Photos of Nasturtium officinale, syn. Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum, Watercress, Water Cress.

Nasturtium officinale, Watercress is found in slow moving waters, blooming in spring. It is impossible to determine where this plant originates. It occurs in virtually every country with cool fresh, running water. It was observed in America as early as 1630, and was likely already here before permanent European settlements. Here is a plant that defies all cultural and geographic barriers and blurs the line between food and medicine. Fresh leaves are high in vitamins A and C and iodine. Traditionally used as a diuretic and for scurvy. Leaf extracts are used clinically in India to correct vitamin deficiency. Used in European phytomedicine for treatment of inflammation of the respiratory tract. Poisoning has resulted from eating leaves from polluted waters in which the plant has absorbed heavy metals and toxins. The essential oil in watercress leaves contain organosulphur compounds that give them their bite and distinctive flavor.

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