During a lengthy period of my youth, my mom said that I was breathing funny at night and always having lung congestion, with a lot of phlegm production. She said she did some research and decided that I should go on a watercress binge. For three to four weeks, my mom would cook up a pot of watercress soup three to four times a week, and she and I could eat four batches of watercress in one sitting. It was delicious! To this day, she says the transformation to healthy breathing happened quickly because I was a youngster at the time, but sure enough, I gradually had no more trouble with lung congestion, even to this day. As with most edible “treatments,” Mom continues to use watercress in her cooking ever so often because of its healthy benefits in clearing up the lungs.
How to make watercress soup: Starting off with a pot of boiling chicken stock (made or bought), add one batch of watercress (or as much as you want) and add a bit of julienned ginger for more flavor. Let it boil for three to five minutes – the watercress tastes best when it’s still got a slight crisp. Add salt and sesame oil, as needed.
Where to find it: You can find watercress in your local grocery store and in Chinatown vegetable stands. They are usually tied up in convenient batches.
What else: Doing some extra research last night, I found that – whether or not related – watercress has a chemopreventive agent against lung cancer in smokers. This does not mean that watercress can cure or prevent lung cancer, but it’s the first study to report an effect of vegetable consumption on metabolism of a lung carcinogen in humans – a protective effect. I’m not sure why it’s only specific to lungs, but you can check out the research done on tobacco smokers below and look up the research paper. In another study of nine plants used in Mexican traditional medicine to treat tuberculosis and other respiratory diseases, watercress showed the best antimycobacterial activity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Study cited below.
Who’s done the research:
- The results of this study support our hypothesis that PEITC inhibits this oxidative metabolism of NNK in humans, as seen in rodents, and support further development of PEITC as a chemopreventive agent against lung cancer. This is the first study to report an effect of vegetable consumption on metabolism of a lung carcinogen in humans. – Hecht SS, et al. Effects of watercress consumption on metabolism of a tobacco-specific lung carcinogen in smokers. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 4(8):877-84, Dec 1995
- The study evaluated the antimycobacterial activity of nine plants used in Mexican traditional medicine to treat tuberculosis and other respiratory diseases. Nasturtium officinale (watercress) showed the best activity against the sensitive Mycobacterium tuberculosis. – Camacho-Corona Mdel R, et al. Activity against drug resistant-tuberculosis strains of plants used in Mexican traditional medicine to treat tuberculosis and other respiratory diseases. Phytother Res 22(1):82-5, Jan 2008
- It was demonstrated that therapy with the herbal drug preparation in the indications acute sinusitis, acute bronchitis and acute urinary tract infection is–with regard to efficacy–comparable to a treatment with standard antibiotics. The test preparation displayed in all indications a significantly lower potential for adverse events compared to a treatment with standard antibiotics and, therefore, a better safety profile could be concluded. – Goos KH, et al. On-going investigations on efficacy and safety profile of a herbal drug containing nasturtium (watercress) herb and horseradish root in acute sinusitis, acute bronchitis and acute urinary tract infection in children in comparison with other antibiotic treatments. Arzneimittelforschung 57(4):238-46, 2007
- The results support the theory that consumption of watercress can be linked to a reduced risk of cancer via decreased damage to DNA and possible modulation of antioxidant status by increasing carotenoid concentrations. – Gill CI, et al. Watercress supplementation in diet reduces lymphocyte DNA damage and alters blood antioxidant status in healthy adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 85(2):504-10, Feb 2007