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Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Garden cress has naturalized in Britain, but may have originated in Iran. It is cultivated across south Asia and is used both as food and medicine. It is a member of the Brassicaceae or Cruciferae family of plants and so is related to savoy cabbage, mustard, cauliflower, red cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, watercress, nasturtiums, field penny cress, broccoli, turnips, swedehorseradish, shepherd’s purse, scurvy-grass and flixweed and many other plants.
  Along with scurvy-grass it is antiscorbutic with a high vitamin C content and also contains good amounts of vitamin A. It also contains the minerals iron and calcium and three of the B-complex vitamins, B1 (thiamin), B2 (Riboflavin) and B3 (niacin).
  It tastes peppery a bit like a peppery parsley, or watercress, and is useful if added to salads in small amounts. The fruits of the plant look a little like capers.         
  It has been shown to be helpful in the treatment of asthma and bronchitis which are two traditional uses for the seeds, which contain oil which is edible and can be used for lighting. Studies have shown that the plant has analgesic (mild pain relief) and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as helping to lower blood pressure. A paste made from the seeds has been used for centuries for relief from rheumatic pains when applied externally on joints. The same paste is used for skin problems.
  In Ayurvedic medicine it is to prevent post-partum problems, and to increase the milk flow in breast-feeding mothers. However the seeds should not be use during pregnancy. In Arabic the herb is known as “Hab–al-Rashood” or “Thufa” and a cold infusion of the seeds is used in some Arab countries to relieve asthma and bronchitis.
     The seeds are also reputed to have aphrodisiac qualities and to improve the quality of a man’s sperm. The plant has diuretic properties and is an expectorant. The woody root has been used to treat secondary syphilis traditionally in Asia.
  One study by F. Kassie published in 2002 showed that the juice or sap of the plant had chemopreventive effects, and it was said that the amounts of the juice needed for these effects to be felt was the same as the amount in the herb used in a salad and eaten in normal amounts.
  There have been several studies of this plant and some are ongoing as they have prove of interest to the medical fraternity.
  The fresh or dried seed pods of the plant may be eaten and used as a condiment or as a flavouring for soups and sauces. The seeds can also be sprouted and used in salads. This may be a good addition to a garden!

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