Tropaeolum majus

 

For Magick and Medicine: Growing and using Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)

Garden Nasturtium:

These grow everywhere here where I currently live, and is considered a weed by most of the people I know here! I guess I must have seen the picture online at some point, and I just knew that there was some benefit to keeping them around. After a bit of research, I’ve been throwing the leaves and flowers into salads, and bathing in nasturtium infusions.

Be careful to not confuse with watercress (Nasturtium officinale). Both are from the order of Brassicalesi (or Cruciales) and have in common the production of mustard oils (inactive glucosinolates which hydrolyze through myrosinase to produce isothiocyanates)

grows well, even in containers and with infrequent waterings. eddible leaves and flowers to add lutein and vitamins A, D and C to salads. fresh leaves before flowering are a powerful antibiotic. tones and heals the heart and healps lower cholesterol. infusion can be used to treat acne and hair loss. associated with cleansing, healing, victory, resiliance, and the sun

When the eddible Tropaeolum was introduced to Europe from Central and South America in the 17th century, it was thought to be related to cress, and was called “Indian cress”, (the Americas were known as the Indies). This also explains why it shares the name “nasturtium” with watercress, even though modern research has placed more distance between the species.

Orange, yellow, and cream coloured Nasturtium flowers
Orange, yellow, and cream coloured Nasturtium flowers

I love the bright colours of the flowers, and how they mix with each generation. From red through orange and yellow, and sometimes cream… at least here in the mountains of Gran Canaria, but from what I’ve read, there are plenty of varieties available commercially as well.

The original species appears to be Tropaeolum minus, which is a bush variety with slightly trailing stems. It is most likely that the Tropaeolum majus is a hybrid, although the other parent species are not known for sure.

side view of a yellow Nasturtium flower
Side view showing the nectar spur of a Topaeolum majus flower

Propagation:

Someone living in a colder climate could start the seeds indoors in biodegradable pots, but this prolific grower could easily be planted outside after the threat of frost.

a hand holds the green seeds up for closer inspection
A close up of the developing seeds of the Tropaeolum majus

Plant the seeds about double as deep as they are big. Sprouts take between one and two weeks to appear.

Most varieties die back at the end of flowering, but where I live, leaves grow back from the stems and roots before the seeds sprout (it’s quite a warm climate so maybe this is not the case if the plant is sold as an annual)

Tropaeolum majus grows roots quite easily from stem cuttings with various, close spaced nodes, which is part of the reason they are seen as an unwanted plant in many areas. This also makes them a great ground cover and green mulch, as they will usually survive aggressive pruning.

Planting:

Nasturtiums are so easy to grow that they are often recommended for children’s gardens. These can be planted in any sunny spot, and will thrive even without any attention. Since they are both edible and can be planted in pots by almost anyone, it’s a perfect plant to incorporate into our lives, even without experience, or living in the city.

Yellow and red Nasturtium flowers contrast the green peltate leaves
Hardy and prolific, the Nasturtium flowers will thrive even in a container garden

Unless sold as being cold hardy (perennial), these sun loving plants won’t survive the frost of winter. If the cold doesn’t kill the roots, the plant will continue to grow shoots, flowers and make seeds – which in turn are more resistant to the cold and will sprout after the frost.

It is usually recommended to grow the Nasturtium flowers in full sun, but I have seen them grow wild in shady places, although I don’t live that far from the equator. In the warmer months at least, partial shade should be sufficient.

Green Nasturtium leaves grow up a stone wall in a semi-shaded spot
Nutritional and Antibiotic: even in nitrogen rich soils, the Nasturtium has many benefits when added to the garden

Nasturtiums prefer well drained soil but are otherwise not picky about soil composition. The more nitrogen rich the soil, the less flowers will bloom, which makes Nasturtium flowers a great option for adding colour to poor soils, or patches of the garden which will not support much other growth (like up a stone wall). Leaves which grow above the flowers signal that the earth in which they are planted is very nitrogen rich.

If growing for decorative purposes, it is recommended to plant them in soil with less nitrogen. However, if growing nasturtium for medicinal purposes, it would be advisable to cultivate them in moderately rich soil, at the expense of the flowers, and they can be planted in between polyculture beds.

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Special Care:

I read that deadheading (removing dead flowers) will prolong the flowering season. In zones with very hot summers, this may be necessary but I imagine this will not leave many seeds, and since they regrow so well from the roots, the flowering seasons are not far between anyway.

