Historically, the radish was almost as important in the leech's repertoire as it was in the kitchen.
According to Dioscorides, it is useful as a laxative, a diuretic and an emetic.
There is some discussion as to whether the ancient Egyptians employed it. Some say that they paid their workers a wage of radishes, garlic and onions, deliberately supplying the workers building the pyramids with a preventative antibiotic to keep them healthy. Other sources say that, Herodotus notwithstanding, the Egyptians made little use of it. If you have a bit more information on this, please share it! I was unable to get to the bottom of it.
Bald's Leechbook recommends it as an emetic and laxative, for heart pain, shingles and skin infections including elephantiasis and leprosy, against poisons, against lung disease, against disease of the bladder, against diseases of the kidneys and to rid a patient of kidney stones. The seed was pulverized into ale or wine and given to the patient to drink to rid himself of worms. It was also mentioned, along with a number of other herbs to be used in a series of sweat baths prescribed to alleviate palsy.
Galen suggested it was good “to drive forth worms” and the distillation as being good against stones and gravel.
Modern research bears out many of these uses. According to The Scientific World Journal the radish is a powerhouse antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral agent. It has anti-tumor potential. It has a host of benefits or potential benefits that call for more research. (I have to tell you that it takes a bit to make me throw in the towel on reading research proving that the traditional uses of a plant are valid. This one did that. It's worth a look.) It does all those wonderful things for your regularity that the ancients claimed it does and it tastes good, too.
It's a good source of vitamin C, folates, potassium, and a number of other vitamins and minerals that would obviously help alleviate or eliminate any of the syndromes associated with dietary deficiencies such as scurvy. Have a peek here for the nutritional information.
Oh, and according to Healthginger, they can help with your receding hairline, too.
I must confess to being surprised on this one. I knew that radishes are healthy vegetables and a good thing to add to your regular diet but I had no idea that they are this good for you!
Did I forget anything? Do you know of an ancient use for radishes that I missed? Share it with me in the comments below. I'm always pleased to add a recipe to my leechbook.
Tomorrow's topic will be on the radish's place in society.