Name: Watercress (Nasturtium officinale)


Family: Brassicaceae

Common names: Cress

Range: Native to Europe and Central Asia, and cultivated in the southern U.S.

Parts Used: Fresh or dried leaf.

Preparations: Eaten raw as a salad or vegetable. The dried leaf may be prepared as a tea.

History: Watercress is an ancient plant, and one of the oldest known leafy vegetables to be consumed by humans. Since it is a semi-aquatic plant, it thrives in marshes and streams, particularly those offering an alkaline environment. The leaves have a slight peppery flavor. In fact, watercress lends its spicy flavor to V8 Vegetable Juice. However, the flavor turns bitter once tiny green and white blooms have appeared.

Due to the antioxidants provided by this plant, watercress is being studied for its potential anti-cancer properties, especially for its effects on lung, throat, and mouth cancers. However, the leaf must be chewed to observe these effects. Other reputed medicinal benefits of this herb include its use to ease congestion, to act as a mild diuretic, and to sooth gastrointestinal complaints.

Constituents: Watercress is loaded with nutrients, including calcium, iron, copper, iodine, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamins A, C and E, and folic acid. It also contains several glycosides.

Cautions/Contraindications: Watercress is known to inhibit certain enzymes, an activity that may interfere with muscle relaxant medications, such as chlorzoxazone.

Disclaimer: This information has not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.