Thursday, December 19, 2013
Also known as: garden parsley, rock parsley, common parsley, march
Parts used: leaves, roots, seeds
Meridians/Organs affected: lung, stomach, bladder, liver
Properties: diuretic, carminative, aperient, expectorant, emmenogogue (the seeds), sedative, anti-rheumatic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, anthelmintic, stimulant
Parsley is one of those herbs often passed over for some that are far more pungent or aromatic. Usually found on a plate next to a steak or a piece of fish and often left behind after the other has been consumed. This is not an herb to just look at or decorate a plate, it has much to offer.
Native to Sardinia, Turkey, Lebanon and Algeria it is now grown all over the world. It is a bright green hairless plant that grows in moist, well drained soils in full sun and usually in temperate climates. It is poisonous to most birds but other animals seem to do exceedingly well with the plant, especially rabbits who love it. It is a biennial but most people grow it as an annual. In the first year it develops a host of green leaves with long stems. It will have developed white roots of varying thicknesses. The second year it has greenish yellow flowers that develop on umbels or clusters. The seeds are grayish brown and are best gathered after the second years flowers have gone. The leaves can be gathered the first year and thereafter during the summer months. The root is best gathered after the leaves have died back in the fall.
Pliny spoke often of this plant and considered it one of the most important medicinal herbs of his time. The Greeks had many stories in which parsley was included. They believed that Hercules wore parsley as his garland and so it was woven into the garlands of winning athletes. Greek warriors would often feed their horses parsley before races or battle believing it would give them more speed and they would put wreaths of parsley all over when having banquets to absorb the fumes of alcohol and to prevent the men from becoming too inebriated. They would also use it to absorb the odor of garlic, onions and other more pungent herbs. On the other hand, they also believed that a person who was dying was 'in need of parsley' as it was believed that parsley sprung up on the graves of fallen heroes.
The Romans used parsley to freshen breath and to aid with digestion. The bodies of the dead in both Greek and Roman cultures were often sprinkled with parsley to deodorize the decaying corpse. In medieval times it was used to help with anything from kidneys or liver complaints to bronchial disorders. The German herbalist, Hildegard of Bingen, used compresses of parsley for arthritis and used a boiled parsley wine concoction for heart and chest pains. Nicholas Culpeper, a seventeenth century English herbalist, recommended it for regulating menstruation, dissolving kidney stones and to help expel gas from the system. By the late 1800's parsley was recognized by the US as a diuretic, a laxative and as an alternative to quinine in the treatment of malaria. Gerard said that parsley was just the thing to, 'take away stoppings and provoke urine....to waste away winde, and are good for such as have dropsie, to draw down the menses, bring away the after birth; they be recommended also against the cough....and are also good to be put into clysters against the stone or torments of the guts.'
Parsley is high in vitamin C, containing more per volume than oranges. It is also a good source of iron, chlorophyll, boron, fluorine, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin. It is considered a nutritive plant as well as a medicinal one.
Parsley seed tea is still widely used in Germany today to help in the treatment of hypertension due to its diuretic actions. A study on parsley in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology showed that this often overlooked herb actually inhibits the secretion of histamine (the chemical that triggers allergies or allergic reactions in people). This may be beneficial to those who suffer with allergies, hay fever, asthma and a host of other issues. Parsley also contains a chemical known as psoralen. This chemical has recently come under the spotlight as a possible treatment for one form of cancer known as cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. In recent research it has been found to have the ability to prevent and kill certain types of cancer cells from reproducing. It has amazing immuno-stimulant capabilities. As such it should make this herb a popular one for such things as HIV, AIDS, hypothyroidism, goiter, rheumatism and a host of other complaints. The leaves and root are particularly beneficial for urinary tract infections where it seems to work much like an antibiotic. The root itself has been used for centuries to dissolve and expel stones and gravel as well as parasites and worms. All parts of this plant have been shown beneficial against bronchial and lung congestion as well as digestive issues (such as gas and indigestion).
Parsley oil (made from the root, leaves and seeds) has been used throughout the centuries for many maladies such as cystitis, dysmenorrhea, tonsillitis, rheumatism, broken capillaries, varicose veins, psoriasis, sore breasts, bruises, etc. It is a powerful oil and not to be used by pregnant women (parsley in general should not be used by pregnant women as it stimulate the uterus) or those with kidney disease (although Dr. Christopher would say otherwise). The oil has also been found to regenerate liver tissue in rats, so apparently it is also a cell proliferant. Not bad for an overlooked garden herb.
Dr. Christopher said that if used properly that parsley would remove gall stones and that it is, "a specific for the adrenal glands, is powerfully therapeutic for the optic nerves, the brain nerves and the whole sympathetic nervous system....it is a remarkable remedy for expelling watery poisons, excess mucus, flatulence, for reducing swollen and enlarged glands, etc." It can also be substituted for celery in many recipes and it goes well with practically everything from soups, salads, fish, meats, vegetables and more.
As is customary with my posts I am including some links below for your perusal. Use them as you deem necessary. Happy and healthy living!