Parsley is one of the easiest herbs to grow, and one of the handiest to have around at all times. Growing up, we adorned our plates with parsley and called them “gourmet” meals. However, humans aren’t the only ones who fancy this herb. The Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly lays eggs on parsley to provide an immediate feast for their tiny caterpillars when they hatch. If you remember the children’s book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, you’ll know what I’m talking about!
These caterpillars can completely denude a parsley plant, so I recommend planting two. That way, you can support and enjoy the lovely black, cream, and blue swallowtail butterfly while reserving one plant for your own culinary and medicinal purposes.
I still use parsley as a garnish as do many restaurants, but unfortunately it’s often pushed aside and thrown out with the scraps. Instead, do yourself a favor and eat that sprig of parsley at the end of the meal. It’s a great breath freshener and digestive aid, plus it’s super-nutritious.
Parsley is in the large Apiaceae (aka Umbelliferae) family, which is more commonly called the carrot or parsley family. Many of my favorite aromatic plants and herbs, like cilantro, cumin, celery, and caraway, are also members of this family. The two most common forms of parsley are curly leaf and Italian or flat leaf. They both taste about the same, but the Italian parsley is typically more flavorful.
Parsley is believed to have originated in Lebanon or the Middle East. Maybe it was first found in the garden of Eden! The Greeks held parsley in high esteem and considered it a sacred herb, not to be eaten, but to adorn the crowns of heroes and the dead.
Medicinally, parsley leaves, stems, seeds, and roots are all beneficial. Parsley tea is an excellent diuretic, but it also relieves bloating and gas and acts as a mild laxative. Oil pressed from parsley seeds is recommended by herbalists to promote menstruation, which is why parsley in large doses is contraindicated for pregnant women.
Parsley is considered a useful detox herb due in part to its diuretic and laxative properties that promote removal of toxins from the body. It is rich in chlorophyll, vitamins A, B, C, K, and folate. If you take blood thinners and need to avoid K, consult your doctor, although a little probably won’t hurt. Parsley also has many minerals including iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, vanadium, and zinc. Due to the combination of iron and C (which aids iron absorption), parsley is a great herb for those who tend to suffer from iron deficiencies.
The plenitude of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in parsley are beneficial for the blood and circulatory system, immune system, and detoxification system. It has long been used to support the kidneys, liver, and bladder. There’s even a folk remedy that recommends rubbing a purée of parsley on the scalp and drinking a cup of parsley tea to promote healthy hair growth!
Dr. John Christopher, a pioneer of American herbalism and founder of the School of Natural Healing said, “Parsley 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] an excellent tonic for the blood vessels… It is rich in vital minerals and contains more iron than any other green leafy vegetable. It is especially high in vitamins A and B, and it contains three times the potency of C than do citrus juices. It is a remarkable remedy for expelling watery poisons, excess mucus, flatulence, for reducing swollen and enlarged glands…”
Parsley remedies can be found around the world in Africa, China, India, Europe, and the Americas, primarily to support the digestive system, the kidneys, the respiratory system, and as a salve for wounds.
Maybe it’s time to start garnishing your meals with parsley! I think I’ll also throw some into my morning smoothie and drink a cup of parsley tea, which I recommend (along with cilantro) during my seasonal detoxes. Just be careful if you decide to juice parsley. It will be very concentrated and too intense if used alone. However, it combines very well with other fruits and vegetables. Most herbalists recommend no more than 1 ounce of parsley juice a day, and less if you suffer from kidney disease, take blood thinners, or are pregnant. Parsley is a marvelous culinary and medicinal herb, but it can be powerful. Therefore, always discuss using large amounts with your doctor.
Copyright © by Bobbi Mullins, September 10, 2019.
Christopher, J. (1982). School of Natural Healing, Herbal Reference Guide. Utah: Christopher Publications, Inc.
Grieve, M. (1971). A Modern Herbal. New York: Dover Publications
Edible of the Month: Parsley and Cilantro (2013)http://www.garden.org/ediblelandscaping/?page=201004-edible
Wikipedia: Apiaceae. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apiaceae