You can get the many watercress benefits by eating healthy and cheap salads prepared from wild vegetables. Watercress combines well with dandelion, sorrel, and nettle. A meal like this is more fitting on a day outing than an instant soup heated on a portable stove, a tin of sardines, or a sandwich.
Enjoying nature requires knowledge, and the inhabitants of towns must acquire such knowledge. There is a Spanish saying, “Those people gathering watercress, take care of monkshood.” The monkshood plant also grows near clear waters and is one of the most poisonous plants. Fortunately, it is not difficult to distinguish from watercress.
The sentence, however, should have referred to other plants much more similar to watercress. The Helosciadium nodiflorum is taller than the watercress. With larger, light green leaves, flowers grow in umbels (flower clusters) and with a flavor not so tasteful as watercress. Moreover, it is a toxic plant.
Watercress Scientific Facts
- Scientific Name – Nasturtium officianalis R. Br.
- Other Names – Scurvy grass, tall nasturtium.
- French – Cresson.
- Spanish – Berro, mastuerzo de agua.
- Environment – It grows close to springs and brooks of clear, fresh water, disliking reservoirs. Widespread in Europe and America, where up to five different varieties are known.
- Description – Climbing plant of the Cruciferae family, with intense green leaves and small, white flowers. Its flavor resembles mustard, though less spicy.
- Parts of the plant used medicinally – The leaves and young stems.
Watercress contains gluconasturtiin (a sulfur glycoside), iodine, and iron, a bitter component, and vitamin A, C, and E. These are the main watercress benefits:
- Blood depurative and diuretic: Recommended for gout, arthritis, obesity, and when the diet is rich in meat and fats.
- Invigorating: Watercress has a soft stimulant effect on all metabolic functions. It is an appetizer and activates the metabolism since it gives essential amounts of vitamins A, C, and E, besides minerals such as iodine and iron. This makes watercress very useful to help overcome asthenia (weakness) states caused by a lack of vitamins or minerals.
- Expectorant: Due to its content of essential sulfured oils, it promotes expectoration and relieves the congestion of the respiratory system. People suffering from bronchial disorders or emphysema can take advantage of its properties.
- Cicatrizant: The Poultice of watercress applied on torpid wounds or sores enhances the formation of new skin. They also regenerate the skin in the case of eczema, acne, and dermatosis. When applied to the scalp, they prevent hair loss.
Pregnant women should abstain from watercress because of its probable abortifacient effect. The consumption of high amounts of watercress is not recommended since it can be an irritant for the stomach. The plants with flowers or fruits should not be used because they are too strong.
How to use Watercress
- Raw: Watercress may become toxic when trying to pressure it. Thus, it is better to eat it young and fresh. Wash it carefully before consuming it, or keep it in salt water for half an hour since it may house tiny larvae.
- Juice: Drink half a glass, sweetened with honey, each meal.
- Poultices, with 100 grams of fresh watercress mashed in a mortar, preferably of wood. Apply on the affected areas, wrapped in gauze.
- Lotions: Apply the juice directly to the skin.
George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Ed. Francesc X. Gelabert. Vols. 1 San Fernando de Henares: Editorial Safeliz, 2000. 270, 271. Print. [watercress benefits]