Plant of the week: Plant that resembles watercress used as a spring tonic


plant Plant of the week: Plant that resembles watercress used as a spring tonic

Name: Brooklime (Veronica beccabunga)

Otherwise known as: Water Pimpernel, Horse Cress

Habitat: A perennial member of the Scrophulariacea family growing in and around water courses. It has strong, fleshy, hollow stems that root in the moist soil and produce oval, leathery, toothed leaves that support racemes of blue flowers growing from the axils. The plant may attain a height of 10cm and cover an area of one square metre.

What does it do: The specific name of the plant is believed to derive from the Flemish ‘beckpunge’ meaning a smart mouth – a name suggested by the pungent nature of the leaves.

The plant contains tannins, bitters, volatile oils, sulphur, iron and vitamin C: as its family suggests it was used to combat scurvy.

Culpeper writes ‘Brooklime is often used in diet-drinks with other things to purge the blood and body from all ill humours that would destroy the health, and is helpful to the scurvy. It do provoke the urine and break the stone and pass it away’.

Gerard states ‘…that being fried in butter and wine and applied warm, it helps all manner of swellings, tumours and inflammations’.

Brooklime is alterative (restores the normal function of an organ), diuretic and antiscorbutic (combats lack of vitamin C). Medieval herbalists used the plant to treat gout, scrofula and inflammation of the joints, scurvy and ‘impurities of the blood’. Following harsh winters where little fresh produce was available, women in country areas would make infusion from Brooklime for their children as a ‘spring tonic’.

Parkinson informs us: ‘Farryers do much use the Brooklime about their horses to take away the swellings, to heal scab, and otherlike diseases in them’. Farmers mixed the plant with the fodder for the draught horses.

Brooklime is little used these days but was a common enough dish in country areas until the period between the wars. It was collected in the same way as Watercress, and often mistaken for it, having a similar appearance and a slightly more pungent taste.


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