More than a Garnish
Parsley, a member of the carrot and parsley family, has several popular species. The curly French parsley, cultivated as an annual, is preferred by many chefs because of its rich flavor. Plain leaf parsley resembles “fool’s parsley,” which is poisonous and sometimes infests gardens. Therefore, a word of caution to inexperienced herb gatherers—don’t pick anything that looks like parsley unless you are absolutely sure of what it is.
To harvest, pick parsley on a daily basis. To dry this herb for use as a food flavoring, spread your day’s picking of this herb in one thick layer on a tray, and chop into fine pieces when the parsley has dried. To preserve this plant for later use, simply chop the fresh plants and pack them in ice cube trays with enough water to cover and freeze them. Store the trays in plastic bags in the freezer until used.
The first mention of parsley’s history comes from Sardinia, Turkey, Algeria and Lebanon, where parsley grows wild. Other historical records describe the Greek’s use of parsley in making garlands, crowns and wreaths to award visitors in athletic games and winners of Greek Olympic contests. At Greek banquets, bouquets of the leaves were hung around the necks of the people to absorb the fumes of the wine.
Parsley, a safe and effective emmenagogue, contains rich aromatic amounts of apiol which stimulates urinary activity. In addition to apiol, parsley contains chlorophyll and measurable amounts of calcium, potassium, iron, thiamin and riboflavin. In addition, it contains richer amounts of vitamin C than can be found in oranges and more iron than any other cultivated plant known to man. The list of parsley’s nutrients also includes moderate amounts of vitamin A, niacin, chlorine, phosphorus, sulfur, magnesium and silicon.
Because of its rich aromatic-based chlorophyll content, parsley is used with garlic to neutralize the pungent smell of allicin, also an aromatic compound.
Parsley promotes well-being by treating many ailments. Parsley leaves and seeds effectively reduce fever, aid sluggish digestion and stimulate the appetite. Parsley has also been used to counter overactivity of the thyroid gland (probably due to its diuretic effect and abundance of potassium, magnesium and B vitamins). In addition, this herb has helped treat gallstones, cancer, syphilis, gonorrhea, stroke and cystitis, as well as liver and spleen conditions.
Using fresh parsley juice and tea provides help in treating other health problems such as asthma, jaundice, coughs, and inflammation and crustation of the eyelids. In addition, parsley also stimulates menstruation.
Because the plant is high in sodium and potassium electrolytes, it is useful as a kidney tonic for maintaining fluid balance. Use caution, however, when consuming parsley if the kidneys are inflamed or sore. Parsley contains a volatile oil which stimulates the kidneys, causing an increase in urinary output. Similarly, people with extremely low blood pressure and slow circulation should avoid the use of parsley. Exercise care when using this herb after giving birth, since parsley dries up a lactating mother’s milk.
General use is two capsules two or three times daily.
Indian Herbology of North America by Alma R. Hutchens, Canada Catalogue No. 615, 321 R S 164.
An American Herbal, Using Plants for Health by Nelson Coon (Emmaus, Pennsylvania: Rodale Press).
“A Sprig of Life” by Dr. John R. Christopher in The Herbalist (March 1978).
Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics by Albert Y. Leung (New York: John Wiley & Sons).
Herbal Medications by David G. Spoerke Jr. (Santa Barbara, California:
Woodbridge Press Publishing Co.).
“Parsley” by Emil R. Pierson in The Herbalist (July 1977).
The Honest Herbal by Varro R. Tyler, Ph.D. (Philadelphia: Joe. F. Stickley Co.).
Today’s Herbs, Vol. II, No. 3, Nov. 1981.