Watercress is a species of aquatic plant that is native to Europe and Asia. It is also one of the oldest leaf vegetables consumed by humans and is a part of the Brassicaceae family which includes mustard, wasabi, radish and garden cress. Many people consider watercress a simple weed, but the truth is that the plant offers quite a lot of health benefits.

Health benefits of watercress

Purifies the blood

Watercress can stimulate the elimination of acids from the body and will also stimulate the production of red blood cells. By cleaning the blood of toxins, it can resolve skin problems such as eczema as well as arthritis, gout and anemia.

Improves digestion

Watercress acts as a powerful tonic for our digestion – it stimulates the secretion of digestive juices and increases appetite, effectively resolving any kind of digestive problems. The plant is also useful against fatigue and weakness, while the high iodine content makes it a perfect remedy for hypothyroidism.

A powerful expectorant

Watercress stimulates the elimination of mucus from the lungs and eliminates potential respiratory problems.

Prevents the development of cancer

Watercress contains glucosinolates, compounds which can prevent the development of cancer cells. These compounds can also be found in broccoli, Brussels sprouts, turnips, radishes and mustard.

There are several varieties of watercress, each one with distinct characteristics. Garden cress can be eaten fresh in salads and its taste resembles Nasturtium. Meadow cress is characterized by nice pink flowers, while winter cress grows in warm areas such as Florida. Although it’s generally safe to consume the plant, it should be avoided by pregnant women.

Nutritional profile

Besides the high glucosinolates content, watercress also contains antioxidants, beta-carotene, vitamins A and C, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, fiber, folic acid and sodium.

As you can see, watercress is a beneficial plant which can improve our overall health. People in the past knew this and often used it as a natural remedy against various ailments. It is said that the aqueous plant was even used by Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, who built his hospital near a river with fresh plants which he used to heal his patients.

Besides the medical uses, watercress has culinary uses as well. It has a characteristic bitter and spicy taste and is great for improving digestion. However, it should be consumed in small quantities and fresh. Fresh watercress has firm and dark green leaves which are crispy when cooked. If they’re withered, they’re usually old and yellow in color due to the loss of chlorophyll.

In general, people add raw watercress to salads. It’s best to use fresh watercress as the cooking process will destroy the essential nutrients within the plant. Sometimes, watercress leaves are solely used for decorative purposes in salads, meats and snack, while some people use the leaves as soup and cream seasoning.

In natural medicine, watercress can be used to remove dark stains on the skin or eliminate ringworms. In order to use the plant against skin problems, you need to mill it first and apply the poultice on the affected area.

To treat sore throat, gum inflammation or respiratory problems, you should cook 50 gr. of watercress leaves in ¼ a liter of water and take the tea on an empty stomach. You can also take a glass of warm tea with 10 gr. of watercress juice and a bit of honey before going to bed against the same problems.