Nasturtium officinale

Other Names: Brooklime, Brown Cress, Cress, Cresson, Nasturtium, Water Cresses, True Watercress, Watercress.

   Watercress is a perennial herb, wide spread. Found growing in open running watercourses or near cool shallow springs, spring holes, spring fed stream margins, and brooks.

   Watercress is fairly easy to cultivate, it prefers to grow in cool, flowing, water about 2 to 3 inches deep, in a partially shaded area. Sow seed spring in a pot emerged to half its depth in water. Cuttings can be taken at any time in the growing season. Virtually any part of the plant, put it in a container of water until the roots are well formed and then plant out in shallow water. A fast-growing plant, the flowers are a rich source of pollen and so are very attractive to bees.

    Watercress differs from all other mustards by its alternate, pinnately compound leaves with 3-11 oblong to oval leaflets, shiny, dark green, rounded at the tip, smooth, without teeth or with wavy-toothed margins. Creeping or floating stems, succulent or fleshy, smooth, with fibrous roots, rooting occurs anywhere along the submerged stem mostly at the nodes. Flowers are white with 4 petals about 1/6-1/4 inch across, in terminal racemes and in racemes from the axils of the uppermost leaves. Flowers bloom from April thru June. Gather edible fresh green leaves anytime. Avoid plants growing in water that drains from fields where animals, particularly sheep, graze. Due to the risk of it being infested with the deadly liver fluke parasite. If unsure, cooking the leaves, will destroy any parasites and render the plant perfectly safe to eat.

     Watercress is edible, exceptionally rich in vitamins and minerals, and has long been valued as a food and medicinal plant. A mildly hot mustard flavor, very good fresh in salad or on a sandwich or cooked as a pot herb. The seed is ground into a powder and used as a mustard. As a medicinal herb Watercress is used in alternative medicine as an antiscorbutic, depurative, diuretic, expectorant, purgative, hypoglycemic, odontalgic, stimulant, tonic and stomachic. Culpepper says that the leaves bruised or the juice will free the face from blotches, spots and blemishes, when applied as a lotion.

Other plant constituents such as Arginine, Aspartic-acid, Beta-carotene, Biotin, Folacin, Glutamic-acid, Glycine, Histidine, Isoleucine, Lysine, Methionine, Pantothenic-acid, Phenylalanine, Serine, Threonine, Tryptophan, Tyrosine, and Valine, indicate that this plant may be useful for many other conditions. Further research needs to be done. Considered a cleansing herb, its high content of vitamin C makes it a remedy that is particularly valuable for chronic illnesses. The plant has been used as a specific in the treatment of tuberculosis. The freshly pressed juice has been used internally and externally in the treatment of chest and kidney complaints. A medicinal poultice of the leaves is said to be an effective treatment for healing glandular tumors or lymphatic swellings and chronic irritations and inflammations of the skin.