Watercress For Respiratory and Digestive Ailments

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Nasturtium Watercress

Have you ever been reading along in a fictional book and come across the use of a plant that intrigued you? I did just this weekend and it caused me to go sifting through all my books to find out more.

The Outlander series has become quite popular. I’ll have to admit I’ve never seen it because we don’t have cable. When books are made into a television series or movie my first inclination is to read it first. This is for many reasons. I worry about the details that will be left out. I hate to miss any bit of crucial information and I know that things inevitably wind up on the cutting room floor. I also want to imagine the world behind the book on my own before I see it through the director’s eyes.

So, true to my nature, when I heard that people were all excited about the Outlander series I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I picked up a copy of the first book and started reading just recently. One of the fun things about the book so far is that there are many references to the use of plants for healing… right up my alley! Last night I read about the oath-taking and all the festivities around it, including games and lots of eating. Claire (the main character) talked about giving the kids nasturtium syrup because they had gone overboard on all the sweets. That was a new way of using nasturtium for me, so I started looking through all my books.

Nasturtium (Watercress) for Digestive Issues

Unfortunately, in book after book I wasn’t coming up with anything that would support nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) being used for digestive issues. Just as I was beginning to think the author was taking a bit of poetic license I remembered something. Watercress, scientifically named Nasturtium officinale, is often called nasturtium. Very confusing of course, but actually more proper.

Watercress, or nasturtium in this instance, is a peppery leafed plant related to your broccoli. It grows at the edges of streams, brooks, and other gently flowing waterways. It is a great source of vitamins A, C, and B as well as iron, calcium, zinc, and iodine. The leaves of watercress have long been used for respiratory ailments and digestive disturbances.

In this instance, Claire would have reduced a watercress tea down to a syrup and dispensed it to relieve gas and stomach upset. Not only is the plant reported to be cooling and soothing, but its high nutritional value would have served to support young stomachs that had been focused on things other than their vegetables for the weekend.

Here is how I envision she might have created her syrup:

Nasturtium Syrup Recipe


  • 3-4 Tbsp dried watercress (find it here)
  • 1 quart water
  • raw honey (find it here)
  • a drop or two of whiskey (c’mon, it’s the highlands!)


  1. Make a watercress tea by boiling the water and pouring it over a pot with the watercress. Cover and steep for 15-20 minutes.
  2. Strain and return your tea to the pot. Boil your tea down to about half its original volume. Remove from heat.
  3. Add ½ cup honey to every 1 cup tea and stir until blended. A bit of whisky keeps everything shelf stable in a time when there is no refrigerator. (Feel free to omit whisky if refrigerating.)


About Dawn Combs

Dawn is a wife, mother, farmer, author, ethnobotanist, professional speaker, and educator. She has over 20 years of ethnobotanical experience, is a certified herbalist, and has a B.A. in Botany and Humanities/Classics. Dawn is co-owner of Mockingbird Meadows Farm. Her books include Conceiving Healthy Babies and Heal Local.

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  1. Melissa says

    One of my favorite ways to eat watercress is with beef stew. My husband’s family us Asian and when they make the classic beef stew, you know with carrots, celery, potatoes, onions, etc. The lay down a bed of rice, top that with some fresh sprigs of watercress and ladle the stew on top. It’s delicious!