Watercress is a perennial herb belonging to the brassicaceae family.

Scientific Name: Nasturtium officianale

Other Names of Watercress are:

  • Tall Nasturtium
  • Brown Cress
  • Cresson
  • Suteresi
  • Berros
  • Cresson De Fontaines
  • Brooklime
  • Cress
  • Habb Ar Rashad
  • Cresson D'Eau
  • Cresson Des Jardins
  • Berro
  • Hurf Al May
  • Nasturtium
  • Cresson Du Pays
  • Witte Waterkers

Useful Parts of the Plant:

The herb watercress has a hollow stem with dark green leaves and small white flowers. The Indian cress or True nasturtium strain of the plant has bright orange-red flowers and seeds that are pungent to taste. The nutritional value of watercress lies in its leaves, flowers, and seeds. These parts of the plant are also used for commercial and medicinal purposes.

The use of watercress can be traced back to ancient times, when it was widely used by the Greeks, Romans, and Persians. Watercress remains a popular addition to the culinary traditions of many countries. For example, the French use it to make soups and salads while the English use it in sandwiches. The Italians and the Chinese use watercress in their meals as well. Watercress is low in calories - only 11kcal per 100 grams of raw leaves - and is also low in fats. Watercress is highly recommended if you are on a weight reduction diet or need to lower your cholesterol.

Nutritional Information and Properties

The nutritional value of watercress makes it full of health benefits. Rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and an excellent source of calcium, iron, and folate, watercress is a valuable addition to any diet. Watercress also contains potassium, iodine, vitamin B6, thiamin, and vitamin K. It has extremely high water content (nearly 93%) and is therefore low in calories, fats, and carbohydrates though it does possess some protein content. The little fat that watercress does contain contains a high percentage of essential fatty acids necessary for improving the key functions of the body. Watercress is naturally low in sodium making it a good addition to soups and salads without any harmful side effects. In addition to all the nutrition found in watercress, this green leafy herb is also an important source of a variety of phytochemicals, flavonoids, and carotenoids, which are rich in antioxidants and play a major role in preventing the developments of cancers.

Health Benefits and Therapeutic Uses

The health benefits of watercress include:

  • The leaves eaten raw aid digestion
  • Due to its stimulant and expectorant properties, watercress can cure coughs and bronchial problems
  • Tuberculosis treatment
  • Watercress soup to treat oral health problems such as mouth blisters, sores, bad breath, and swollen gums
  • Watercress tea can rid the body of excess fluids symptomatic of gout and respiratory infections
  • Used to break down kidney and bladder stones
  • Regular consumption of watercress lowers the risks of cancer and damage to white blood cells (especially in cases of smokers)
  • Watercress aids weight loss
  • Slows down the aging process
  • Improves eye health
  • Prevents liver disease

Other Uses of Watercress

Besides cooking with watercress, the herb can also be used as a valuable ingredient in commercially prepared vegetable juices such as V8. It is also used as a lotion for the face to treat blemishes and spots. Simply mix 2 tablespoons of watercress juice with one tablespoon of honey and apply this to your face twice a day. Fresh watercress juice applied can also cure blotches and skin blemishes.

Precautions/Side Effects/Warnings

Only buy watercress from farms that are known to use clean running water. Watercress that grows in polluted or stagnant water can host several harmful parasites.

There is some argument about how much watercress can be safely consumed. Some parties insist that this herb can be used freely and no amount is enough due to its health benefits. However, others insist that too much watercress eaten over long periods of time can cause bladder problems or cystitis as it has strong diuretic properties. Due to its high iodine content, those suffering from hyperthyroidism should also avoid eating too much watercress.