Health Benefits of Watercress

Watercress earned its reputation as a healing herb quite early. Around 400 BC, Hippocrates located the first hospital on the island of Kos close to a stream to ensure that fresh watercress would be available for treating patients. In the 1700s, Nicholas Culpeper (author of Culpeper's Herbal) believed watercress could cleanse the blood. Modern science has identified more than 15 essential vitamins and minerals contained in this one herb – more iron than spinach, more calcium than milk, and more vitamin C than oranges.

Watercress is very low in calories, but contains phytonutrients like isothiocyanates and antioxidants with a plethora of disease-preventive properties. Gluconasturtiin, a glucosinolate compound providing the peppery flavor, is one of them, contained in the leaves and stems and providing phenethyl isothiocyanates, shown to inhibit carcinogens.

Vitamin K is by far the most prominent nutrient in watercress, with 312% of the daily recommended value. It forms and strengthens the bones and limits neuronal damage in the brain, which is helpful in treating Alzheimer's disease. There's also vitamin C, with 72% of the daily value, closely followed by vitamin A with 64%. Vitamin C provides top-notch infection-fighting power to stave off colds and flu, help maintain healthy connective tissue, and prevent iron deficiency. Vitamin A, also known as retinol, is essential for a properly functioning immune system and produces pigments in the retina of the eye, an absence of which can cause night blindness.

Manganese is a cofactor for the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase, and calcium for strong bones and teeth come in high doses when you eat watercress. Antioxidant flavonoids like ß carotene, zeaxanthin, and lutein protect from lung and mouth cancers. B-complex vitamins include riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), thiamin, and pantothenic acid, all important for keeping your cellular metabolic functions at peak performance.

Studies Done on Watercress

Eating watercress daily has the ability to significantly reduce DNA damage to blood cells and further to resist DNA damage caused by free radicals, according to a two-year research project at the University of Ulster. Scientists examined a watercress-derived compound called phenylethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC) and found significant anticancer properties. Single blind, randomized, crossover trials involved 60 healthy men and women eating about 1½ cups of fresh watercress daily for eight weeks. Positive results included a reduction in blood triglyceride levels by an average of 10%, and a significant (33% to 100%) increase in lutein and betacarotene content, associated, with higher intake levels, in a lowered incidence of eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration1.

Scientific research found that the PEITC in watercress may suppress breast cancer cell development. Studies at the University of Southampton study found PEITC may starve tumor growth of blood and oxygen by "turning off" a signal in the body. Researchers explained that "as tumors develop, they rapidly outgrow their existing blood supply so they send out signals that make surrounding normal tissues grow new blood vessels into the tumor, which feed them oxygen and nutrients2."

  • Increased Protection from Bacterial and Viral Infections
  • Increased Protection from Bacterial and Viral Infections
  • Reduced Cancer Risk
  • Reduced Risk of Colon Cancer
  • Protection Against Heart Disease
  • Alleviation of Cardiovascular Disease
  • Alleviation of Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
  • Alzheimer's Protection
  • Osteoporosis Protection
  • Stroke Prevention
  • Antioxidant Protection
  • Prevention of Epileptic Seizures
  • Prevention of Alopecia (Spot Baldness)

Watercress has a wide range of health benefits being a diuretic, expectorant, hair tonic, digestive, promoter of hunger, stimulant against anemia, regulator of blood sugar, and to help prevent certain types of cancer.

*Some of these health benefits are due to the nutrients highly concentrated in Watercress, and may not necessarily be related to Watercress