Parsley (Petroselinum crispum), the world’s most popular culinary herb is also known as “rock celery” and belongs to the Umbelliferae family of plants. Parsley is one of the world’s seven most potent disease-fighting spices which also include Ginger, Oregano, Cinnamon, Turmeric, Sage, and Red chili peppers. Parsley grows in most climates and is readily available throughout the year. It is a biennial plant which means that it produces seeds during its second year of production and will reseed itself if you let it.
While parsley is a wonderfully nutritious and healing food, it is often under-appreciated. Most people do not realize that this vegetable has more uses than just being a decorative garnish that accompanies restaurant meals.
Parsley is native to the Mediterranean region of Southern Europe and has been cultivated for more than 2,000 years. It was originally used as a medicinal plant (see below) prior to being consumed as a food. Ancient Greeks held parsley to be sacred, using it to not only adorn victors of athletic contests, but also for decorating the tombs of the deceased. While it is uncertain when and where parsley began to be consumed as a seasoning, historians think it may be sometime during the Middle Ages in Europe. Some historians credit Charlemagne with its popularization as he had it grown on his estates.
Parsley’s Many Therapeutic Health Benefits Include Its Use For:
o Anemia: Builds up the blood because it is high in iron. The high vitamin C content assists the absorption of iron.
o Antioxidant: Increases the anti-oxidant capacity of the blood.
o Bactericidal (kills bacteria)
o Bad breath
o Baldness: Believe it or not, men even scrubbed parsley onto their scalps to cure baldness–which doesn’t work.
o Blood purifier
o Blood vessel rejuvenation: Maintains elasticity of blood vessels, and helps to repair bruises.
o Diarrhea is greatly helped by drinking parsley tea.
o Digestion: Parsley is an excellent digestion restorative remedy. It improves the digestion of proteins and fats therefore promoting intestinal absorption, liver assimilation and storage. Because of its high enzyme content, parsley benefits digestive activity and elimination.
o Dissolves cholesterol within the veins.
o Diureticparsley tea helps resolve swollen ankles.
o Ear health: Treats deafness and ear infections.
o Edema: Acts as a diuretic and blood vessel strengthener.
o Fatigue: Parsley is high in iron so helps repair and provides components for better blood cells.
o Gallstones: Helps dissolve them.
o Glandular support of the liver, spleen, kidneys and adrenal glands.
o Hormonal support: In women, parsley improves estrogen and nourishes and restores the blood of the uterus. Conditions like delayed menstruation, PMS, and the menopause (dry skin, irritability, depression and hair loss) can often improve.
o Hormone balancing is achieved through the volatile fatty acids contained in parsley.
o Immune booster: The high vitamin C, beta carotene, B12, chlorophyll and essential fatty acid content render parsley an extraordinary immunity enhancing food. Parsley is an immune-enhancing multi-vitamin and mineral complex in green plant form and one of the most important herbs for providing vitamins to the body.
o Inhibits tumor formation, particularly in the lungs.
o Insect bites: Rub on to relieve the swelling and itch.
o Kidneys: Parsley is effective for nearly all kidney and urinary complaints except severe kidney inflammation. It improves kidney activity and can help eliminate wastes from the blood and tissues of the kidneys. It prevents salt from being reabsorbed into the body tissues; thus parsley literally forces debris out of the kidneys, liver and bladder. It helps improve edema and general water retention, fatigue and scanty or painful urination.
o Liver congestion: It enriches the liver and nourishes the blood. Parsley helps reduce liver congestion, clearing toxins and aiding rejuvenation.
o Menstrual irregularity: Parsley helps to make the cycles regular by the presence of apiol which is a constituent of the female sex hormone estrogen.
o Menstrual pain
o Night blindness: Bad eyesight is a sign of Vitamin A deficiency.
o Spleen strengthening: The parsley root in particular strengthens the spleen, and can, therefore, treat malabsorption.
o Stamina loss and low resistance to infection, point to a sluggish liver. This can manifest itself in blood deficiencies, fatigue, a pale complexion and poor nails, dizzy spells, anemia and mineral depletion.
o Stomach problems
o Strengthens loose teeth: In the Middle Ages parsley was used for many conditions including ‘fastening teeth’ (Scurvy, which is caused by a Vitamin C deficiency, makes the gums spongy and the teeth loose.)
o Uterine tonic
o Weight loss benefits from being a diuretic
Nutritional Benefits of Parsley:Parsley is a nutrient powerhouse containing high levels of beta carotene, vitamin B12, folate, chlorophyll, calcium, more vitamin C than citrus fruits, and just about all other known nutrients. Parsley is a moistening, nourishing, restoring, ‘warming’ food, pungent with a slightly bitter, salty flavor. It enhances and stimulates the energy of organs, improving their ability to assimilate and utilize nutrients.
Beta carotene is used for protein assimilation. This nutrient benefits the liver and protects the lungs and colon. Beta-carotene is converted by the body to vitamin A, a nutrient so important to a strong immune system that its nickname is the “anti-infective vitamin.”
Chlorophyll: Parsley is abundant in chlorophyll, thus purifying and inhibiting the spread of bacteria, fungi and other organisms. Chlorophyll from parsley is slightly anti-bacterial and anti-fungal which acts to enhance immune response and to relieve mucus congestion, sinusitis and other ‘damp’ conditions. Chlorophyll, high in oxygen, also suppresses viruses and helps the lungs to discharge residues from environmental pollution.
