Disclaimer: This information is in no way intended to be a substitute for modern medical care. Do not self-treat any medical complaint without the guidance of a licensed health care provider.

      Nasturtium's botanical name, Tropaeolum majus, is Latin for trophy, a warlike reference to the round leaves that resemble shields and to the flowers that bring Greek warrior helmets to mind. Its common name is derived from two Latin words: nasus, "nose," and tortus, "twisted." Ostensibly, nasturtium's peppery smell makes the nose wrinkle.
     This colorful and delicate annual is from Peru, where it was once used to treat skin wounds. Nasturtium is well known for its edible spicy flowers and leaves; what may not be so well known is that it has a high content of vitamin C and effectively treats infections and may help relieve colds. It was first brought to Europe in the seventeenth century and first cultivated only in abbey gardens for medicinal usage.
     Today, nasturtium is used in cooking and as an herbal remedy. The plant's peppery leaves make a delicious addition to a salad - as long as pesticides weren't used on the plant! Nasturtium is most often used to stimulate the appetite and promote good digestion - a perfect blend of the delightful plant's culinary and medicinal properties. Nasturtium is an easy, colorful plant to grow and is available with trailing, climbing or mounding habits and either dark green or variegated leaves. Plant it in full sun or partial shade for a large harvest of leaves and flowers all summer long.

Plant Facts
     Nasturtium is an annual belonging to the Tropaeolaceae family. Both the trailing and bushy varieties have yellow, orange, pink and red flowers with long spurs that bloom during the summer. The stem is located in the center of the funnel-shaped leaves.

      Nasturtium is originally from South America; it was first cultivated in Peru. Today the colorful plant is grown in both tropical and temperate climates throughout the world.

Parts Used
     The leaves and flowers are used medicinally. The leaves, flowers and seeds, all edible, also have a number of culinary uses.

      Nasturtium contains glucosinolates, a mustard-oil glycoside; glycotropeoline, which releases a disinfectant sulfur compound when added to water, which have antibiotic and anti-tumor effects. They can also alleviate respiratory congestion, stimulate the digestive system and mitigate hyperthyroidism; and many flavonoids. The plant is also a great source of vitamin C, which the flavonoids help the body to absorb. Some small amounts of usable iodine are also present, helping to regulate metabolism. Nasturtium has spilanthol, oxalic acid and the enzyme myrosin, too.

     A delicious medicinal remedy, nasturtium is an effective treatment for the symptoms of topical and internal bacterial infections, most especially those affecting the skin and urinary tract, as well as the respiratory and digestive systems. It can also be used to treat fungal infections, such as Candida. Colds and flus may be remedied by this herb as well, although whether nasturtium has antiviral properties or not is still unknown. Caution: Ingesting excessive amounts of this plant can result in vomiting, and leaving it on the skin for longer than 10 minutes may induce a painful burning sensation. Nasturtium's disinfectant properties are the result of its mustard-oil content. Since the oil is released in the gastrointestinal tract, eating nasturtium in large quantities or too frequently can irritate these delicate mucus membranes. However, for normal food consumption, nasturtium is generally considered safe.

Therapeutic Effect
      The herb's mustard oils are antibiotic, antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial; these properties can help to treat infections, colds, flu and digestive upsets that stem from an overgrowth of yeast or from parasites. Nasturtium also boosts the immune system, which helps the body to resist infections. Further, it stimulates the appetite, promotes digestion and supports metabolism. Mildly warming, nasturtium makes an ideal chest plaster for coughs.

Methods of Administration

For the common cold or inflammation of the urinary tract, juice 4-6 cups of leaves. Dilute 1 tsp. of juice in 1 cup of water or herbal tea, and drink 1-2 cups daily.

For indigestion, sinusitis, or bronchitis, place ½ cup of leaves and 1 cup of brandy or vodka in a clean jar with a tight lid. Steep 4-6 weeks, shake occasionally and strain. Dilute 20-40 drops in ¼ cup of water, and drink 3-4 times daily.

Skin Wash
For bacterial infections and skin inflammations, add 1 cup of leaves to 2 cups of boiling water; steep 10-15 minutes, and strain. Dip a clean cloth in the solution and use it to rinse the skin.

Foot Soak
For fungal infections, such as athlete's foot, add 2 cups of leaves to 4 cups of boiling water; steep 15-20 minutes; strain. Add to 2 gallons of warm water. Soak the feet in the solution for 20-30 minutes each day for 2 weeks.

Nasturtium Salad

  1. Wash the nasturtium and arugula, and shake until they are dry. Chop them slightly, if desired.
  2. Wash and trim the scallions; then slice them into fine rings.
  3. Mix the balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and mustard; whisk in the olive oil.
  4. Toss the nasturtium leaves, arugula leaves and scallions in the dressing, and arrange them on plates.
  5. Slice or coarsely grate the Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle on top of the salad, and garnish with nasturtium flowers.

Kitchen Hints

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      All information provided in this article is the result of research using (but not limited to) the following books and guides: Herbs for Health and Healing, Rodale; Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, Scott Cunningham; Magical Herbalism, Scott Cunningham; The Complete Guide to Natural Healing, International Masters Publishers; Earthway, Mary Summer Rain; Teach Yourself Herbs, Susie White; Natural Beauty from the Garden, Janice Cox; Nature's Prescriptions, Editors of FC&A Medical Publishing, and The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies, Joe Graedon and Theresa Graedon, Ph.D