The Greeks regarded watercress as a psychic stimulant and the Romans used it with vinegar as a remedy for mental disorders. Old English physicians recommended its use for headaches and biliousness. Watercress is traditionally used in winter salad as it grows in flowing water even at cool temperatures if the water is not frozen.
It has a sharp, peppery, and slightly tangy taste and is consumed raw in salads and cooked, especially in soups.
Morphology and Nutritional Values
Morphology – The watercress is a perennial, aquatic herb with hollow angular branches and dark green shining leaves divided into several leaflets. It has a pleasant, pungent flavor and is used in salads.
Nutritional Values – Watercress contains all essential vitamins and is rich in alkaline elements. An analysis of this vegetable shows it to consist of moisture, protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Its mineral and vitamin contents are calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, sodium, potassium, vitamins A and C, thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin. Its calorific value is 19, the herb also contains nicotinamide, glucoside, gluconasturtiin, and volatile oil. Watercress has a high nutrient density for vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, E, C, polyphenols.
Watercress is a native of Europe, it is widely distributed in wild states in Great Britain, South and Central Europe, and Western Asia. This plant is now cultivated in Malaysia, Indonesia, Hawaii, West Indies, and East Africa and grows wild in the Himalayas.
Usually, watercress is cultivated in sophisticated held back streaming waters but also grows well in moist soil or hydroponic cultures. When commercially grown, watercress cuttings or seedlings are planted into beds with a mixture of soil and gravel, leveled out to ensure even water flows through the beds.
Scientific Name of Watercress
Watercress's scientific name is Nasturtium Officinale, its other common names are jal-halim, jal-kumbhi, and chhuch.
Health Benefits and Uses of Watercress
Watercress has a cooling effect on the body and aids digestion, Hippocrates described it as a stimulant and expectorant. It has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulating, anti-diabetic, anti-allergic, antibacterial, hypolipemic, cardioprotective, and anticancer properties.
Here are some health benefits with uses
As a rich source of iron, watercress is beneficial in treating anemia. A cup of fresh juice with a tsp of lime juice and a pinch of common salt can be taken every morning for a month in the treatment of anemia.
It is considered an excellent remedy for chest problems, it has been found effective in treating asthma and cough, and it facilitates expectoration.
A combined juice of watercress, carrot, spinach, and turnip leaves is effective in dissolving the coagulated blood fibrin in plies, about a liter of this taken daily cures this condition within 2 to 6 months. However, all white flour, sugar, and meat products need to be eliminated from the diet.
A paste made of seeds and water can be applied to skin diseases caused by impurities of blood, bruised seeds, mixed with lime juice, and spread on linen, and can be applied with beneficial results in cases of internal inflammation and rheumatic pains. The seeds are also effective as a rubefacient – a pain-relieving ointment.
Thyroid Gland Disorders
Watercress is one of the best sources of iodine which is important for the functioning of the thyroid. Its regular use is highly beneficial in the prevention and treatment of thyroid gland disorders.
Other Benefits and Uses
Dietary Deficiencies - Dr. Harold Scurfield, an eminent British physician has advocated the greater use of watercress among urbanites as it probably contains all vitamins needed to compensate for dietary caused by urbanization.
Malnutrition – Watercress is good for overcoming malnutrition, Dr. S. Monckton Copeman, formerly of the Ministry of Health in England, says, “In many instances, excellent results, especially in the case of ill-nourished children, have been found to follow on the addition of watercress to their daily food.
Pregnancy and Lactation – The use of watercress is beneficial during pregnancy and lactation, an invigorating and nutritious tonic is prepared by boiling the seeds in milk to get a thin, soft mass and adding sugar or jaggery to it. The tonic removes the imminent general debility during pregnancy. It also increases the secretion of milk in nursing mothers.
Hiccups – An emulsion made by soaking the seeds in water is taken as a drink at the frequent interval to relieve hiccups.
Watercress is mostly used as a vegetable; its rich green leaves make an excellent salad. The flowers of the plant are also palatable.
Side Effects of Nasturtium Officinale
All Ayurveda herbs are plant-based, and they don’t have any side effects, but they may react with some allopathy or homeopathy medicine. It is better to consult the doctor if you are on any medications or have special health issues.
There are some precautionary measures while consuming Nasturtium Officinale
The juice extracted from watercress is exceedingly rich in sulfur, which represents more than one-third of all the other combined mineral elements and salts present in it. Because it is a powerful intestinal cleanser it should never be taken by itself but always in combination with other juices.
- Consult the doctor if you are breastfeeding.
- Consult the doctor if you are pregnant.
- If you are on diabetes or on hypertension medication. Consult first with the doctor before consuming.
- If you are suffering from kidney disease, consult the doctor first before consuming Nasturtium Officinale.
- Do not take watercress with liquor, it may interact with it and cause drowsiness.