Garden cress (Lepidium sativum) is an edible herb belonging to the Brassicaceae family alongside cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. Other names for this herb, which is native to Southwest Asia and Egypt, include halim, chandrasura, and holan (1Trusted Source).
Historically, this herb was used to treat cough, diarrhea, vitamin C deficiency, low immunity, and constipation (2Trusted Source).
Today it’s widely grown in the United States, India, and Europe. It’s primarily harvested for its seeds, though its oils, roots, and leaves have uses as well (1Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source).
Garden cress has a peppery, tangy flavor and aroma. Plus, it’s incredibly nutritious.
Here are 10 impressive health benefits of garden cress.
1. Packed with nutrients
Carbs: 3 grams
Protein: 1.3 grams
Fat: 0 grams
Fiber: 0.5 grams
Potassium: 6% of the Daily Value (DV)
Vitamin A: 10% of the DV
Vitamin C: 39% of the DV
Vitamin K: 452% of the DV
As you can see, this herb is naturally low in carbs and fat-free. It also provides a small amount of fiber.
Plus, it boasts moderate amounts of potassium and vitamin A and a significant amount of vitamin C. Like many leafy green vegetables, it’s especially rich in vitamin K — a crucial nutrient for blood clotting and bone health (6Trusted Source).
2. May boost bone health
Garden cress is a very rich source of vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin involved in bone formation, breakdown, and nutrient absorption. In particular, the bone protein osteocalcin relies on this vitamin to increase bone formation and strength (7Trusted Source).
Insufficient vitamin K levels are associated with bone fractures in Asian and European adults (8Trusted Source).
In, fact, vitamin K intake is essential to protecting against conditions like osteoporosis, which may be caused by aging and nutrient deficiencies. This condition weakens your bones, increasing the risk of fractures (9Trusted Source).
3. May support immune health
Eating vitamin C-rich foods like garden cress may help your body ward off sickness and improve immune function.
That’s because vitamin C functions as an antioxidant to protect against oxidative stress, thereby lowering your risk of inflammation. In turn, lower levels of inflammation may safeguard you from conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease (10Trusted Source).
Plus, this vitamin helps prevent harmful pathogens from entering the outermost organ of your body, the skin. Without enough vitamin C, your body doesn’t produce enough collagen — a major component of your skin — and may heal more slowly from wounds (10Trusted Source).
Vitamin C also helps reduce your risk of infection by helping kill off microbes — harmful bacteria that have entered your body — as well as dead cells that can cause tissue damage (10Trusted Source).
4. May promote weight loss
With only 16 calories per 1 raw cup (50 grams), garden cress is a low calorie food that may even promote weight loss.
Research shows that weight loss is successful when you achieve a negative calorie balance either by eating fewer calories than you burn or expending more calories through physical activity (11Trusted Source).
Since garden cress and many other non-starchy vegetables are naturally low in carbs, they’re suitable for these diets. Still, you should pair these foods with high protein items like chicken, lean beef, beans, and fish (12Trusted Source).
5. May protect against toxins
It’s possible that garden cress protects against toxic compounds like heavy metals.
In a study in 50 rats given aluminum, this heavy metal significantly damaged liver and kidney function. Yet, the groups of rats receiving garden cress after or alongside aluminum saw their liver and kidney function restored to almost normal (14Trusted Source).
In a test-tube study, human liver cells preexposed to toxic hydrogen peroxide were then exposed to garden cress extract. The extract inhibited oxidative stress by 56% and prevented cell death by 48% (16Trusted Source).
Still, while garden cress may help protect the liver and kidneys, more rigorous human studies are needed.
6. May promote heart health
Garden cress seeds may promote heart health due to their balanced ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.
Garden cress seeds contain 32% alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3, and 12% linolenic acid (LA), an omega-6. Both are essential fatty acids that the body cannot make, so you must get them from food or supplements (17Trusted Source).
Your body also uses ALA and LA to make essential fatty acids like eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), though its ability to convert these fatty acids into EPA and DHA is low (18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source).
The typical Western diet is higher in omega-6s than omega-3s, an imbalance that leads to chronic inflammation. In fact, diets rich in omega-6s may reduce the anti-inflammatory benefits of omega-3s (20Trusted Source, 21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source).
Although the relationship between these fatty acids isn’t entirely understood, maintaining a healthy balance of omega-3s to omega-6s is crucial for reducing your risk of heart disease. This is due to the effects of this ratio on inflammation (20Trusted Source, 21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source).
However, specific studies on garden cress are lacking.
7. May aid diabetes management
Garden cress may help lower blood sugar levels to help manage diabetes.
In a study in rats, those that ate garden cress had significantly reduced levels of fasting blood sugar and insulin resistance, compared with a control group. Both of these indicators suggest improved diabetes control (25Trusted Source).
Insulin resistance occurs when your body stops responding to the effects of the hormone insulin.
The study also reported reduced total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL (bad) cholesterol, alongside increased HDL (good) cholesterol (25Trusted Source).
Plus, garden cress’s vitamin K content may help manage diabetes.
In a 4-week study, 82 women with prediabetes were given 1,000 mcg of vitamin K or a placebo daily. Those in the vitamin K group experienced improved insulin sensitivity and decreased blood sugar levels (26Trusted Source).
All the same, keep in mind that specific studies on garden cress’s effects in people with diabetes aren’t available (27Trusted Source).
8. May have anticancer properties
Test-tube studies indicate that garden cress may have several anticancer benefits.
One such study exposed leukemia cancer cells to garden cress extract. The results found that as concentrations of garden cress extract increased, the number of living cancer cells decreased — and the number of healthy cells also increased (28Trusted Source).
Another test-tube study in liver cancer cells showed that garden cress extract significantly suppressed gene expression, thereby reducing tumor growth. The more potent the concentration of garden cress extract, the more toxic it was to liver cancer cells (29Trusted Source).
All the same, further research is needed.
9. Relatively high in vitamin A
One cup (50 grams) of garden cress provides 10% of the DV for vitamin A, which your body cannot make on its own. As such, you must get it from your diet.
Furthermore, this vitamin provides immune benefits by helping to multiply and differentiate helper T cells, which aid your body’s autoimmune response (30Trusted Source).
10. May help breast milk production
One review suggests that garden cress provide essential vitamins and minerals for breast milk and breast tissue growth (33Trusted Source).
It also helps stimulate prolactin, a major hormone that stimulates milk production. Moreover, this herb helps trigger the let-down reflex, which causes breast milk to flow (33Trusted Source, 34Trusted Source).
All the same, more research is needed.
The bottom line
Garden cress — both its leaves and seeds — may provide health benefits.
It’s low in calories and packs essential nutrients like vitamins A, C, and K, as well as omega-3 fatty acids.
As such, this tiny herb may aid immunity, disease prevention, weight loss, organ function, inflammation, heart health, and diabetes. It may even offer anticancer effects and aid breast milk production.
The peppery herb makes a nutritious addition to soups, salads, or sandwiches.