The more heat-stressed the plant, the spicier it’s leaves, flowers, and stems will taste.

Because they grows so fast, it might be necessary to trim them back once in a while, especially when grown in containers.

Beneficial alongside Curcubitacae and Brassicacae. Will attract aphids and caterpillars away from other plants. Helps repel squash & cucumber beetles. Attracts predatory insects to the garden. A perfect caandidate for green mulch!

Nasturtiums attract a variety of insects, which can leave us with a few holes in our salad leaves, but ultimately makes them an ideal trap crop to keep pests off other plants. Especially susceptible to aphids, caterpillars, slugs, beetles, and whitefly.

They also attract beneficial predatory insects (like ladybugs and hoverflies) to the garden. Nasturtiums are often used in polyculture and permaculture as companion plants, especially with Cucurbitaceae (like cucumbers and squashes) and Brassicacae (like cabbages and mustard) and are known to help control several pests which these plants would normally attract.

Two orange Nasturtium flowers growing out of a crack in a cement wall
The hardy Nasturtium will grow well, even in poor soil, or up stone walls.

Cabbages, broccoli, kale and kholrabi are all reported to grow stronger and more prolifically when inter-planted with nasturtiums.

Because of their ability to grow in poor soils, they are reported to help organic matter decompose, which is another benefit to using them as a green mulch. Using Tropaeolum majus as a living ground cover adds nutrients such as sodium, fluorine, sulphur, magnesium, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, and iron to the soil when “chopped and dropped”

They are susceptible to over watering and mold, and are probably happier not being planted along side plants which require the soil to be constantly wet. Planting as a green mulch will allow surrounding plants to retain more moisture with less water input.

Full sun to partial shade. Not picky about soil compositions #low mainenance (susceptible to rot if over watered). Annual or Perennial varieties. Great companion plant. Eddible and Medicinal. Grows well even in pots!

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Medicinal Uses:

The recommended dose for the preparation of infusions is 30 grams off fresh leaves per liter (approx 1 quart) of water.

Various studies using macerated leaves in ethanol extractions have found no acute toxicity. The administration of doses of 75, 375, and 750 mg/kg of body weight during 90 days found no evidence of toxicity in rats, but did register slight alterations to lymphocyte and neutrophil counts at the highest dosage .

a mortar filled with crushed Nasturtium leaves
Macerated leaves can be infused in water and taken to treat cold and flu, or in alcohol to make an antibiotic tincture

Nasturtium contains mustard oil and can cause skin irritation when applied topically, especially when used over prolonged periods of time.

It is best advised that people suffering from weaknesses of the kidneys, stomach, or intestinal tract, or from ulcers, not consume this plant.

Being an emmenagogue, it should not be consumed by pregnant women who wish to birth their baby.

Due to the high content of oxalic acid in the leaves, it would be advised to be avoided by those suffering from kidney stones. Anyone with a high intake of calcium could be at risk of the formation of stones when introducing high amounts of oxalic acid to their diet. The exact mechanism by which these stones are formed is, however, still under debate, and there are those who believe that cooking leaves high in oxalic acid (such as spinach) with calcium rich foods (such as cream), combines to form insoluble compounds, and reduces the absorption of oxalic acid, and thus the formation of stones in the body.

Anyone currently taking medication should consult their health care practitioner before adding new compounds to their personal care routine, in case of possible interactions or side effects.

relaxes aorta. increases excretion of cholesterol. lowers blood pressure. antibiotic and antifungal. helps fight cold and chest infections. diuretic and laxative. promotes regular menstruation. has been used to treat blemishes and hair loss.

The leaves, stems, and flowers are all edible. The seeds have a history of use, but should be picked green and fermented in brine in order to avoid any potential toxicity. This is still under debate, however, as there are those who believe the seeds to be too toxic for human consumption, and recommend the pickling of the flower buds instead.

High in vitamins A, C and D. The flowers contain between 71 – 300 mg of vitamin C per 100 grams.1 2 Nasturtium also contains about 45 mg of lutein per 100 grams (compared to 24 mg per 130 grams in Kale). 3 (Lutein is best absorbed when eaten with a high-fat meal, or drizzled with oil in a salad). Also a decent source of manganese and iron (which is more bio-available than from other, richer sources, due to it’s high content in vitamin C)

eddible stems leaves and flowers. high in vitamins A, C, and D. Highest known source of lutein. spicier when heat stressed!

