You may have eaten garden cress in the past or you may not have even come across this small-but-mighty herb. Well, whichever category you fall into, just relax and read through the entire article as some top astonishing benefits of garden cress are unravelled. We oftentimes fail to understand the full composition of the everyday food we eat but in the actual sense, this shouldn't be the case. Understanding the food we eat, both vegetables, root plants, tubers, grains etc does not only help us to satisfy our ever-growing quench for hunger but also goes a long in helping us to know why we should eat certain food, when and how to eat such food so as to obtain all the benefits attached to the food. Some plants might be smallish in nature but yet very powerful in their abilities and one of such small-but-powerful plant is garden cress.

Garden cress (a.k.a halim), which is also known as Lepidium sativum is an edible fast-growing herb. Notwithstanding the amazing medicinal benefits and nutritional value of garden cress, it has gained very minimal attention from the wider population. Both the stems, seeds and leaves of garden cress are edible but only the stems and leaves can be eaten raw in salads or used for other culinary purposes. The seeds can be roasted or cooked before eating. Garden cress belongs to the cruciferous family and is related to mustard, pepperwort pepper grass and watercress. It is an annual plant with greenish flowers that are clustered in branched tapered shape. Commercially this plant is grown mainly in Scandinavia, the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands.

Garden cress is ideally grown hydroponically whereby the cress is cultivated without soil using mineral nutrient solutions in water. Garden cress is usually harvested within two weeks of cultivation and can be preserved by placing the stems in a water container and then refrigerating them for at least one week. Researchers reveal that garden cress is packed with numerous medicinal properties that are highly beneficial to our health however they highlighted that the plant should be consumed with care as excess consumption can pose an adverse effect to health. Garden cress seeds contain approximately 21 to 24% oil. Garden cress seed oil (GCO) is generated from garden cress seeds through the method of either supercritical CO2, solvent extraction (soxhlet) or cold pressing (hydraulic pressing). The oil has a similar smell like that of the mustard oil but not as pungent as the mustard oil.
* Garden cress seed oil is an excellent source of Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), Phytosterols, antioxidants (tocopherols, Phenolics). α-linoleic acid is an omega-3 fatty acid present in seeds, which is needed for a healthy body. Unfortunately, it cannot be produced in the human body, hence the need to source it from our diets.
* Garden cress oil can serve as an alternative source of omega-3 PUFA, especially for vegetarians.
* Garden cress oil is an excellent source of natural antioxidants needed for radical scavenging activities in the body.
* Some researchers claim that a regular consumption of Alpha-linolenic acid could be helpful in preventing cardiovascular diseases.

Benefits of Garden Cress

1. Medicinal Properties
Both the leaves, stems and seeds of garden cress are used in preparing traditional medicine, for example, the seeds are used as a remedy for minimizing asthma symptoms as well as improves lung function in people suffering from asthma. Also, garden cress can be used for treating patients suffering from bleeding piles.
2. Menstrual Cycle Regulation
The garden cress seeds contain phytochemicals that are similar to estrogen, therefore, consuming them helps to make irregular menstruation become more regular.
3. Indigestion
Garden cress seeds can be eaten to relieve the symptoms of constipation and indigestion.
4. Respiratory Infection Treatment
Garden cress seeds can be chewed or blended and mixed with honey, which is taken as an expectorant for treating cold, headache, asthma, sore throat and cough.
5. Iron Deficiency Treatment
Garden cress seeds are used for treating patients suffering from iron deficiency anaemia. Consumption of these seeds helps to boost the haemoglobin level over time.
6. Culinary Purposes
Garden cress is characterised by peppery, aromatic and tangy flavour. It can be eaten raw in salads and sandwiches or used as herbs for food seasoning. The seeds can also be roasted with salt before eating.
7. Dermatological Treatment
Garden cress seeds can be blended with water and honey to form a thick paste that can be applied on the skin to treat sunburn, irritated skins, dry skin and broken lips.
8. Hair Loss Treatment
Garden cress is an excellent source of protein and iron thus can be used for treating people suffering from hair loss.
9. Immunity Boost
Consumption of both garden cress stems, leaves and seeds help to boost the immune system.
10. Milk Production
Consuming garden cress helps to stimulate the mammary glands to start producing milk in lactating mothers. Due to this powerful property of garden cress, new mothers are encouraged to eat food containing garden cress to facilitate milk production. Moreover, due to the high protein and iron contents of garden cress, it is ideally given post-partum to breastfeeding mothers.
11. Aphrodisiac
Consumption of garden cress greatly helps to improve and boost libido.
12. Gastrointestinal Treatment
Garden cress can be used as a laxative and purgative for patients suffering from constipation. Garden cress seeds can be blended and mixed with honey, which is used for treating diarrhoea and dysentery. Garden cress can be blended and infused with hot water, which is used for treating colic, especially in children.
13. Anti-carcinogenic
Garden cress seeds have antioxidants that help to prevent free radicals from damaging the body cells. Due to this property, it can serve as a chemoprotective drug for protecting the body from cancerous growths.
14. Nutritional Values of Garden Cress
Garden cress is an excellent source of folic acid, vitamins C, dietary fibre, iron, calcium, protein, vitamin A, folate and vitamin E. The seeds of garden cress are also highly nutritive and they contain ascorbic acid, tocopherol, folic acid, calcium, linoleic fatty acids, iron, beta-carotene and arachidic.
15. Memory Booster
Garden cress seeds contain arachidic fatty acid and linoleic acids thus can serve as a memory booster.

Side-effects of Garden Cress
1. Diuretic Properties
Garden cress contains diuretic properties thus patients suffering from frequent passage of water and urine should be cautious when using this plant.
2. Abortifacient Properties
Garden cress is abortifacient in nature thus capable of inducing abortion in early pregnant women if taken in excess. Pregnant women should refrain from eating garden cress as it has the tendency to induce uterine contractions and abortion. Garden cress seeds can increase uterine contraction, thus certain people use it to induce labour in late stages of pregnancy.
3. Goitrogenic Properties
Garden cress contains goitrogens, which are substances that subdue the proper functioning of the thyroid gland through its interference with iodine absorption. If consumed in large quantities can cause the thyroid gland to enlarge, thereby causing goitre and hypothyroidism.

Garden Cress Buying Guide
1. When purchasing cress, always look out for fresh, evenly-greenish coloured firm leaves with upright whitish stems.
2. Refrain from buying garden cress that shows signs of discolouration and withering.

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