Watercress Halts Cancer and DNA Damage

watercress and DNA damage

By Case Adams, Naturopath

Watercress is a delicious food. It can be added fresh to salads or steamed up with other vegetables.

But did you know that watercress can halt and reduce DNA damage? And even stop cancer growth?

The evidence is in – watercress helps halts cancer growth

Research from Britain’s Edinburgh Napier University found that watercress reduces DNA damage and oxidative stress. This included stress induced by exhaustive exercise. The connection with cancer is that the watercress halted the DNA damage that precedes cancer.

The researchers studied ten healthy young men (average age 23) for four months. The men were tested before and after the study, and on a daily basis, before and after exhausting aerobic exercise. During one eight-week period, the subjects took 85 grams of watercress supplements daily. They took the supplements two hours before exercise. During the other eight-week period, they worked out without the supplements.

When given the watercress supplement, the men showed a significant reduction in reactive oxygen species levels, and reduced DNA damage. Blood samples also revealed that levels of lipid peroxidation – the major cause for artery disease – were also significantly lower when taking the watercress.

Strenuous exercise typically produces DNA damage, which a the body will hopefully repair. The ability of watercress to reduce DNA damage confirms earlier research showing that watercress reduces mutation and cancer growth.

The researchers commented on this aspect of the study:

“The study demonstrates that exhaustive aerobic exercise may cause DNA damage and lipid peroxidation; however, these perturbations are attenuated by either short- or long-term watercress supplementation, possibly due to the higher concentration lipid-soluble antioxidants following watercress ingestion.”

Other research confirms the watercress is anticancer

Previous research has found that watercress contains a unique constituent called phenethyl isothiocyanate or PEITC. Georgetown University researchers established in 2011 that isothiocyanate inhibited the growth of cervical cancer and breast cancer cells.

And a 2014 study from China’s First Affiliated Hospital of Guiyang Medical College found that PEITC halted the growth of leukemia cancer cells.

Another 2014 study from the University of Pittsburgh found that isothiocyanate and sulforaphane – also present in watercress as well as brocolli and other cruciferous vegetables – can halt the growth of prostate cancer.

Other anticancer agents in watercress

Besides isothiocyanate and sulphorophane, watercress contains a host of antioxidant nutrients, including xanthophyll, beta-carotene, alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol (two forms of vitamin E), each of which have been shown to slow free radical formation in the body. As other studies have shown, this in turn can reduce the rate of DNA damage and cancer formation in the body.


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Wang X, Govind S, Sajankila SP, Mi L, Roy R, Chung FL. Phenethyl isothiocyanate sensitizes human cervical cancer cells to apoptosis induced by cisplatin. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2011 Oct;55(10):1572-81.

Gerhauser C. Epigenetic impact of dietary isothiocyanates in cancer chemoprevention. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2013 Jul;16(4):405-10. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e328362014e.

Wang Y, Wei S, Wang J, Fang Q, Chai Q. Phenethyl isothiocyanate inhibits growth of human chronic myeloid leukemia K562 cells via reactive oxygen species generation and caspases. Mol Med Rep. 2014 Jul;10(1):543-9. doi:

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Case Adams is a California Naturopath with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies. “My journey into writing about alternative medicine began about 9:30 one evening after I finished with a patient at the clinic I practiced at over a decade ago. I had just spent the last two hours explaining how diet, sleep and other lifestyle choices create health problems and how changes in these, along with certain herbal medicines and other natural strategies can radically yet safely turn ones health around. As I drove home that night, I realized I needed to get this knowledge out to more people. So I began writing about health with a mission to reach those who desperately need this information. The strategies in my books and articles are backed by scientific evidence along with wisdom handed down through traditional medicines for thousands of years.” Case connects with the elements by surfing, hiking and being a beach bum.

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