Black Spanish Radish: Health Benefits of its Roots, Leaves and Juice
Black Spanish radish (Latin: Raphanus sativus L. var. niger) has been used for centuries both as food and as medicine. When used for culinary purposes, the dull black skin is typically removed, and the white inner flesh is steamed, sautéed, braised, or stir-fried. Black radish can also be eaten raw, in which case it is usually grated or sliced, and added to salads or eaten as a healthy snack. When used for its health benefits, black Spanish radish can also be juiced or ingested in supplemental form. Also the leaves of young Raphanus sativus L. var. niger can be consumed, whether for culinary or health purposes.
The black Spanish radish can be either round or elongated in shape. The round-shaped variety is sometimes called "Noir Gros de Paris", while the elongated variety may be called "Black Spanish Long" or "Black Mooli". Regardless of which variety you go for, you will be in for a nutritional treat. Rich in vitamin C, glucoraphasatin, and a bunch of other health-protecting compounds, this earthy and pungent root vegetable might just be the next healthy food to earn a "superfood" status. Here's the full scoop on the beneficial properties of the black radish:
Food for a Healthy Liver, Gallbladder, and Digestive System
In China and Europe, black radish root has been used in folk medicine for hundreds of years as a gallbladder tonic and as a natural remedy for impaired bile function and digestive problems. In India, black radish – or black mooli as it is sometimes called there – is a popular liver tonic.
Both the liver and gallbladder are involved in digestion, the former being responsible for the production of bile and the latter storing this bitter fluid and increasing its potency. When fatty food enters your small intestine, the gallbladder releases bile to improve the digestion of fats (and protein).
As a result of its longstanding and widespread use as a natural remedy for impaired digestive organs, black Spanish radish has getting a lot of attention from scientists focused on modern medicine and nutritional studies. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology investigated the effects of juice squeezed from black radish root on cholesterol gallstones and serum lipids on mice fed a lithogenic diet (i.e. a diet that promotes formation of gallstones and increases cholesterol and triglycerides levels). After treatment with black radish root juice for 6 days, the mice had significantly fewer cholesterol gallstones, and their cholesterol and triglycerides levels had dropped as well. In addition, there was an increased in HDL cholesterol (the "good cholesterol") levels.
Interestingly, however, people with existing gallstones are often advised to avoid eating radish in large amounts, perhaps because it could cause the gallstones exit the gallbladder and then get stuck inside the common bile duct.
Another study focused on the potential liver-detoxifying properties of an extract derived from the taproot of the black radish plant. The researchers found that the black radish extract effectively induced detoxification enzymes in the tested liver cancer cell line. These anti-cancer effects were largely attributed to 4-methylthio-3-butenyl isothiocyanate (MIBITC), an isothiocyanate metabolite of glucoraphasatin. This study appeared in the August 2007 edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Important notice: If you have gallbladder stones or suffer from severe kidney or liver problems, don't use black radish medicinally (i.e. in large amounts or in the form of concentrated supplements) before consulting a qualified health care professional. Also pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid using more than usual food amounts in order to stay on the safe side.
Radish Leaves Are Edible and They Provide Health Benefits, Too
In 2009, a team of researchers published a study in the Journal of Functional Foods which showed that not only the root portion of Spanish black radish can induce detoxification enzyme expression in the HepG2 human liver carcinoma cell line, but also the leaves have similar liver-detoxifying effects. In addition, the researchers found that the radish leaves had significantly greated antioxidant potential than the roots (regardless of whether the antioxidant capacity was measured by the FRAP or the ORAC method). So next time you buy a bunch of black radishes with young, intact leaves still attached, don't toss them on the compost pile. Instead, turn them into a delicious side dish by sautéing them on a frying pan.
Black Radish for the Prevention and Treatment of the Common Cold
In terms of flavor, black radish is much stronger and more pungent than its white counterpart. But that hot spiciness is just one reason why black radish makes an ideal food for cold winter days. Anecdotal evidence suggests that pungent foods, such as black Spanish radish, can help prevent and ward off colds and flu by stimulating mucous membranes and clearing congestion.
But the pungent flavor of black Spanish radish may not be the only beneficial property this unsung superfood has when it comes to flu prevention; the vitamin C in black radish may also provide some protection against colds and flu due to its immune-boosting properties.
Where to Find Black Spanish Radish
Despite all the knowledge about the wonderful health benefits of the black Spanish radish, this earthy root vegetable is still relatively difficult to find in regular grocery stores. You may be able to find it in health food oriented grocery stores such as Whole Foods Market, however. Also farmers' markets are a good place to start a search for fresh black radishes. When looking for black Spanish radish, keep in mind that it also goes by other names, including "Black Spanish Long" (the long variety), "Noir Gros de Paris" (the round variety), Nero Tondo, and black mooli.
If you have no luck in finding fresh black radishes in your area, you can always grow your own if you have a garden. Seeds are available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, and they will yield delicious round black radishes in about 50 to 55 days after planting. The ideal time for planting this "winter radish" is in mid to late summer.
Don't have a garden and no luck in finding black radish at the local farmers' market, either? While it's hard to beat fresh black radishes, Swanson's full-spectrum Spanish black radish supplements – available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk – can probably deliver at least some of the benefits of black radishes.
1. Ibrahim Guillermo Castro-Torres, Naranjo-Rodriguez E. B, Dominguez-Ortiz M. A., et al (2012). Antilithiasic and Hypolipidaemic Effects of Raphanus sativus L. var. niger on Mice Fed with a Lithogenic Diet. Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology, Volume 2012, Article ID 161205.
2. Paul R. Hanlon, Webber D. M., and Barnes D. M (2007). Aqueous extract from Spanish black radish (Raphanus sativus L. Var. niger) induces detoxification enzymes in the HepG2 human hepatoma cell line. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 55(16), p. 6439-46.
3. Paul R. Hanlon, Robbins M. G., Hammon L. D, et al (2009). Aqueous extract from the vegetative portion of Spanish black radish (Raphanus sativus L. var. niger) induces detoxification enzyme expression in HepG2 cells. Journal of Functional Foods, vol. 1 issue 4, p. 356-365.