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Watercress

Nasturtium officinale

Herbs gallery - Watercress



Common names

  • Tall Nasturtium
  • Watercress

Watercress (botanical name Nasturtium officinale) grows perennially and flourishes in clear and cold water. This herb is found growing naturally in streams, ditches, ponds and all the places where there is water. In effect, watercress is grown for the plant's leaves that are mainly used in the form of salad greens or dressings. The plant has a hollow branching stem that is connected to a crawling rootstock, about one foot to two feet in length, and usually pulls out along with the leaves above the surface of the water. The leaves of watercress are smooth and slightly plump having one to four pairs of little oblong or disk-shaped leaflets. The leaves have a deep green color and are oddly pinnate (resembling feathers).

A special soup prepared with watercress is among the most popular medications among the Chinese who inhabit Hong Kong and Canton in China. This watercress soup is used to cure swollen gums, foul breath, canker sores (an ulceration of the mucus membranes in the mouth) on the lips or tongue and bad teeth. Although the amount of watercress needed to prepare this remedial soup is not specified, usually approximately half a pound of cut watercress and sliced carrots are steamed in two quarters of water is used for an individual. The entire liquid is slowly concentrated to approximately one-third or one-fourth of the original volume of the fluid and subsequently it is eaten together with the vegetables. Apart from the health conditions mentioned above, when cold, this soup is also useful for curing hot flashes.

It is worth mentioning here that watercress is the source of a wonderful medicine to treat headaches caused by some type of ailment or usual anxiety. Take some watercress and rinse it meticulously. Put them in a hygienic quart fruit jar and add two cups (500 ml) of steaming apple cider vinegar to it. Several hours afterwards, when the solution becomes cold, strain the liquid and store it in bottles for use when needed later. When you have a headache, take an unsullied handkerchief or a wash cloth and immerse it in the vinegar solution. Wring out the excess liquid and place the cloth or handkerchief over your forehead and eyebrows.

An infusion prepared from watercress is also a proven traditional as well as an effectual remedy for dermatitis and eczema. To prepare this infusion, meticulously rinse a big pan full of watercress and put it into a saucepan made from stainless steel. Add a sufficient amount of cold water to the watercress, enough to cover the herb in the saucepan. Boil the water along with watercress and subsequently lower the heat and seethe slowly till the herb becomes soft. Next, filter the liquid using a muslin cloth or many layers of gauze fabric and store the liquid in a refrigerator for use when needed.

The affected parts of the body ought to be cleansed very frequently using this watercress infusion. It is advisable that you make use of a piece of supple linen for washing the affected parts. In effect, this infusion prepared from watercress is extremely effective for treating the coarseness of the skin owing to recurrent exposure to the sun, wind as well as cold conditions.

Drinking the juice of watercress or the tea prepared from this herb is also effective in getting rid of the excessive fluids that have built up in the body tissue, like in the case of gout, as well as dispelling the congestion of mucus from the lungs. In order to prepare the tea from watercress, take one tablespoon of sliced fresh watercress and add it to one cup (250 ml) of steaming water and allow it to steep for about 20 minutes. Subsequently, filter the liquid and drink it. You may also obtain fresh watercress juice by using an electric juicer to extract the juice from the herb. Mix some tomato or carrot juice to it for flavour prior to drinking.

It is interesting to note that watercress as well as several other herbs were elevated to a new esteem only following the introduction of the new-approach cuisine in America. Initially, watercress was one herb that was seldom consumed in the form of a garnish by people. From this modest position it rose to the star position of being a part of further sophisticated culinary preparations. Hence, there is little doubt that watercress has actually recovered its well-merited standing by means of a form of cookery that has as much regard for your appetite as for your health.

Chefs in America currently employ watercress in several methods. Watercress may be present in garnishes and salads, sandwiches, butters and spreads, casseroles and soups and it adds a fast and spicy flavour to all these preparations. Although chefs hold watercress in high esteem for its flavour, herbalists give importance to the herb for its rich content of nutrients. Chemical analysis of watercress has revealed that it encloses a considerable amount of vitamins as well as vital minerals, counting vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, phosphorus, calcium, nitrogen, and sulfur.

To reiterate, it needs to be said that watercress is a succulent, bright green aquatic plant that was introduced into America from Europe. This herb is found growing naturally in ditches, ponds, brooks, lakes, shallow creeks and the length of the banks of rivers that move sluggishly in all the states of America as well as all over Canada. Usually, watercress is found growing where the water is cold, clear and neither fast-moving or stagnant. In addition, places were the depth of water is anything between two inches to six inches is ideal for the plant to thrive. Often, you may find large watercress beds in the country streams - the leaves of the plants sticking out of the water surface.

It is not at all difficult to cultivate watercress in your garden provided it is not already being grown there. In case you do not have a stream or pool in your garden, make an effort to dig a small pool, or just plant watercress in a container filled with water and sand. In addition, it is also possible to grow this plant in pots made from clay and placed in a tray containing water. The only thing you need to ensure is to change the water daily in order to maintain its clarity and freshness.

