Dive into watercress: healing herb loaded with minerals | PostIndependent.com

Dive into watercress: healing herb loaded with minerals

Just a hop, skip and a jump across the field outside my window is a large, glistening pond reflecting the morning rays of sunshine. Tucked into the corner where the stream feeds the pond is a verdant, tangled mass of rich green plant life. The unobservant person would simply pass by this bountiful bevy, not realizing the incredible high mountain snack they are missing. But for those who know their wild plants, the leafy find would be considered a definite score.

This water-loving plant is none other than watercress (Nasturtium officinale).

Watercress is loaded with vitamins A, B2, B9 (folic acid), C, D and E and charged with minerals like copper, manganese, iron, iodine, phosphorus and calcium. Every cup of watercress leaves has 53 mg. of calcium, 19 mg. of phosphorus, 0.6 mg. of iron, 18 mg. of sodium, 99 mg. of potassium, 1,729 I.U. of vitamin A, 28 mg. of vitamin C and 6.5 mg. of magnesium.

The active medicinal principles in the leaves are highest when watercress is in flower – usually during spring and summer.

Besides being an incredible natural multi-vitamin, this pungent plant achieves much of its healing success from its blood purifying abilities. Because of this, watercress can work as a preventative to illness, a rehabilitation tonic and a treatment for skin ailments. In addition, watercress is also effective as an expectorant for respiratory ailments such as bronchitis, asthma and even tuberculosis.

The best way to get the most medicinal benefit from watercress is to eat it fresh. Find a non-polluted mountain pond, create a pond in your backyard and grow it yourself or find a good health store that sells fresh organic watercress.

Watercress is so jam-packed with vitamins and minerals, it makes sense to incorporate it into a healthy mineral tea formula.

Here’s one I like: combine two heaping tablespoons each of fresh watercress leaves, fresh dandelion leaves, fresh parsley, fresh or dried nettle leaves, fresh or dried peppermint leaves, dried horsetail, dried red raspberry leaves, dried alfalfa, dried rose hips and fresh or dried red clover blossoms. Place the herbs into a large glass container. Pour 12 to 14 cups (depending upon the strength you prefer) of boiling distilled water over the herbs. Stir briskly with a wooden spoon, cover and allow to steep for 20 minutes. Strain the herbs and enjoy this mineral tea cold or hot in eight ounce cupfuls.

During periods of rehabilitation from long term illnesses, there is no way you can overdose on this tea mixture. The only exception is for pregnant women, since watercress, parsley, dandelion and peppermint have been known to stimulate the uterus and bring on a menstrual cycle.

For all its leafy goodness, there are some things you have to remember about watercress.

If you are gathering watercress in the wild, make sure you are picking watercress and not the deadly water hemlock.

Make sure the water is not polluted or near any kind of wild animals. The fecal matter from these animals carries a deadly parasite, the liver fluke. Some naturalists say that if you boil the plant in water for 15-20 minutes, you can kill the parasite. Unfortunately, boiling the plant kills the medicinal benefits.

My advice is to either cultivate it yourself (it grows from seed very easily) or purchase it from the store. Stored in airtight bags, it will keep in the refrigerator up to three days. .

Finally, there are some herbalists who feel that watercress is too stimulating to the uterus. While this is not a universal belief, pregnant women are advised not to take the herb in large doses. A small handful of leaves each day is okay.

Once you develop a taste for this incredible edible, I don’t think you’ll ever regret it.

The information in this column is not meant to take the place of your physician, nor is it intended to treat, diagnose or prescribe. Pregnant or nursing women should consult their doctor before using herbal therapy.

E-mail your questions to The Humorous Herbalist at writer8@sopris.net.

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