Essential Fatty Acids: Parsley is a source of alpha-linolenic acid, an important essential fatty acid that is too frequently deficient in today’s diets.
Fluorine is an important nutritional component abundantly found in parsley. Fluorine has an entirely different molecular structure from chemically-produced fluoride. Tooth decay results from a shortage of fluorine, not fluoride. It is the combination of calcium and fluorine which creates a very hard protective surface on teeth and bones. Fluorine also protects the body from infectious invasion, germs and viruses.
Folic Acid, one of the most important B vitamins, but one of its most critical roles in relation to cardiovascular health is to convert homocysteine into benign molecules. Homocysteine is a potentially dangerous molecule that, at high levels, can directly damage blood vessels and increase the risk of heart attacks and stroke in people with atherosclerosis or diabetic heart disease. Folic acid is also a critical nutrient for proper cell division and is therefore vitally important for cancer-prevention in two areas of the body that contain rapidly dividing cells–the colon, and in women, the cervix.
Iron: The iron content of parsley is exceptional with 5.5mg per100g (4oz). A half-cup of fresh parsley or one tablespoon dried has about 10 percent of your iron daily requirements. Plus, parsley has the vitamin C your body needs to absorb that iron.
Protein: Parsley is made up of 20% protein. (About the same as mushrooms.)
Vitamin B12: Parsley contains traces of B12 producing compounds. Such compounds are needed for the formation of red blood cells and normal cell growth, important for fertility, pregnancy, immunity and the prevention of degenerative illness. The action of vitamin B12, however, is inhibited by birth control pills, antibiotics, intoxicants, stress, sluggish liver, and excess bacteria or parasites in the colon or digestive tracts. Parsley helps to counteract these inhibitors.
Vitamin K: Getting at least 100 micrograms of Vitamin K a day can drastically cut your risk of hip fracture. Vitamin K is necessary for bones to get the minerals they need to form properly. Parsley is loaded with vitamin K (180 mcg per 1/2 cup). Cooking parsley nearly doubles its Vitamin K.
Vitamin C: Parsley contains more vitamin C than any other standard culinary vegetable, with 166mg per 100g (4oz). This is three times as much as oranges. Flavonoids, which make up the Vitamin C molecule, maintain blood cell membranes, and act as an antioxidant helper.
Volatile oil components – including myristicin, limonene, eugenol, and alpha-thujene. Parsley’s volatile oils, particularly myristicin, have been shown to inhibit tumor formation in animal studies, and particularly, tumor formation in the lungs. It acts as an antioxidant that can help neutralize particular types of carcinogens (like the benzopyrenes that are part of cigarette smoke, charcoal grill smoke, and the smoke produced by trash incinerators).
Parsley also contains calcium (245mg per 100g), phosphorus, potassium (1000mg per 4 oz), manganese (2.7mg per 100g), inositol, and sulphur.
Many of my client’s test they would benefit greatly from eating parsley for all kinds of health problems.
How to Use Parsley:
Top off your sandwiches with it, include it in your salad greens, put it in Tabbouli or better yet, toss it into simmering soups, stews and sauces. We eat it raw in salads and those days when I can’t eat it raw, I often add a couple of parsley capsules to my nutritional supplements.
Parsley juice, as an herbal drink, is quite powerful and is usually taken in quantities of about 2 fl oz (50ml) three times a day and is best mixed with other juices. I noticed that it’s most effective to juice parsley in between other vegetables as the juice is heavy and thick and doesn’t move through some juicers very readily.
Types of Parsley:The two most popular types of parsley are curly parsley and Italian flat leaf parsley. They are both related to celery. The Italian variety has a more fragrant and less bitter taste than the curly variety. There is also another type of parsley known as turnip-rooted parsley (or Hamburg) that is cultivated for its roots, which resemble salsify and burdock. Chinese parsley, is actually cilantro.
How to Pick and Care for Parsley:Whenever possible, choose fresh, dark green, organically grown parsley that looks fresh and crisp over the dried form of the herb since it is superior in flavor. Avoid bunches that have wilted or yellowed leaves indicating over-mature or damaged produce.
Parsley can be stored loosely wrapped in a damp cloth or plastic bag and refrigerated for up to a week. Wash just before using. If the parsley wilts, either sprinkle it lightly with some water or wash it without completely drying it before putting it back in the refrigerator.
The best way to clean it is just like you would spinach. Place it in a bowl of cold water and plunge it up and down like you would a toilet plunger. This will allow any sand or dirt to dislodge. Remove the leaves from the water, empty the bowl, refill it with clean water and repeat this process until no dirt remains in the water.
If you have excess flat-leaved parsley, you can easily dry it by laying it out in a single layer on a clean kitchen cloth. I pre-chop mine (both varieties) and place it on a cookie sheet on top of the refrigerator where it is warm. Stir it occasionally to allow consistent drying. Once dried, it should be kept in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark and dry place.
Some feel the curly leaved variety is best preserved by freezing, as opposed to drying. Although it will retain most of its flavor, it has a tendency to lose its crispness, so it is best used in recipes without first thawing.