The Anti-cancer Properties of Watercress

Watercress is loved in soup, salad and juice along with other vegetables. It is known as a plant rich in antioxidants, protecting our cells against premature aging and oxidation. But watercress is not only rich in anti-aging antioxidants, it also contains two kinds of interesting components: carotenoids and glucosinolates…

Carotenoids -They are the colorful pigments that color plant and some of which human body can turn into vitamin A. They have strong cancer-fighting properties. Several studies have demonstrated that carotenoids possess chemopreventive activity in experimental models of cancer and have been associated with lower cancer risk in epidemiological studies.

In addition, Watercresscontains twopigmentsofthe carotenoid familywhoseregular consumption can limitcataracts, macular degeneration related toage(AMD)and retinitis pigmentosa, a group of genetic inherited, degenerative eye disease that causes severe vision degeneration and often blindness. Moreover, watercress has luteinand zeaxanthin; they accumulate inthe retina, especially in the macula(the central area), thus protecting retinal cells from oxidativestress.

Glucosinolates – Watercress belongs to the cruciferous family: Collard greens, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and others; it therefore, has substances that are specific to these plants such as the glucosinolates. In fact, watercress even holds the record to contain more glucosinolates than broccoli. These substances are known for their anti-cancer effects. In watercress, it is isothiocyanates, particularly known to prevent and fight lung cancer, colorectal cancers, and esophageal cancers. Regular consumption of watercress would have an anti-cancer effect more powerful than most drugs on the market.

Scientific Studies and Publications 

A study performed at the University of Southampton has helped scientists to better understand how glucosinolates of watercress work. They prevent the expression of certain genes in a protein necessary for the creation of new blood vessels that feed cancer tumors. A second study by the same laboratory, published in the British Journal of Nutrition shed more light. The scientists, in that study, worked to measure the effects of watercress itself, in vitro. A crude extract, obtained by grinding the plant, decreased the proliferation of tumor cells when put in contact with cancer cells.

Encouraged by this demonstration, the researchers asked nine women who had breast cancer (but had healed), eat 80 grams of watercress. Within 24 hours, several analyzes showed that they had high levels of isothiocyanates in the blood (the active anti-cancer thus passes the digestive system to get into the blood stream). These results provide strong arguments in favor of the anti-cancer effects of watercress.

Calcium and Minerals  

Watercress contains three times more calcium (Ca) than milk. But not any form of Ca, bioavailable calcium, which means it is absorbable and the incorporation of the absorbed goes directly into bone and teeth. Watercress is also an iron mine, and brings potassium, magnesium, and zinc into the body. Moreover, it is one of the few foods rich in vitamin B9 (folic acid). And it is well supplied with vitamin A and C. In addition, it is low in calories and fiber … This is a plant that all mothers should not miss to integrate in their diet for the health of their babies


While Watercress has many health benefits, it may be contaminated with a dangerous parasite called “liver fluke” (also known as sheep liver fluke or fasciola hepatica), which causes severe liver disease. It is strongly recommended not to consume wild watercress. The cultivated varieties are, themselves, subject to strict health monitoring; therefore, the chance for contamination is low.

In addition, patients, who have UTI or bladder infection and drink fresh watercress juice, may experience bladder pain along with frequent need to urinate. The pain usually stops on its own with the cessation of drinking the juice. The discomfort is minor and required no medical attention.

Watercress may interact with certain medications. Talk to your doctor if you are takingChlorzoxazone (Parafon Forte, Paraflex), Lithium, and Warfarin (Coumadin).


  1. Willcox JK, Ash SL, Catignani GL.Antioxidants and prevention of chronic disease.Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2004;44(4):275-95.
    2. Stahl W, Sies H. Bioactivity and protective effects of natural carotenoidsBiochim Biophys Acta 2005 May 30;1740(2):101-7.
    3. Santé Canada. Fichier canadien sur les éléments nutritifs, version 2007. [Consulté le 17 décembre 2010].
    4. Bendich A. From 1989 to 2001: what have we learned about the “biological actions of beta-carotene”?J Nutr 2004 January;134(1):225S-30S.
    5. Krinsky NI, Johnson EJ. Carotenoid actions and their relation to health and diseaseMol Aspects Med 2005 December;26(6):459-516.
    6. Ribaya-Mercado JD, Blumberg JB.

Leave a Reply