Scientific Name: Nasturtium officinale syn. Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum
Watercress is a creeping perennial herb with dark green leaves. Small white flowers appear in summer, followed by short, fat pods of seeds. It grows wild in ditches and in running streams throughout the world. Today it is cultivated in flooded beds as a salad herb. Watercress likes partial shade and will thrive alongside or in fresh running water — plant it under a dripping tap, or grow it in a pot standing in a bowl of water.
As Watercress tends to seed easily, it needs to be picked frequently. Do not allow it to seed, as it will die afterwards. If it has gone to seed — put it on the compost heap — it is a good compost maker.
The parts that are used: The fresh or dried leafy stems and the seeds when ripe.
Watercress has been prized since Roman times for its biting, rich flavour, raw or cooked as a vegetable and in soups. Today Watercress is a popular ingredient in salads, sandwiches, stir fries and as a garnish. It is delicious when steamed and makes a good soup with onions and potatoes.
Watercress has a long medicinal history. The ancient Greeks advised the witless to eat Watercress as it was thought to help remedy disorders of the brain. In the 5th century BC the Greeks used Watercress as an energiser and strengthener. In European folklore it was seen as a blood-cleanser and spring tonic.
Today we know that Watercress is a detoxifying herb, rich in vitamin A, B1, B2, C, E and minerals (especially iodine, iron and phosphorus). Watercress has a broad spectrum antibiotic & anti-tumour action — it is a "must-be" in the diet of cancer patients as a cancer inhibitor. Watercress will help an under-active thyroid and it is a valuable remedy for chronic illnesses. It will stimulate the appetite, relieves indigestion and helps in the case of chronic bronchitis, especially where there is excessive mucus production. Watercress will boost the whole immune system as a flu and cold preventative. It is a powerful diuretic and natural laxative — it is a good gout and rheumatism remedy — it flushes uric acid from the system. Crushed Watercress leaves can be applied as a poultice for gout and rheumatism.
I would like to recommend the following simple recipe for a poultice as written by Margie Frayne in her book "Help yourself to health: a Guide for home health using healing herbs and good nutrition" 2005.
A poultice is usually used to heal skin ulcers, wounds, boils, skin infections and other affected areas.
- Chop up or mash a handful of herbs — fresh or dry.
- The leaf, flower, powdered root, bulb or seed part of the herb can be used.
- Add a little boiling water if necessary to make the paste and mix well till quite soft.
- (You can use a pestle or mortar, liquidizer, grinding stone.)
- Spread between two thin layers of gauze or thin cloth.
- Put this in a small plastic bag, put this in a bowl.
- Pour over some boiling hot water to heat up the herb paste.
After a few minutes, when hot enough, carefully lift out of the water and remove poultice from the plastic bag. Place this hot poultice over the infected area or wound very carefully, as hot as possible, without burning the patient's skin
(Test the heat of the poultice against your inner arm to see that it doesn't burn before putting on the patient.)
Tie on with a bandage and leave on for a several hours or overnight.
Repeat once or twice every day, and continue until the infection has healed
Add Watercress to the diet 3 times a week to help clear the skin and apply the juice frequently to skin blemishes.