The plant can be eaten fresh, or infused in water. Once dried, the nasturtiums loose most of their medicinal value. Tinctures in alcohol are the best option for conserving the medical properties of the plant over longer periods of time, but should also be prepared with fresh plant matter.

  • Anti-adipogenic:

    prevents cells from storing fat. Helps lower cholesterol. May help prevent weight gain. 4

  • Antibiotic, Antibacterial, Antifungal, Antiseptic & Antiviral:

    Studies have shown that the leaves have antibiotic properties, but that they are most effective before the plant flowers. Can be applied topically to treat wounds, and fungal infections such as Candida and Athlete’s Foot. Taken internally, Nasturtium has shown to be most effective at treating respiratory and urinary tract infections, due to the metabolism of mustard oils in the body. Nasturtium has shown to have less of a damaging effect on the intestinal flora than pharmaceutical antibiotics, because mustard oil compounds are absorbed in the beginning of the intestinal tract 5. In Germany, there is a herbal antibiotic available for prescription which is made only from Nasturtium leaves and Horseradish root 6.

    antibiotic antibacterial antifungal antiseptic and antiviral

  • Anti-hypertensive:

    effective at reducing high blood pressure. 7 See cardio-tonic effects.

  • Cardio-tonic:

    cardiovascular disease can be caused by many different things, and each person should obviously be examined as an individual case to discover which treatments are best in line with the root causes of their disorder. Fatty deposits along the inner walls of blood vessels is a common, and life threatening, symptom of various disorders. Nasturtium is believed to help maintain the cardiovascular system, in part because of it’s anti-adipogenic properties, and in part because of the flavinoids, isorhamntein3-o- glucoside and quinic acid derivatives it contains. Tropaeolum majus L. has been observed to have a relaxing effect on the aorta (effectively reducing blood pressure), and to increase the fecal excretion of excess cholesterol. 8 See anti-adipogenic effects.

  • Diuretic:

    stimulates urination. Unlike many pharmaceutical diuretics, Tropaeolum majus extract appears to not strip the body of potassium. 9

  • Aids in the development of red blood cells::

    Nasturtium has a long history of folk use to promote the healthy development of red blood cells. This is theorised to be because of the high content of vitamin A and beta carotene in the flowers (and to a lesser extent, leaves), as well as being a bio-available source of iron.

  • Emmenagogue:

    Has been reported to have a mild stimulating effect on the female reproductive system, and has been used by women to regulate their cycles.

  • Expectorant:

    Helps to expel flem. This, along with it’s antiseptic qualities, makes it a great remedy for chest infections, sore throat, cold, and flu. 10

  • Laxative:

    The flower buds (once dried) have been used for their laxative effect.

  • Rubefacient:

    causes redness and inflammation when applied to the skin. Increases blood flow and can be used to treat mild muscle pain and stiffness. 11

  • Scurvy Treatment:

    Historically, the nasturtium flowers were used as a remedy for scurvy; this is now supported by modern research into their high content of vitamin C. 12

  • Applied topically, both infused water and the juice of fresh, crushed leaves can be used to treat blotchy skin, spots, blemishes, acne vulgaris and hair loss.

References:

  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-2621.2005.tb08336.x
  2. https://www.deepdyve.com/lp/wiley/746-tropaeolum-majus-1xULLd3C7O?articleList=%2Fsearch%3Fquery%3Dtropaeolum%2Bmajus%2Bvitamin%2Bc
  3. https://www.myfooddata.com/articles/high-lutein-and-zeaxanthin-foods.php
  4. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/16546628.2017.1339555
  5. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/glucosinolate
  6. https://www.angocin.de/
  7. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378874110009025
  8. https://independent.academia.edu/InasElatik
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21163342)
  10. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/tropaeolum-majus
  11. http://www.botanical-dermatology-database.info/BotDermFolder/TROP.html
  12. https://www.deepdyve.com/lp/elsevier/major-anthocyanins-and-antioxidant-activity-of-nasturtium-flowers-AJlmZDXg5m?

anti-adipogenic. antibiotic. antibacterial. antifungal. antiseptic. antiviral. antihypertensive. cardio-tonic. diuretic. aids in the development of red blood cells. emmenagogue. expectorant. laxative. rubefacient.

