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The Various Health Benefits and Uses of Nasturtiums

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Fiona is a qualified herbalist and aromatherapist. She has twenty years of experience in the field and wants to share that knowledge.

What do nasturtiums look like? Nasturtium flowers come in a range of bright, sunshine colours.

What do nasturtiums look like? Nasturtium flowers come in a range of bright, sunshine colours.

The Health Benefits of Nasturtiums

Many people are familiar with Nasturtium flowers but are unaware of the health benefits of Tropaeolum majus. Want to know more about the Nasturtium medicinal uses? Let's go over them.

Great for Colds and Flu

Nasturtium leaves have a high concentration of vitamin C and are also natural antibiotics. Eating a couple of peppery leaves at the onset of a cold can stop it dead in its tracks. The gentle antibiotic action of the leaves makes them ideal for treating minor colds and flu. Eat one to two leaves three times a day for full benefits.

To benefit fully, use the leaves raw rather than as a tea. While the leaves will still have an antibiotic effect, boiling water will destroy the vitamin C.

My Brother Won't Touch Them

On a personal note, my brother will never eat Nasturtium leaves again. When he was a child, he developed a fever and my mom gave him a couple of leaves to eat. The next day he came out in chickenpox and still, to this day, insists that herb caused the chickenpox.

This is, of course, silly—the fever he had was the first symptom of chickenpox. Still, we've never been able to convince Andrew that this is a plant with medicinal properties. He still refuses to eat the leaves decades later.

Ancient Uses Not Scientifically Proven

While Nasturtium was used in ancient times to treat renal disease, you should avoid using too much of this medicinal plant if you suffer from kidney disease.

Using Herbal Remedies Safely

Like all herbal remedies, it is better to err on the side of caution—you should not use any herbal remedy continuously for an extended period of time. For example, you may take the remedy daily for a week at a time at most and then give it a break for at least a week before continuing again.

Smart Ways to Use Nasturtiums Medicinally

I have found that it is better to use nasturtiums over short periods when you need an antibiotic boost. Other than that, include a few of the leaves or flowers in a salad to boost flavor.

Orange nasturtium flowers are pretty in art projects as well.

Orange nasturtium flowers are pretty in art projects as well.

Avoid If Pregnant or Breastfeeding

Because there is not enough known about the effects of nasturtium during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, it should be avoided in all its forms by pregnant or breastfeeding women, including the flowers, leaves, and capers.

Nasturtiums are nature's own antibiotic powerhouse. They are exceptionally pretty medicinal plants.

Nasturtiums are nature's own antibiotic powerhouse. They are exceptionally pretty medicinal plants.

The Benefits and Uses of Nasturtiums Today

Nasturtiums are a favorite part of many people's gardens. Their cheery bright faces brighten the garden even on the dreariest day and can be used for a pop of color in cuisine as well. As cut flowers go, they look great but don't last too long.

You could, however, grow them in a pot inside as long as they get full sunlight and the potting soil is not too rich.

The flowers are often added to salads to give them some color, and the leaves add a great peppery taste to salads.

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Nasturtium's seeds are often used in place of capers.

Just about the whole plant is useful.

Tropaeolum Majus

The botanical name for the plant referred to here is Tropaeolum Majus and should not be confused with Nasturtium Officinale. The latter is more commonly known as Watercress.

The Uses of Nasturtiums in History

These sunny, healthy plants originated in South America and were widely used by the Mesoamericans for urinary tract infections, kidney problems, and general antibiotic action.

In Ancient Times

The leaves were used to prevent scurvy, supplement the daily diet, and add flavor. The peppery leaves were trendy, and the seeds were a prized delicacy.

In fact, they were considered so important that no home was without a nasturtium plant if they could avoid it. The plants are also so undemanding that they were perfect for the rocky soil of the Andes.

In South America, the plant was a traditional remedy for renal disease. However, modern scientific research hasn't found the plant beneficial in this respect. Therefore, if you have renal disease, you must consult your physician before trying any herbal remedies.

In the Middle Ages

In the 1600s in England, the Tropaeolum majus was a valued medicinal plant known as Indian Cress (Because of their similarity in flavor to Watercress.)

The high vitamin C content made the so-called "Indian Cress" a highly nutritious complement for the diet and warded off scurvy.

Wherever they have been introduced, nasturtiums have quickly become a firm favorite because of their medicinal and culinary uses.

