Parsley

High nutritional content and medicinal potential have recommended parsley for thousands of years, making it one of the most common herbs worldwide

Quick Facts
General Information
  • Common name(s)Parsley, garden parsley
  • Common name(s)Parsley, garden parsley
  • TCM nameYang yan sui
  • Ayurvedic nameAjmood
  • Scientific namePetroselinum crispum
  • Plant typeHerb
  • Native regionSouthern Europe, Northern Africa
  • Main producer(s)Greece, Italy, Spain
  • Main Economic UseCulinary
Parsley

After salt and pepper, parsley is perhaps the most common seasoning in Western cookery, a mainstay of salads and finishing garnishes in a wide array of cuisines. Despite its ubiquity, however, this biennial herb is sometimes considered an afterthought when it really deserves more recognition for its great nutritional value and time-tested medicinal use.

Medicinal and Nutritional Information

Quick Facts (Medicinal and Nutritional Information)
  • Medicinal actionAntibacterial, Tonic
  • Key constituentsApigenin, myristicin, apiol, coumarins
  • Ways to useCapsules, Hot infusions/tisanes, Liquid extracts, Food, Freshly ground, Essential oil
  • Medicinal rating(2) Minorly useful plant
  • Safety rankingSafe

Health Benefits of Parsley

Used for over 2,000 years, parsley has a number of medicinal purposes. Since it is anti-inflammatory and diuretic it has been used to treat many different ailments throughout the body. Parsley is traditionally used for:

  • Preventing urinary tract infections. Parsley is a great diuretic, and its antibacterial properties have been traditionally used to prevent and treat bladder and kidney problems. 

  • Treating anemia. Parsley is a nutrient-rich herb and it has been commonly used for treating the weakness and fatigue related to iron deficiency,

Additionally, parsley is highly effective for treating respiratory conditions, such as asthma, running nose, and congestion. It is also said to help in treating inflammatory diseases, such as gout, rheumatism, and arthritis.

Furthermore, research supports the ability of to reduce menstrual pain by inducing menstruation, as well as aiding bone formation and reducing blood pressure.

Parsley is an efficient diuretic and digestive aid, particularly beneficial to the kidneys.

How It Works

Active compounds identified in Parsley and phenols and flavonoids, particularly apigenin; as well as essential oils - mainly myristicin and apiol - and coumarins.

Apigenin, a flavonoid found in the leaves, is responsible for the anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and purgative effects of the herb, while myristicin and apiol are the major constituents of parsley seed oil, and both exhibit antioxidant activities. 

The coumarines contained in parsley have shown antimicrobial activity against a number of bacterial strains, such as Bacillus subtilis, P. aeruginosa, S. epidermidis, S. aureus, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

Parsley's nutritional profile is also responsible for its strengthening, tonic properties, as it includes vitamins A, B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folate), C, E, and K, as well as a high concentration of essential minerals like iron, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and zinc.

Other herbs with antibacterial properties are stonebreaker and calendula, while asparagus also help prevent iron deficiency.

Parsley Side Effects

For medicinal purposes parsley should be taken under medical supervision. While it is commonly used to treat iron deficiency and urinary tract infections (UTIs), the over consumption of parsley can cause anemia, as well as liver and kidney problems. Parsley seed oil, when applied topically, can also cause skin irritation and worsen sun burn.

Cautions

Pregnant women are warned against excessive consumption of parsley, since that can result in miscarriages and trigger menstrual flow.

Because it can thin blood, parsley should not be consumed when taking anticoagulant drugs or prior to surgical procedures.

How to Consume Parsley

Quick Facts (How to Consume)
  • Edible partsLeaves
  • Edible usesFlavoring, Condiment
  • TasteAromatic, Earthy

Parsley can be consumed in a variety of ways in order to benefit from its nutritional value. Whether it's used as a culinary spice or taken in its supplemental form, parsley should be consumed based on individual needs and purposes.

Natural Forms 

  • Raw. A main staple in many dishes globally, adding fresh parsley to food can aid in digestion due to its chlorophyll content. It is also high in vitamins A, C, and K.
  • Infusion. Whether brewed from its leaves or mixed with other herbs, parsley brewed in tea has high medicinal value because of its diuretic properties, which can aid in removing various toxins from the body. An infusion of parsley is said to be useful for treating gallstones.

Herbal Remedies & Supplements

  • Essential oil. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, parsley essential oil can be used for a number of purposes, including relieving joint and arthritis pain.

  • Liquid extract. The chlorophyll content found in parsley makes this preparation great for aiding digestion.

  • Capsules. This supplemental form provides standardized doses that can be taken daily to promote digestion, reduce general inflammation and treating iron-deficiency anemia.

Buying

Quick Facts (Buying)
  • Where to buySupermarkets, Farmers' markets, Specialized health stores, Online herb stores

Natural Forms

Dried parsley is one of the most widely-used herbal seasonings in the world, and it can be found in most grocery stores and supermarkets throughout the year. Fresh varieties are available in similar locations, as well as in many farmers' markets, during spring and summer months. Specialized health food stores and some major chains are capable of carrying it fresh year-round.

Herbal Remedies & Supplements

Available as essential oil, liquid extract, and capsule form, parsley remedies and supplements are easily found in many specialized health stores and online suppliers, which offer a wider selection of brands and prices.