Magickal Correspondences:

  • Infused water can be sprinkled or sprayed around a perimeter, or room to cleanse and protect the space.
  • Being antibiotic also allows us to use a strong infusion of the fresh leaves and stems to clean the house with, instead of chemical cleaning products. This can be incorporated into a ritual clean and cleanse.

using nasturtium (tropaeolum majus) to cleanse and protect

  • Can be grown in pots in sunny windowsills, and charged with the intention of warding the space. Caring for the plant can be enforced with a ritual to strengthen the ward, but since nasturtiums are low maintenance, this can be a relatively passive ward. The aetheric connection between the plant and the person/space it is warding will be stronger if it is planted from seed in the place it is warding, by someone who it will be protecting.
  • Nasturtiums can represent the cycles of life and death, and can be used as an offering to nature, to mark the cycle of time (seasons, festivals or saabats), and a reminder that mortem fit vitae (death becomes life).
  • Has a cultural use associating it with victory, which is a thought form that can be drawn on if one should so wish. This symbolism could be made use of in many ways, one of which could be creating an altar and plant nasturtiums around it, and place a representation of what one wants in the middle. As the nasturtiums grow, so does one move towards their goal. Alternatively, they would make a good offering to celebrate and give thanks for the manifestation of a desire.
  • Connecting with the associations to war, and victory, a spell sachet or bottle including dried nasturtium flowers and, for example, thyme, rosemary, cactus, pineapple, or tiger’s eye, could be used to connect to the powers of bravery and personal power.
  • Taking inspiration from it’s resilience, we can use nasturtiums as a reminder to make lemonade with the lemons we are given. We have more possibility of thriving even in difficult situations, when we give energy to ourselves and our own goals, taking what we can and adapting to the environment. This symbolism can be used even without the physical plant, and artistic representations can serve as aetheric connections to the archetypal lessons of the Tropaeolum majus.
  • A glamour spell can be performed through a ritual bath infused with aerial parts of the nasturtium (alone or in combination with other herbs based on the intention). The glamour could be for beauty and attraction, or for repelling unwanted attention, depending on the intention of the caster.
  • Has been associated with the sun, in part because of it’s fiery colours, and also because it is famed to sparkle in the light of the dawn and dusk. An appropriate offering for solar worship, or to plant around a solar altar.
  • This solar charged water could be used, for example, to wash ones face and bring solar radiance with a glamour spell: Put enough nasturtium flowers to fill an open necked bottle roughly 4/5ths of the way up. Fill the rest with water and leave under the full sun. Words can be said, deities invoked, or energy directed, or something else entirely. Whatever is the more comfortable personal option.
  • Having medicinal properties, this association could be taken advantage of when in need to make a wish for health in a way which allows us to have faith and let go. While obviously not a sure fire cure, healing spells can potentially help us to align with latent healing mechanisms, stimulated through certain natural vibrations. Making a potion which involves nasturtiums can be used when we find ourselves anxious about our health. Fear blocks the immune system, and creating a concoction with the intention of aligning with healing energy can sometimes allow us to relax, and have faith in the natural healing process.

associated with the sun, victory, resiliance, and healing

  • Has strong associations which make it a good choice for witches or fairy gardens. A rare effect has been observed with nasturtium flowers; they sometimes appear to flash and sparkle in the light of dusk or dawn!
  • Related more to the self-sufficiency and wild crafting lifestyles, is the tip that the seeds can be pressed, and the oil/fatty-acid be used as a varnish.

Further Reading and References:

https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-526/nasturtium

https://www.almanac.com/plant/nasturtium

https://www.herbal-supplement-resource.com/nasturtium.html

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2014/958291/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814608010868

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/glucosinolate

https://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/nasturtium-zmaz82mjzglo

https://www.lovethegarden.com/plant-finder/annuals/nasturtium

https://www.ajol.info/index.php/ajb/article/view/94467

https://www.angocin.de/

https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/flowers/nasturtium/growing-nasturtiums.htm

https://themicrogardener.com/how-to-grow-use-nasturtiums/

https://www.thespruce.com/nasturtiums-cool-season-flowers-1402910

http://herbalgardens.com/archives/articles-archive/nasturtiums.html

http://www.specialtyproduce.com/produce/Nasturtium_Leaves_8778.php

http://www.vegetablegardener.com/item/5940/nasturtiums-as-food-and-companion-plants

https://caloriebee.com/nutrition/The-Various-Health-Benefits-and-Uses-of-Nasturtiums

http://www.urbancultivator.net/learn-about-nasturtium/

http://www.thegardenhelper.com/nasturtium.html

https://www.gardenguides.com/89019-nasturtium-companion-planting.html

http://www.baynaturopath.co.nz/find-out-more-about/herbal-medicine/herbal-remedies/nasturtium-a-pretty-medicine

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