Long valued both as a food and as a medicinal herb, watercress, or Nasturtium officinale, grows in dense patches along the banks of clear streams and ditches, by springs and in marshy meadows. The herb's greatest power is found in its sweetly sharp, pungent leaves, best gathered before flowering. They are rich in vitamins A, C and D, as well as in antibacterial agents and minerals. Watercress is well known as a digestive stimulant and a diuretic. Tea and juice made with the fresh leaves are considered to be beneficial as spring tonics, as cleansing agents for urinary tract infections and as treatments for liver damage, gallstones and bronchitis. The plant is always used fresh, and it should never be harvested from polluted water or areas frequented by livestock. Instead, buy plants grown in commercial beds.
Preparation of the tea
Pour 1 cup of hot water over 2 tsp. of chopped fresh leaves; steep for 15 min. and strain. For a cold infusion that preserves the vitamins, steep 1 oz. of fresh leaves in 4 ¼ cups of cold water overnight. Strain; heat slightly. In both cases, drink 2 cups a day. Watercress should not be dried; it will lose nearly all its active medicinal components. Because it is a diuretic, it should not be used daily for extended periods.
Therapeutic effect : Watercress contains mustard oil glycosides and essential oils, which have a strong antibacterial effect and are beneficial for healing urinary tract infections and bronchitis. Because of its high content of vitamins A, C and D and of iron, potassium and iodine, watercress promotes blood cell formation; aids wound healing and fortify the stomach.
For urinary tract problems
With its high potassium content, watercress tea assists the kidneys by increasing the production of urine. In other words, it acts like a diuretic. Thus, the urinary tract is cleansed and bacteria is eliminated. The mustard oil glycosides and the essential oils also kills bacteria. Drinking 2 cups of the tea daily is also beneficial.
To fortify the stomach
The mustard oil glycosides, vitamins and bitters in watercress tea foster production of the stomach juices that promote digestion. Consuming too much, however, can upset the stomach. Do not drink more than 2 cups s day.
Extra tip! : Because of a high iron content, both watercress tea and watercress juice boost blood cell formation. They are therefore, a good therapy for people with anemia.
A tea or a wine infusion made from fresh watercress leaves is beneficial for chronic bronchitis and a productive cough. For the wine infusion, very lightly simmer 2 tbsp. of fresh leaves with 1 cup of white wine for about 10 min. strain. Drink 1 glass of the mixture in the evening.
To strengthen the thyroid gland
Because of its high iodine content, watercress has a strengthening effect on the thyroid gland. The plant's vitamins A, C and D, also promote gland healing. Drink 2 cups of watercress tea a day.
Because of its effectiveness as a stimulant for the digestive system, traditional medicine has recommended drinking watercress tea to enhance bile flow. This is useful for those with poor liver function and gallstone problems.
Caution : do not drink the tea if you are susceptible to gallstone buildup.
Some cultures have found that watercress is helpful for treating sore and bleeding gums. If you like the slightly bitter bite of the herb, chew some fresh leaves for pain relief.
Healing tea mixtures
To cleanse the respiratory passages
1 oz. fresh watercress
1 oz. chamomile blossoms
1 oz. thyme leaves
1 oz. eucalyptus leaves
Pour 4 ¼ cups of hot water into a bowl over 2 tbsp. of herbs and inhale. The rinsing essential oils will disinfect the nasal passages and loosen phlegm lodged inside.
To flush the urinary tract
1 ¾ oz. fresh watercress
1 ¾ oz. goldenrod
Prepare this antibacterial tea to help rinse out and disinfect the urinary tract. This tea also strengthens the tissues of the kidneys and is believed to help prevent kidney stones. Drink 2 cups a day for 1 week.
For healthy blood and less fatigue
1 oz. fresh watercress
2/3 oz. dandelion root and leaves
2/3 oz. nettle leaves
2/3 oz. fennel seeds
1/3 oz. elder flowers
Prepare a tea with the above blend to stimulate blood formation, supply the red blood cells with more oxygen and combat fatigue.