top of page
10 (3).png

These plants, funghi and insect illustrations
are part of my botanical oracle deck

Nasturtium officinale | Watercress

Botanical Overview of Watercress

  • Scientific Name: Nasturtium officinale

  • Common Names: Watercress, Yellowcress, True Watercress

  • Family: Brassicaceae

  • Description: Watercress is a fast-growing, perennial aquatic or semi-aquatic plant known for its peppery, slightly tangy flavor. It has hollow, branching stems that float on water or sprawl along moist ground. The leaves are pinnately compound with three to nine leaflets, typically rounded or oval in shape. Small, white to greenish-white flowers appear in clusters during the spring and summer, each with four petals forming a cross shape—a characteristic feature of the Brassicaceae family.

nasturtium officinale botanical illustration

Properties of Watercress

  • Chemical Constituents: Rich in vitamins (A, C, K), minerals (iron, calcium, magnesium), and glucosinolates, which have been studied for their potential anticancer properties. Contains phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC), a compound noted for its strong peppery taste and health benefits.

  • Edibility: Watercress leaves and stems are edible and commonly used in salads, soups, sandwiches, and garnishes. Known for its high nutritional value, watercress is often praised as a superfood. It should be thoroughly washed before consumption to remove any contaminants or pests, especially when harvested from the wild.

Distribution and Habitat of Watercress

  • Native Range: Europe and Asia.

  • Preferred Habitat: Watercress thrives in cool, slow-moving, and shallow freshwater bodies such as streams, ponds, and marshes. It prefers sunny to partially shaded areas with consistently wet or waterlogged soil. Due to its adaptability, watercress is often found growing in nutrient-rich, oxygenated water environments and can spread rapidly under suitable conditions.

Medicinal Properties and Uses of Watercress

  • Traditional Uses: Historically, watercress has been valued for its medicinal qualities since ancient times. It was used as a remedy for scurvy due to its high vitamin C content and as a general tonic for cleansing the blood and boosting health. Watercress was also employed to treat respiratory conditions, digestive issues, and as an appetite stimulant.

  • Modern Applications: Today, watercress is widely recognized for its nutritional and medicinal benefits. It is packed with antioxidants and has been studied for its potential role in cancer prevention, particularly due to its glucosinolate content, which can inhibit the growth of certain cancer cells. Watercress is also used to support cardiovascular health, improve skin condition, and enhance bone strength due to its rich supply of vitamins and minerals. Additionally, its anti-inflammatory properties make it beneficial for relieving symptoms of arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.

Magical Correspondences and Uses in Magical Practice of Watercress

  • Element: Water

  • Planet: Moon

  • Magical Properties: Purification, protection, healing, and prosperity.

  • Uses: In magical practices, watercress is associated with cleansing and purification. It is often used in rituals to cleanse spaces, objects, or the body, promoting clarity and removing negative energies. Sprinkling watercress or using it in baths can help wash away harmful influences and rejuvenate the spirit. Watercress is also valued for its protective qualities; carrying or placing it around the home can shield against unwanted energies and safeguard the well-being of inhabitants. Its association with healing makes it a common ingredient in spells and potions aimed at physical and emotional recovery. Additionally, watercress is believed to attract prosperity and good fortune, often used in abundance rituals or carried as a charm to draw success and wealth.

Folklore, Legends, and Mythology of Watercress

  • Historical Context: Watercress has been revered throughout history for its health benefits and was a staple in the diets of many ancient civilizations, including the Greeks and Romans. It was thought to enhance mental acuity and physical endurance, and was often consumed by soldiers before going into battle. In the 18th and 19th centuries, watercress was a common food among the working classes in Europe, often referred to as the "poor man's bread."

  • Folklore: In European folklore, watercress was believed to hold protective powers. It was sometimes planted near homes or carried to ward off evil spirits and misfortune. Watercress was also used in love magic; its vibrant, fresh leaves were thought to attract romantic partners and maintain fidelity in relationships. In some traditions, watercress was linked to the fairies, believed to be one of their favored plants.

  • Mythology: While not prominently featured in classical mythology, watercress has long been associated with the water nymphs and spirits in various cultures. Its growth in clear, flowing water connected it to the purity and life-giving aspects of these mythological beings. This association has carried into modern spiritual practices, where watercress is used to connect with the energies of water and nature.

Historical Literary Sources

  • "De Materia Medica" by Dioscorides: Discusses the use of watercress as a medicinal plant in ancient Greek and Roman medicine, noting its applications for respiratory and digestive health.

  • "Historia Plantarum" by Theophrastus: Provides early descriptions of watercress, including its growth habits and uses in ancient herbal practices.

  • "Herball" by John Gerard (1597): Outlines the various health benefits and culinary uses of watercress, reflecting its importance in early modern European herbalism.


bottom of page