Watercress

Scientific Name/Common Name: Nasturtium officinale / Watercress

Part(s) Used: Herb/leaf

Constituents/Active Ingredients: Mustard oil glycosides (glucosinolates), specifically gluconasturtiin, which can be hydrolyzed to 2- phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC; vitamins A and C; minerals including sulphur, iodine, calcium, and manganese).

Overview: Watercress and other plants of the Brassicaceae family including cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, mustard greens, collard greens, bok choy, and turnips contain specific indoles that activate enzymes in the body that deactivate and dispose of excess estrogen and scavenge free radicals. Indole-3-carbinol is one example of these. Heavy cooking destroys indoles and is not recommended for medicinal purposes. The German Commission E recognizes watercress for treating respiratory congestions, especially cold-related runny nose and coughs. In China, watercress is known for treating gingivitis. Watercress was also traditionally used for treating lethargy, joint problems, vascular deficiencies, bronchitis, scurvy, and goiter. In Europe, watercress is popular as a blood cleanser and is contained in several phytopharmaceutical choleretic preparations (a choleretic increases the flow of bile into the intestines). The fresh leaves are a superior food medicine containing high levels of vitamins A, C, and iodine. Its calcium is also well assimilated by the human body, and the herb has been traditionally used as a remedy for vitamin and mineral deficiency. Watercress is now well recognized for helping to prevent lung disease in smokers. In a study of smokers who consumed a diet rich in watercress, the levels of toxic compounds were reduced. Other compounds in watercress, including mustard oil glycosides (glucosinolates), specifically gluconasturtiin, which can be hydrolyzed to 2- phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC) are known to activate detoxification enzymes in cells.

Traditional Use/Benefits/Body Systems: Nutritive tonic, cleanser and detoxifier, bile stimulant, source of antioxidants, diuretic.

Clinical Studies/Scientific Research/References:

Watercress in Medicinal Plants. Houghton Mifflin Co., New York, NY, p. 214. Hecht SS, Chung FL, Richie JPJr, Akerkar SA, Borukhova A, Skowronski L, and Carmella SG. 1995.

Effects of watercress consumption on metabolism of a tobacco-specific lung carcinogen in smokers. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 4 (8): 877-884.

Gill CI, et al. Watercress supplementation in diet reduces lymphocyte DNA damage and alters blood antioxidant status in healthy adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Feb;85(2):504-10.

Disclaimer: This information in our Herbal Encyclopedia is intended only as a general reference for educational purposes. It is not a replacement for medical advice. This content does not provide dosage information, cautions/contraindications, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Please consult any relevant product labels for detailed information on use and with a medical practitioner for individual health advice.