Wasabi with sushi

Wasabi: What It Is, Health Benefits And Side Effects

Wasabi is a Japanese food known by its strong and spicy taste.

When you ask for sushi, it usually comes with a spicy green paste to put on top of the sashimi or dissolved in soya sauce. Wasabi, also known as Japanese horseradish, comes from the same family as mustard. When we eat some, we have a burning sensation that lasts for some seconds. 

In this article, we tell you what wasabi is, and what benefits and side effects it has.

What is wasabi?

Wasabi is a plant closely related to cabbage and horseradish. It is popularly known as Japanese horseradish due to its similar flavor, although it is a different plant than horseradish. 

This food is characterized by its strong and spicy taste. When we have some, our olfactory sense changes, releasing chemical vapors that affect the nasal cavity. This spicy sensation does not last long. The strong flavor of wasabi is similar to hot mustard and is most commonly used as a condiment for sashimi and sushi. It is also used in many other Japanese dishes.

The strong taste and smell, caused by chemical products, work as a defense mechanism against predators that try to eat the plant. These chemical products also have a strong impact on health benefits. 

In the supermarket, we can find it as a stem or rhizome, as a paste or in powder, which is a bit easier to use. 

Wasabi health benefits

Wasabi is associated with different health benefits for our body. So its use is not limited as a condiment, but also as an application for the organism. Below we detail its properties:

1. Research on cancer

Today, there is some research that studies whether the regular incorporation of wasabi to our diet can prevent some types of cancer. The most beneficial nutrients we can find are isothiocyanates. The various isothiocyanate antioxidants are very beneficial to eliminate free radicals in all systems of the body. These studies  suggest that wasabi isothiocyanate may inhibit the spread of leukemia and stomach cancer cells.

Similar research has found that it could also be effective against breast cancer and melanoma cells, which leads to many researchers to support wasabi as a small preventive method against multiple types of cancer. Research on its resistance to other cancers is still ongoing.

However, from Healthy Way Mag we would like to point out that  these studies are still in progress and that in no case can wasabi be considered a substitute for medical treatments against cancer or any other type of disease.

Japanese horseradish
Wasabi is a kind of Japanese spicy radish.

2. Protects heart health

Another benefit of the wasabi plant is related to cardiovascular problems. This food is attributed to anti-cholesterol properties that help reduce high cholesterol levels in the body and reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks.

Isothiocyanates have inhibitory effects on the accumulation of platelets in a thrombus or blood clot. These clots are the leading causes of cardiovascular accidents and other crisis. 

3. Relieves arthritis

It is also being studied on how this spicy plant reduces joint swelling and even relieves the effects of arthritis. The strong antioxidant compounds of isothiocyanate have been shown to reduce inflammation of joints, ligaments, and muscles that can contribute to arthritis and joint pain. Studies suggest that wasabi helps maintain bone integrity in the body and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

4. Kills harmful foodborne bacteria

Wasabi also helps fight bacterial infections. In a recent study of the antibacterial properties of various foods and vegetables, wasabi was classified as the most successful antibacterial food against E. coli and staphylococcal infections.

This means that food poisoning can be prevented keeping the levels of isothiocyanates in our diet by having some wasabi. Isothiocyanates are the vital component that neutralizes these bacteria potentially fatal inside our body. 

Wasabi spicy food
Wasabi has a strong and spicy taste.

5. Respiratory conditions

This spicy plant can protect us from some respiratory system diseases.  The gas component of wasabi, which causes such a powerful reaction in the nostrils and sinuses, is the gaseous release of isothiocyanate, which can actively inhibit the proliferation of respiratory pathogens such as those that cause pneumonia.

In addition, it clears the nasal passages when the gas component reaches the nostrils. Often, this can help people with seasonal allergies, or even a common cold, by stimulating the sinuses and opening the passages to increase airflow.

6. Improves intestinal health

Japanese horseradish can prevent intestinal inflammation and the risk of having the leaky gut syndrome. This benefit is attributed to its high fiber content that helps increase stool volume, thus improving the digestion process and improving overall intestinal health.

Side effects

Besides all the possible benefits, the excessive consumption of wasabi can also have side effects. These are some of them:

  • Liver damage: if we overeat wasabi, it can affect our liver. It has a chemical component called hepatotoxin, which is harmless in small doses, but if we have too much of it, the body won't be able to process the toxins, and it can cause severe liver damage. 

  • Allergies: some people are allergic to wasabi. This is why if we have some for the first time, it is important to start with small quantities and make sure we are not allergic to it. 

  • Stomach disorders

  • Diarrhea

  • Sickness


Here you have a very interesting video on wasabi:

- Original article at viviendolasalud.com: Wasabi: qué es, beneficios para la salud y contraindicaciones


Kinae, N., Masuda, H., Shin, I. S., Furugori, M., & Shimoi, K. (2000). Functional properties of wasabi and horseradish. Biofactors, 13(1‐4), 265-269.

Morimitsu, Y., Hayashi, K., Nakagawa, Y., Horio, F., Uchida, K., & Osawa, T. (2000). Antiplatelet and anticancer isothiocyanates in Japanese domestic horseradish, wasabi. Biofactors, 13(1-4), 271-276.

Ohtsuru, M., & Kawatani, H. (1979). Studies on the myrosinase from Wasabia japonica: Purification and some properties of wasabi myrosinase. Agricultural and Biological Chemistry, 43(11), 2249-2255.