I always make sure that I have a bed of these sunny little flowers and always look forward to spring and summer when they burst with color. They come up on their own without much interference from me.

Once they've become established, they spread nice and quickly.

Nasturtiums come in many colors—pretty oranges, reds, and yellows are the most common colors for nasturtium flowers

Nasturtiums come in many colors—pretty oranges, reds, and yellows are the most common colors for nasturtium flowers

Tropaeolum majus in the Garden

This picture of a Nasturtium Flower gives you an idea of how intense the color can be.

This picture of a Nasturtium Flower gives you an idea of how intense the color can be.

Grow Your Own Tropaeolum majus

Nasturtiums are very easy to grow. They thrive in poor soil, so they don't use a lot of compost when planting them. They can grow just about anywhere as long as they are in full sun.

I had a very rocky patch of ground in my garden - I think it's where the builders dumped the rubble when they built the house - and nothing would grow there. So I planted some yarrow to help condition the soil and edged the patch with nasturtiums. It is now lovely and green.

In Warmer Climates

In the warmer parts of the world, nasturtiums can be grown year-round. They tend to self-seed and, if conditions are right, they'll take over. They form a small leafy bush that creeps along the ground and provides great ground cover.

Where It Is Colder

They are frost tender and so will die down completely in winter in colder areas. Not to worry though, in spring, they will come up again in full force.

Try growing different colors and varieties - they will cross-pollinate, and you may get some interesting results.

I've even had little plants coming up all over the compost heap - they made an outstanding show there and covered it beautifully. Paradoxically, the compost heap getsminimale sun, so it just goes to show how hardy these little guys can be.

Nasturtiums come in many different colors, and there are also now varieties that have a variegated leaf - these are extremely pretty and very rewarding for the home gardener.

Make a Stunning Feature

Collect a few tin cans and drill holes into the bottom of them. Put a layer of stones at the bottom to aid drainage and add some soil. Plant a different color plant in each "pot." Line up against a sunny wall and wait for the profusion of flowers.

These plants are pretty as a picture.

These plants are pretty as a picture.

Nasty 'ems

My brother battled with pronunciation when he was little, and so he always said, "Nasty 'ems." To this day, we tease him about his "Nasty 'ems" and chickenpox plant.

Where Nasturtiums Came From

The Beauty Benefits of Nasturtiums

The high vitamin C content in the leaves makes these potent little plants great for your overall health and well-being. For example, eating a couple of leaves a day is said to help clear up acne.

The ancients used to use it as a hair tonic, and scientific research actually backs this up. Nasturtium tea applied to the head stimulates the capillaries and increases circulation and the flow of nutrients to the scalp.

The tea can also be used in place of a toner for oily skin.

Make your Own Nasturtium Tea

Place one cup of flowers and/ or buds in a liter of water in a pot. Cover and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and store in the refrigerator.

For hair growth, massage into the scalp before rinsing hair. Try using daily.

For skincare, apply using a cotton ball and then rinse off with warm water.

An Ultra-Effective Hair Treatment

This is a bit more effort but makes it great for the hair. Mix one cup each of nettle, nasturtium, and rosemary into two liters of water. Simmer in a closed pot for 15 minutes. Allow it to cool and then strain for use. Massage into your scalp before rinsing out. You can toss the used leaves into the compost heap, so nothing goes to waste at all.

Refrigerate any leftovers.

They are pretty in the garden.

They are pretty in the garden.

The Value the Nasturtium in the Garden

Nasturtiums act as a wonderful ground cover and shade the roots of plants that tend to be more sensitive to the hot sun. In addition, the nasturtium plant stays quite low to the ground and so can also add interest to your garden.

I always make sure that I plant a few of the seeds in my compost heap - this turns a somewhat ugly heap into a much prettier show. (The leaves look lovely and lush - there aren't as many flowers, though.)

Companion Planting

Nasturtiums can be quite useful when it comes to acting as a trap crop. Plant them around your veggie patch to lure insects away from your vegetables.

What Have You Learned About Nasturtiums?

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Do nasturtiums love rich soil
    • Yes - the richer the better
    • No - they prefer a poorer soil
  2. What parts of the nasturtiums are used for medicinal purposes?
    • The roots
    • The leaves
    • The flowers
    • 1 and 2
    • 2 and 3
    • 1,2 and 3
  3. Which parts of the plant are used for culinary purposes?
    • The roots
    • The leaves
    • The flowers
    • The seeds
    • 1, 2 , 3 and 4
    • 2, 3 and 4
  4. Where are nasturtiums from originally?
    • North America
    • South America
    • Africa
    • Australia

Answer Key

  1. No - they prefer a poorer soil
  2. 2 and 3
  3. 2, 3 and 4
  4. South America
The flowers are edible and so make an excellent decoration. Place them on just before serving for the best effect.

