Watercress is an aquatic, perennial herb with dark green, shining leaves divided into several leaflets. It has hollow angular stems and many branches. It has a pleasant and pungent flavor and is used in salads.
Watercress contains all the essential vitamins and is rich in alkaline elements. It consists of moisture, protein, carbohydrates and fat. Its mineral and vitamin contents are calcium, phosphorus, iron, sodium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin A and C, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin. It also contains nicotinamide, a glucoside, gluconasturtin and a volatile oil.
Botanical Name: Nasturtium officianale
Indian Name: Jal-halim or Jal-kumbhi
Below are some of the medicinal properties of watercress:
- Watercress is an excellent remedy for chest troubles. It has been found effective in treating asthma and cough as it facilitates expectoration.
- As a rich source of iron, watercress is useful in the treatment of anemia. A cup of its fresh juice with a teaspoon of lime juice and a pinch of common salt can be taken every morning for a month in the treatment of this condition.
- It is one of the best sources of iodine which is very important to correct the functioning of the thyroid gland. Its regular use is highly beneficial in the prevention and treatment of thyroid gland disorders.
- A combined juice of watercress, spinach, carrot and turnip leaves is useful in dissolving the coagulated blood fibrin in piles. About a liter of this if taken daily it cures this condition within 2 to 6 months. However, all white flour, sugar products and meat have to be eliminated from the diet.
- An emulsion made by soaking the seeds in water taken as a drink at frequent intervals to relieve hiccups.
- A paste made of seeds and water can be applied in skin diseases caused by the impurities of blood. Bruised seeds, mixed with lime juice and spread on linen, can be applied with beneficial results in case of internal inflammation and rheumatic pains. The seed is also effective as a rubefacient - a pain relieving ointment.
- Watercress is very useful 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. This tonic removes the imminent general debility during pregnancy. It also increases the secretion of milk in nursing mothers.
Watercress is mostly used as vegetable. Its rich green leaves make an excellent salad. The flowers of the plant are also palatable.
The juice extracted from watercress is exceedingly rich in sulphur, which represents more than one third of all the other combined mineral elements and salts present in it. It is, however, a very powerful intestinal cleanser. It should, therefore, never be taken by itself but always in combination with other juices.