Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Watercress-Nasturtium Officinale, Rorippa Nasturtium Aquaticum, Radicula Nasturtium Aquaticum, Sisymbrium Nasturtium, Rorippa Palustris, Rorippa Islandica
Also known as: Zarra, Biolar, Vesikrassi, Poor Man's Bread, Cresson De Fontaine, Echte Brunnenkresse, Cresione d'Acqua, Marsh Yellowcress, Commone Watercress, etc.
Parts used: stems, leaves
Meridians/Organs affected: kidneys, bladder, stomach, lungs, eyes, skin, blood, bone, DNA, brain, thyroid
Properties: diuretic, expectorant, laxative, stimulant, stomachic, nutritive, anti-carcinogenic, anti-anemic, antioxidant, antibacterial, depurative, anti-inflammatory, aphrodisiac, ophthalmic, possible lithotriptic, antiviral, antipyretic, tonic
Watercress is a member of the Cruciferae family (Brassica). It is a close relative of the mustard species and is usually found standing in fresh water. It has oval shaped, hairless leaves with small white to purplish-white flowers that appear in clusters on terminal stalks that arise from the upper leaf axils. The flowers have four petals and are cross-shaped. Watercress only gets about 6 inches above the water's surface but can get to almost three feet long. It blooms from April to July depending on the location. It can be found in or around slow moving streams and creeks throughout North America, Asia and Europe.
Watercress is a native of Europe and Russia. It has quite a history. As far back as the 5th century it was prescribed by Greek physicians for brain disorders. Hippocrates used it as an expectorant and a stimulant for bronchitis and coughing. The Romans would mix it with vinegar for use on those with mental disorders. They even had a proverb about watercress-'Eat cress and learn more wit'. I know plenty of people today who could use a daily dose of watercress.
The juice was used for acne and spots, bronchial complaints, colds, etc. The plant infusion was used to relieve water retention, help with diabetes, and assist in the prevention of gallstones. Mixed with carrots in a soup, it was used for canker sores and mouth blisters. Most often, perhaps, it was eaten raw for nutrition (high in vitamins A, B2, C, D, E, K, B6 and in the minerals iodine, potassium, calcium, copper, iron, sulfur, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, indoles and mustard glycosides), viral infections, blood sugar issues, goiter, tuberculosis, liver and kidney problems, asthma, boils, warts, tumors, scabies, flu, rheumatism, eczema, fevers, nervousness and baldness.
Watercress was also used for quite some time to prevent scurvy and as a contraceptive. As it is high in sulfur compounds it stimulates the appetite and gastric juices, making it beneficial for those recovering from eating disorders. Pulped with some sea salt it was often used as a poultice for arthritis and gout.
Recent studies have shown that watercress also reduces DNA damage to blood cells which is something KEY when it comes to cancer. In fact, the University of Ulster in Londonderry did a study on watercress using 60 healthy men and women (30 each and it included smokers in both sexes as well) who were charged with eating a cereal-bowl full of the peppery greens every day for eight weeks. What they found was amazing! Professor Rowland, who headed the study, said, "Our findings are highly significant. Population studies have shown links between higher intakes of cruciferous vegetables like watercress and a reduced risk of a number of cancers. Blood cell DNA damage is an indicator of whole body cancer risk and the results support the theory that consumption of watercress is linked to an overall reduced risk of cancer at various sites in the body." The key findings of the study showed a 22.9% decline in DNA damage to the white blood cells, a 10% reductions in triglyceride levels, a 33% increase in beta carotene in the blood and a 100% increase of lutein in blood levels (which means lower incidences of macular degeneration, cataracts, etc), increased fiber in the body as well as higher levels of vitamin E, C and folate (B9). The most significant increases were seen in smokers who had much less antioxidants in their blood supply at the beginning of the study. Steve Rothwell, who was involved in the study as well stated, "This is ground-breaking research on two fronts: it suggests the anticancer properties of watercress go beyond those attributable to PEITC (the mustard oil found within watercress) and, more importantly, the study is the first to demonstrate a direct correlation between eating watercress and reducing one's susceptibility to cancer."
Watercress extract has also been shown to cause cancerous cells to die (called apoptosis). This research was published in London but also in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in February of 2007.
Watercress is one of those plants key to man's long term survival. It is high in nutrients that we might not get otherwise in the diet. It is a spicy pungent green commonly used in V8 juice. Some native american tribes would use it to dispel gallstones and they simply ate it raw. So...try mixing it in with some dandelion and arugula for a salad, or adding some to your omelettes or stir fry dishes, in soups, meat dishes, salad dressings, sauces, smoothies or on sandwiches. The possibilities are endless and the benefits are limitless.
CAUTION: Watercress should not be used by pregnant women, people with kidney issues, stomach ulcers or duodenal ulcers as it can aggravate those conditions. As it is high in vitamin K, those on blood thinners should partake of it only sparingly. Also, people who take lithium or chloroxazone (muscle relaxant) shouldn't eat watercress as it affects the way the body utilizes those medications. People with hyperthyroidism should also limit watercress as it is high in iodine. Fresh watercress grown commercially is what is usually suggested as the wild varieties can contain liver flukes (parasite) depending on the water supply.
As is the custom with my posts I am including some links herein for your perusal. Use them however you decide is best for you.