The flowers are edible and so make an excellent decoration. Place them on just before serving for the best effect.

Nasturtiums in the Kitchen

Nasturtium leaves make a great substitute for rocket in a salad. Pick them as close to the time needed as possible and rinse them before adding them to the salad.

The flowers are great for adding color to salads and decorating food. Freeze them into ice cubes to create a pretty addition for summery drinks.

Nasturtiums seeds can be pickled in vinegar to use as a great substitute for capers. Store for at least 3 weeks before using to allow the flavors to develop fully.

Make your own tasty treats with Nasturtium's seeds, leaves, and flowers—use the flowers to make any meal look special. Add the leaves in place of rocket.

Make your own tasty treats with Nasturtium's seeds, leaves, and flowers—use the flowers to make any meal look special. Add the leaves in place of rocket.

Nasturtium and Watercress on Toast

I'm not the best cook globally, but this simple recipe allows me to fake it.


  • Sourdough bread
  • Plain cottage cheese
  • A handful of fresh watercress
  • One nasturtium leaf, chopped
  • One nasturtium flower and leaf, whole
  • A few slices of red onion
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Toast your bread as you normally would. Top it with cottage cheese. Then slice the watercress and nasturtium leaf up finely. Mix them and sprinkle them over the cottage cheese. Finish with the onion.

Season to taste if necessary, garnish with the Nasturtium flower and leaf, and enjoy.

Check Out This Great Video by Jonathan Wallace on How to Pickle Nasturtiums Seeds

People Also Ask

Do nasturtiums like sun or shade?

These cheery herbs love the sun. But, while they'll tolerate a little bit of shade, they require at least six hours of direct sunlight a day to thrive.

Do nasturtiums come back every year?

The plants are annuals, meaning that they die down completely in winter. So you don't need to worry. However, they'll start popping up in the spring again. They grow easily enough from scattered seeds if you'd like a showier display.

What are nasturtiums good for?

  • The flowers are edible, making for a pretty addition to salads, cakes, and drinks
  • The seeds make a good substitute for capers
  • The peppery leaves are an excellent way to spice up a salad and deliver a natural antibiotic boost to boot.
  • Nasturtium Tea, cooled and rubbed into the scalp, will promote hair growth.
  • In the garden, the flowers attract pollinators, and the leaves act as a trap crop. They're a valuable friend for the avid veggie gardener for these two reasons.

Where should I plant nasturtiums?

They prefer a spot that gets a lot of sun during the day. The amount of light they receive is more important than the soil quality. These plants thrive on neglect and will produce better blooms in poor soil with little compost in it.

Nitrogen-rich soil will boost the production of the leaves at the expense of the flowers.

They'll do well in rocky soil as well, as long as it drains relatively well. However, they don't like their roots to stay damp, so that they won't do well in areas with a great deal of clay.

You may plant them in a large pot as well.

Will nasturtiums climb?

Yes. They can actually take over quite quickly under the right conditions. If you'd like to take advantage of their climbing ability, consider installing a trellis or some other support structure near them.

Before long, they'll grow over it.

Do nasturtiums spread?

Yes, as long as the growing conditions are right. They can actually become a little like weeds in warmer climates, but they're so pretty, no one cares.

Why do nasturtiums turn yellow?

Yellow leaves point to one of several problems.

Too Much Water

Dig away a little of the topsoil on a dry day and feel whether or not it's damp. If it's very moist, you may have a drainage problem.

Dig a hole around 12 inches deep and 12 inches wide next to the plant. Fill it with water and allow the water to drain away. Then, refill it with water again, but this time check the hole at hourly intervals to see how fast the water drains away.

If the water takes longer than an inch an hour to drop, you'll need to improve the drainage in the area. As nasturtiums don't like rich soil, you may do this by digging in some river sand.

Are nasturtiums poisonous to dogs?

No. The RSPCA confirms that they are not toxic for dogs, cats, or horses.

Do nasturtiums attract bees?

Yes, they also attract other beneficial pollinators such as butterflies.