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Islamic remedies: Hurf or cress purifies the blood
Dr. Rizwan Ahmed
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 25 - 03 - 2011

Daynoori said: “Cress seeds are used in remedies and are also called Ath-Thuffaa, which the Prophet (peace be upon him) mentioned. Its plant is called Al-Hurf while Rashad seeds is its popular name.” Also, Abu Ubay said that Ath-Thuffaa is Hurf.
The Hadith that Abu Hanifah referred to is what Abu Ubay and other scholars have related from Ibn Abbas that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was reported to have said: “What a cure do the two bitter remedies carry: the Thuffaa and aloe.”
Black Cress (Nasturtium Niger) has long leaves, deeply cut and jagged on both sides, not much unlike wild mustard; the stalks small, very limber, though very tough; one may twist them round as one may a willow before they break. The flowers are very small and yellow, after which come small pods, containing the seed. It usually grows by the waysides, and sometimes upon mud walls, but most among stones and rubbish.
They are more powerful against the scurvy, and to cleanse the blood and humors. It removes the stone, and is very diuretic. The decoction cleanse the ulcers. The bruised leaves, or juice, is good to be applied to the face, or other parts troubled with freckles, pimples, spots, or the like, at night, and washed away in the morning. The juice mixed with vinegar, and the fore part of the head bathed therewith, is very good for those who feel dull and drowsy, or are lethargic.
Constituents: Volatile oil, glycosides, fibre, protein with animo acids arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, threonine, phenylalinine, methionine, tryptophan, valine and folic acid.
Vitamins: A , B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B17, C, D, E and K.
Minerals: Calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, sodium, magnesium, copper, manganese, florine, sulphur, chlorine, iodine, germanium, silica, zinc.
Actions: Antibiotic, antibacterial, diuretic, expectorant, stimulant, digestive, stomachic, antiscorbutic, antiseptic and antioxidant tonic.
Medicinal uses: Since early times, the herb has had many uses. There are over 40 medicinal uses for watercress, and included the belief that the smell of watercress would drive away snakes and neutralize scorpion venom!
Watercress is known in herbal history as a spring-cleaning herb for purifying the blood and toning the whole system. Many of the great herbalists wrote of the revitalizing powers of watercress. It strengthens the nervous system.
Cress is also an important source of calcium, iron, vitamin A and vitamins C and E, which are two anti-oxidant nutrients that help protect the cells from getting damaged by free radicals. It is rich in beta-carotene, vitamins and minerals. The young garden cress spouts can also be eaten. Cress also helps to purify the blood and increase appetite.
Therapeutic uses: Coughs, head colds, bronchial ailments, tuberculosis, asthma, emphysema, stress, pain, arthritis, stiff back and joints, diabetes, anemia, constipation, cataracts, failing eyesight, night blindness, leukemia, cancer, hemorrhaging, heart conditions, eczema, scabies, body deodorizer, edema, bleeding gums, weight loss, indigestion, alcoholism, intestinal parasites, circulation, sluggish menstruation, lack of energy, kidney and gall stones, as a brain and nerve strengthener; ailments of the spleen, thyroid, and liver; to normalize cholesterol and blood pressure; for improved memory, for mental function decline and to retard ageing; for failing or scant milk supply of nursing mothers; to regulate flow of bile, health of glands and the functions of body metabolism. It is one of the best sources of iodine, other than seaweed, such as kelp. Iodine is important for the functioning of the thyroid gland. The leaves used as a poultice are applied for relief from enlarged prostate gland.
The chlorophyll-rich leaves are chewed to absorb breath odors. Dr. Robert Willner in ‘The Cancer Solution' states that chlorophyll is an effective anti-cancer substance, with antioxidant action, helping to neutralize free radicals from chemicals, pesticides, cigarette smoke, diesel emissions and many other environmental mutagens.
Chlorophyll is rich in digestive enzymes. These enzymes make it easier to digest heavy foods we eat, such as starches and protein. Also, it is said that the enzymes act as a catalyst, so that the food is more fully utilized and the body gets better benefit from vitamins and mineral content, and for this reason eating sprigs of watercress with our meals, is most beneficial. To get maximum benefit of enzyme action the leaves need to be eaten raw, as cooking destroys enzymes.
Watercress contains more sulphur than any other vegetable, except horseradish. Sulphur-rich foods play an important role in protein absorption, blood purifying, cell-building and in healthy hair and skin.
The potassium content of watercress is valued for weight loss, as its diuretic action draws excess fluid down and out of the body. Dieters will benefit with eating high potassium foods and eliminating or cutting back on high sodium foods, including salt. The rich calcium content of watercress has been encouraged for soft teeth and weak bone conditions.
The saying ‘to eat cress', was sometimes directed at people whose wits were believed to have deserted them! To relieve headaches, make an infusion with a handful of chopped watercress leaves and two cups of boiling water. Cool. Strain. Soak a Chux, soft cloth or washer in the infusion and rest with it placed over the forehead.
In the Middle Ages, the Salernitan School of medicine recommended rubbing the juice of watercress into the scalp to strengthen and thicken the hair.
Use watercress as a poultice for swollen feet and sprained ankles. Watercress is valued for clearing and improving the complexion, by eating and applying externally as a lotion. Fresh juice can be applied to the face and skin to fade freckles, spots and blotches, and to clear acne, blemishes, pimples, and blackheads.
Culinary uses: The very best way to get the full nutritional value of watercress is to pick it just before a meal and eat. It can be added to cooked dishes, salads, soup, stews, and stir-fries, just before serving. Garden cress is eaten fresh, there is no need to cook it. Add cress to salads, cottage cheese, egg dishes, tomatoes, potatoes and sandwiches. Use it in place of parsley as a garnish, and delight in the taste as a breath refresher after the meal.
In lock-jaw, and mania, it is of great advantage, a drop or two placed on the tongue will be sufficient. If externally applied it is a valuable counter-irritant; soon producing eruption, and therefore is a special remedy for inflammation of the chest. Watercress has also been used as a specific in tuberculosis.
– The writer can be contacted on
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