With a name like "nasturtium", you could naturally think this flowering plant is nasty. Quite the opposite is true, what with the medicinal benefits you can reap from the leaves and flowers. While many people are already familiar with the use of the round foliage with its strange whitish spoke-like veins for use in salads, not as often will you find anyone munching on the orange or yellow flowers. Still less frequently will anyone be using these parts for herbal medicine, to their loss.
The leaves are known to be rather hot in taste, and therefore, like many spicy plant materials, make a good external application for pain relief, in the manner of other counter-irritants such as capsaicin from hot peppers. In poultices or compresses they may also find good use for other skin problems like rashes or abrasions.
Being naturally exceptional as an antibiotic, the nasturtium is also of great value for healing cuts and infections. Make a compress, as in the above cases, or an infusion to soak and cleanse the ailing area.
Internally, what with its high Vitamin C content, nasturtiums are great for improving the immune system, dealing with sore throats, coughs, colds or other respiratory infections, mucous congestion, and bacterial and fungal infections. Some people prefer to include this plant in mixtures with other substances such as wild cherry or eucalyptus, to treat coughs naturally. It has an expectorant quality that makes it helpful in such instances.
As a warning, do NOT take this plant internally if you are, or may possibly, be pregnant; it can bring on premature labor or bleeding. Check with an experienced herbalist for safer substitutes if you are trying to conceive instead of using nasturtiums.
The flowers, as well, carry many beneficial nutrients, including manganese, iron, Vitamin C (as with the leaves), flavonoids and beta carotene (observe their bright hue!). All of these are profitable to human health, and make an excellent addition to the diet. Aside from eating them, however, you can use them in infusions, either internally or externally in the event of bacterial or fungal infections, just as with the leaves.
Another aspect of nasturtiums is their insect-repellent quality. People often use them to border gardens because bugs simply dislike their scent, which is a tad peppery. Rather than contaminate the environment and your other plants with chemical poisons, why not plant nasturtiums to ward off hostile six-legged invaders?
Nasturtiums are not only found in just about all gardens in SoCal, they are prevalent throughout Los Angeles. Although they are not a native variety, they have gone feral, so to speak, escaping from local gardens and becoming invasive, in the eyes of some garden purists. While not truly a wildflower, nasturtiums are acting in that role, and so can be gathered easily. If you do decide to pick them from wilderness areas rather than growing your own, be sure you are not trespassing, first, and always determine if the plants in that area may have been sprayed previously.
Best of all, get some seeds or plants from a local source that will guarantee you they are selling wholelsome, natural nasturtiums, and raise your own supply. For the health of your garden as well as yourself and family, these flowers fill a variety of everyday needs for your diet and wellness.