3 Must-Know Medicinal Radishes

3 Must-Know Medicinal Radishes

Low-calorie and nutrient-dense, radishes provide vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants for overall health.

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It is something of a crime that in all its glorious incarnations, the mighty radish goes generally ignored in North America. The balance of our recipes and the health of our bodies are the losers in this glaring omission.

In truth, the radish is not a vegetable but a world of vegetables. They all have their own thing going on. We’ve already sung the praises of the raphanus sativus as a group, now let’s take a closer look at three of the radish family’s most outstanding members.


Daikon Radish

(Raphanus sativus var. Longipinnatus)

The Japanese word daikon translates into big root, and these tubers are native to East Asia. The sweet and peppery flavours of daikon radish, whether raw, pickled, or paired with cabbage and fermented in classic kimchi, add a welcome tang to anything rich or heavy.

Astoundingly, the enzyme profile of daikon radish juice closely resembles that of the human digestive system. Hence, combining daikon with proteins can improve amino acid absorption and support the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates.

But daikons have much more to offer than acidity and digestive ease: they are loaded with fascinating chemicals like quercetin, glucosinolates and ferulic acids. These compounds assist with asthma and respiratory issues and support the bone structure, especially in tandem with daikon’s generous endowments of calcium and vitamin C.

Sprouts of daikon radish are being hotly researched for their superlative abundance of polyamines like spermine, spermidine, and agmatine, which already account for a new wave of designer biohacking supplements and are sure to get more attention in years to come for their remarkable life extension properties.

When cruciferous veggies like radishes are chopped or bruised, the glucosinolates they contain are enzymatically converted to supremely powerful mega-antioxidants called isothiocyanates.

Research indicates that thanks to these isothiocyanates, eating cruciferous veggies like kale, broccoli, cabbage, bok choi, and radishes can significantly contribute to a cancer-free life.

Two isothiocyanates (GRH-ITC and GRE-ITC) from daikons have received increasing attention for dramatically reducing tumour growth without affecting normal human cells. However, this effect was found to be even stronger from a full-spectrum daikon extract than from the isolated isothiocyanates. In other words, respect the chemistry, but eat the whole food!


Black Radishes

(Raphanus sativus var. Niger)

Like any bitter food, radishes are friendly to bile flow and liver function. But the black radish is a liver food par excellence, offering significant protection for our beloved detox engine from nutrient deficiencies, toxic exposure, inflammation, and diseases like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Spanish black radishes are particularly rich in a glucosinolate unique to radishes: glucoraphasatin. The byproducts of glucoraphasatin are powerful activators of phase 1 and 2 liver detoxification, helping the body rid itself of various cellular toxins.

For avoiding gallstones, black radishes may be the best food out there. In a study on mice fed a lithogenic diet (a diet designed to cause gallstone formation), six days of black radish juice consumption eradicated existing gallstones.

This remarkable effect is due to the powerful radish antioxidants that induce liver detoxification and prevent cholesterol from congealing and crystallizing in the gallbladder. Research is ongoing to illuminate the exact mechanisms by which black radishes treat and prevent gallstones- but there is no debate over whether or not they do.



(Armoracia rusticana)

The spiciest of them all, horseradish is not even, technically, a radish. But, like all proper radishes, it is a cruciferous veggie in the brassica family, sharing a relation with kohlrabi, watercress, kale, and the rest.

As mentioned, all brassicas contain glucosinolates, the cancer-fighting, life-extending, and highly reactive sulphurous compounds that are as smelly as they are healthy. Pungence in any food, like the spiciness of raw garlic, or the sting in your eyes from cutting onions, or the way mustard seems to prickle the tongue, is a giveaway that sulphur is in the picture.

And remember that the sulphurous glucosinolates that make these veggies so intense to the senses are also singly responsible for putting them on the map as superfoods.

Horseradish’s primary glucosinolate is called sinigrin. When we chew or cut into the root, sinigrin rapidly converts into its volatile, intense, and nose-tingling metabolites. Vinegar or oil can be used to stop this reaction from continuing, effectively preserving the spicy horseradish heat at its maximum intensity.

Horseradish has 10 times more glucosinolates than broccoli, so even a little garnish goes a long way. Aside from the glucosinolates, horseradish is loaded with vitamins and minerals, it actually has three times more vitamin C than citrus fruits.

The inimitable cold burn of horseradish’s sinigrin almost resembles camphor, like nature’s internal Tiger Balm. Unsurprisingly, it boosts circulation and has been used topically as a poultice to kill pain for hundreds of years.

As a potent antimicrobial, its famous alliance with prime rib has roots in preventing meat spoilage by inhibiting the growth of nasty bugs.

And it can clear out your sinuses!


Rad Attitude of Radish Gratitude

Daikon, black radishes, and horseradish are powerful functional foods associated with longevity and optimal health. In many cultures, where side dishes like kimchi, pickled daikon, and wasabi are standard accouterments, this news may be an unneeded encouragement to maintain the radish-heavy status quo. To others, it will hopefully be a wake-up call to take a walk on the smelly side.

Incorporating more radishes into your diet is a chance to stimulate your digestion, detoxification, and breathing- not to mention your tastebuds!

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Damien ZielinskiA cloud-based functional medicine practitioner with a focus on mental health and insomnia
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