Watercress is a plant which can be propagated without any difficultly. This herb has a preference for a soil which is a combination of alluvial soil, broken up rocks like limestone or river sand and humus or peat. Watercress actually extends numerous fine roots under the surface of the water. It is important to note that any part of the plant's stem having roots on it will start growing as a new plant when it sets up in an appropriate environment. This is the manner in which watercress continues to exist in nature, since the beds of streams or creeks are continuously being changed owing to floods as well as droughts. This is also the manner in which watercress multiplies so rapidly once it has been introduced into a new place, usually moving faster than the advancement of civilization on its route down an unfledged river.

Healers make use of the whole watercress plant. They usually harvest watercress while it is in bloom and dehydrate it. Watercress has a spicy and peppery flavour and it may just be included in your diet on a regular basis. For further therapeutic purposes, you may take an infusion prepared from the dried up plant. As watercress encloses numerous nutrients, herbalists have been employing the plant to prepare an herbal tea which helps to regularize the functioning of the liver as well as purify the blood. Watercress also possesses diuretic properties and is believed to facilitate in disintegrating the kidney stones, in addition to bladder stones. The juice extracted from the fresh watercress leaves has been traditionally employed to cure skin complaints like eczema, rashes, skin irritations, ringworms and acne, in addition to skin contagions.

Similar to the implication of the Latin expressions ‘nasus tortus' denoting ‘twisted nose', the watercress plant exudes a pungent smell that makes one wrinkle his/ her nose. The leaves as well as the fit to be eaten seedpods of this plant possess a sharp and fiery flavour, which explains why watercress has been a favourite salad green for most people for a long time now.

Since very old times, watercress is familiar for its therapeutic attributes. The Romans as well as the Greeks believed that consuming this plant enhance the functioning of the brain, while afterward, during medieval Europe, watercress was used as an active ingredient in a salve that was used to heal wounds caused by swords. The early European settlers carried this herb with them to North America mainly owing to its usefulness in putting off scurvy - this is attributed to the plant's rich vitamin C content. Even the native Indian took on the plant in the form of a food and also employed it to cure liver and kidney disorders.

Watercress contains numerous nutrients, including rich amounts of mineral salts and several vitamins, such as vitamin A, vitamin B2, vitamin C, vitamin D and vitamin E. In earlier times, people did not employ watercress only to keep off as well as treat scurvy, but also in the form of a springtime tonic as well as a refreshing drink to improve appetite. In addition, watercress has been employed by people in several parts of the world for different other purposes, including a laxative, aphrodisiac, asthma medication, a cough remedy, to make the complexion lighter and also as a contraceptive.

It is worth mentioning here that very often watercress is found growing in the vicinity of the poisonous water hemlocks. However, it is very easy to differentiate watercress from hemlock, as the latter is a comparatively tall plant having leaves that are segregated into slenderer, lighter green leaflets. In addition, hemlock bears flower clusters in the shape of umbels.

Parts used

Aerial parts.

Uses

As watercress encloses a number of therapeutic properties, it is a very useful plant for treating a number of health conditions. For instance, this herb is an important resource of vitamins and is also used in the form of a detoxifying herb. Watercress has rich vitamin C content and is also loaded with a number of minerals that makes this plant an effective remedy, especially for chronic ailments. It is believed that consumption of watercress promotes the appetite and also alleviates indigestion. In addition, watercress is also useful in treating chronic bronchitis, particularly in cases wherein the mucus production is in excess. This herb is also believed to be usually invigorating and work in the form of a potent diuretic.

Other medical uses

Habitat and cultivation

Watercress is usually found growing naturally in the temperate climatic regions of the world. This plant flourishes well when growing beside or in fresh flowing water. While watercress is generally found growing in the wild, this plant is also extensively grown in the form of a salad plant. The ideal time to harvest watercress is prior to its flowering season in summer.

Constituents

Watercress contains minerals (iron, iodine, & phosphorus), and  vitamins (A, B1, B2, C, & E).

Applications

Watercress has several applications, including therapeutic and culinary. The green leaves of this plant may be consumed raw. It has been found that the leaves of watercress are nourishing, depurative (purifying) as well as stimulating. In addition, the juice of the leaves may be extracted by using an electric juicer and drunk along with carrot or beet juice, which are added to make it sweet. Even the soup prepared with watercress is scrumptious as well as nourishing. It also helps to cure a number of health problems.

The juice extracted from the mashed watercress plant is applied on any wound caused by an infection or in the form of a stimulant as well as bleach to lessen brown blemishes and blotches. A cotton pad is drenched with the sap of watercress and applied directly to the face.

The entire watercress plant is somewhat mashed and used in the form of a poultice and applied to adenitis, abscesses or closed cysts with a view to facilitate their healing. The mother tincture prepared from watercress is used during winter to cure fever, exhaustion as well as dearth of vitamins. Provided you have sufficient space in your garden, set up a watercress bed and let a placid stream of water run through the bed. Just a single planting has the aptitude to supply you with a stimulating cocktail for several years ahead.

Revitalizing salad

  • 1 bunch of washed and rinsed watercress
  • 1/4 finely chopped fennel bulb
  • 2 grated carrots

Vinaigrette

  • one tablespoon (15 ml) of lemon juice
  • two tablespoon (30 ml) of olive oil
  • one teaspoon (5 ml) of Dijon mustard
  • one garlic clove
  • one pinch of pepper
  • one pinch of salt

Mix all these ingredients in a salad bowl, get the vinaigrette ready and empty it over the watercress salad. It is advisable that you eat this particular salad prior to beginning your meal.

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