The watercress is a perennial, aquatic herb, with hollow angular stems, and many branches. It has dark green, shining leaves divided into several leaflets. It has a pleasant and pungent flavour and is used in salads.
The Greeks regarded watercress as a psychic stimulant andthe Romans used it with vinegar as a remedy for menu!' disorders. Old English physicians recommended its use as a remedy for headaches and biliousness.
Watercress is a native of Europe. It is widely distributed m a wild state in Great Britain, South and Central Europe and Western Asia. This plant is now cultivated in Malaysia, Indonesia, Hawaii, West Indies and East Africa and grows wild in the Himalayas.
Watercress contains all the essential vitamins and is rich in alkaline elements. An analysis of this vegetable shows it to consist of moisture, protein, fat and carbohydrates. Its mineral and vitamin contents are calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, sodium, potassium, vitamins A and C, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin. Its calorific value is 19. The herb also contain! nicotinamide, a glucoside, gluconasturtin and a volatile oil.
Watercress has a cooling effect on the body and, aids digestion. Hippocrates described it as a stimulant and expectorant.
As a rich source of iron, watercress is beneficial in the treatment of anaemia. A cup of its fresh juice with a teaspoon of lime juice and a pinch of common salt can be taken every morning for a month in the treatment of this condition.
The herb is considered an excellent food remedy for chest troubles. It has been found effective in treating asthma and cough as it facilitates expectoration.
Watercress is one of the best sources of iodine which is very important to correct the functioning of the thyroid gland. Its regular use is highly beneficial in the prevention and treatment of thyroid gland disorders.
A combined juice of watercress, carrot, spinach and turnip leaves is effective in dissolving the coagulated blood fibrin in piles. About a litre of this if taken daily it cures this condition within 2 to 6 months. However, all white flour, sugar products and meat have to be eliminated from the diet.
A paste made of seeds and water, can be applied in skin diseases caused by the impurities of blood. Bruised seeds, mixed with lime juice and spread on linen, can be applied with beneficial results in case of internal inflammation and rheumatic pains. The seed is also effective as a rubefacient-a pain relieving ointment Precautions: The juice extracted from watercress isexceedingly rich in sulphur, which represents more than one third of all the other combined mineral elements and salts present in it is, however, a very powerful intestinal cleanser. It should, therefore, never be taken by itself but always in combination with other juices.
Dietary Deficiencies : Dr. Harold Scurfield, an eminent British physician has advocated the greater use of watercress among urbanites on the plea that it probably contains all the vitamins which are likely to compensate dietary deficiencies caused by urbanisation.
Malnutrition : Watercress is good for malnutrition. Dr. S. Monckton Copeman, formerly of the Ministry of Health England, says, "In many instances, excellent results, especially the case of ill-nourished children, have been found to follow on the addition of watercress to their ordinary Food.
Pregnancy and Lactation : The use of watercress is very beneficial during pregnancy and lactation. An invigorating! nutritious tonic is prepared by boiling the seeds in milk to a thin, soft mass and adding sugar or jaggery, to it. This I!II removes the imminent general debility during pregnancy. It. increases the secretion of milk in nursing mothers.
Hiccups : An emulsion made by soaking the seeds in '41 is taken as a drink at frequent intervals to relieve hiccups.
Watercress is mostly used as vegetable. Its rich green leave make an excellent salad. The flowers of the plant are ill. palatable.