimulant, diuretic, and diaphoretic, when given internally; and rubefacient or even vesicant, when externally applied.”

Bentley, Robert and Henry Trimen. Medicinal Plants; being descriptions with original figures of the principal plants employed in medicine and an account of the characters, properties, and uses of their parts and products of medicinal value. London, Churchill, 1880. (WZ 295 B556m 1880)
Click image to enlarge

Spice Exhibit URL: http://unitproj.library.ucla.edu/biomed/spice/index.cfm

History & Special Collections
UCLA Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library
12-077 CHS, Box 951798
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1798
Tel: 310/825-6940
Fax: 310/825-0465

©2002 Regents of the University of California