PARSLEY SUPPLEMENTS ARE OFTEN COMBINED WITH GARLIC.

Growing

Quick Facts (Growing)
  • Life cycleBiennial
  • Harvested partsLeaves
  • Light requirementsFull sun
  • SoilLoamy sand
  • Soil pH6.1 – 6.5 (Slightly acidic), 6.6 – 7.3 (Neutral)
  • Growing habitatTemperate climates
  • USDA Plant Hardiness Zones3a (From −40 °C (−40 °F) to −37.2 °C (−35 °F)), 3b (From −37.2 °C (−35 °F) to −34.4 °C (−30 °F)), 4a (From −34.4 °C (−30 °F) to −31.7 °C (−25 °F)), 4b (From −31.7 °C (−25 °F) to −28.9 °C (−20 °F)), 5a (From −28.9 °C (−20 °F) to −26.1 °C (−15 °F)), 5b (From −26.1 °C (−15 °F) to −23.3 °C (−10 °F)), 6a (From −23.3 °C (−10 °F) to −20.6 °C (−5 °F)), 6b (From −20.6 °C (−5 °F) to −17.8 °C (0 °F)), 7a (From −17.8 °C (0 °F) to −15 °C (5 °F)), 7b (From −15 °C (5 °F) to −12.2 °C (10 °F)), 8a (From −12.2 °C (10 °F) to −9.4 °C (15 °F)), 8b (From −9.4 °C (15 °F) to −6.7 °C (20 °F)), 9a (From −6.7 °C (20 °F) to −3.9 °C (25 °F)), 9b (From −3.9 °C (25 °F) to −1.1 °C (30 °F))
  • Potential insect pestsCabbage loopers
  • Potential diseasesRoot rot

Native to the Mediterranean region, parsley is a biennial plant which thrives under temperate conditions, ideally between 50 - 70°F (10 - 21°C). However, it is a hearty plant that can survive if there is a deviation in temperature.

Growing Guidelines

  • Ideal temperatures for growing parsley are between 50 - 70°F (10 - 21°C), though it will survive the light frost of early spring.

  • Parsley prefers fertile, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0 - 7.0.

  • Fertilizers or organic matter should be constantly applied.

  • The area around parsley plants should be weeded often in order to avoid competition.

  • Parsley propagates directly from seeds. Germination will occur between two and six weeks.

  • Frequent watering and full sunlight exposure are required.

  • Snipping stalks near the soil will allow for continued growth after each harvest.

Detailed information about growing parsley can be found in the herb garden section.

Additional Information

Plant Biology

The stems of parsley can measure up to one foot (30 cm) long and feature radiating rosette leaves, umbels of small white flowers during periods of pollination, and ribbed seeds. Curly and flat foliage are equally common.

  • Classification

    Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is officially a member of Apiaceae, also known as the parsley family, along with 3,700 other species, including many well known aromatic and culinary herbs, such as anise (Pimpinella anisum), carrot (Daucus carota), celery (Apium graveolens), dill (Anethum graveolens), and fennel (Foeniculum vulgare).
  • Related species and Varieties of Parsley

    Although it belongs to a different genus, the closest relative of parsley is parsnip (Pastinaca sativa), which is also similar to carrot.

    There are several different varieties of Petroselinum crispum, many propagated commercially in response to consumer desires:

    Italian or flat-leaf parsley (P. crispum var. neapolitanum) is most commonly used as seasoning for its stronger flavor and easy home growth, resembling originally wild strains.

    Curly leaf parsley (P. crispum var. crispum) is preferred as a garnish or decorative interest.

    Hamburg parsley (P. crispum var. tuberosum), found primarily in central Europe, has significantly thicker roots and is often eaten as a vegetable in soups and stews.

Historical Information

Parsley is native to the Mediterranean regions of southern Europe and northern Africa, first cultivated approximately 2,000 years ago in ancient Greece and Rome, where it was associated to mythological traditions and used as a digestive aid.

The Middle Ages saw its migration to other European countries as it reached Britain in 1548, where it grew in popularity as a mask for unpleasant oral odors. It has since been welcomed and naturalized worldwide.

Economic Data

Due to high demand within the food industry, parsley is a major export crop for many countries in its native zones. Italy, Spain, and Greece boast significant revenue from the crop, though the Netherlands - which generates 22% of all spices grown in Europe - has led the way in recent years. India also produces a large quantity of the herb, gaining more from fresh varieties than selling it pre-dried.

Popular Beliefs

The plant was considered a sacred religious symbol long before its first employment as a seasoning. Ancient Greeks first used parsley to adorn the tombs of loved ones and the brows of athletic champions, linking it to the transience of life. In ancient Rome, parsley was associated with the goddess Persephone, queen of the underworld, and was used in funeral ceremonies. 

Other Uses of Parsley

  • Gardening. Parsley is a favorite of amateur herb gardeners for its practical benefits and ability to attract wildlife. Butterflies, bees, and other nectar-feeding insects are drawn to the pollen of its flowers, and some birds are known to feed upon its seeds.

Bibliography

  • Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, p. 247
  • Medicinal Plants of the World, p. 235
  • The Herb Book, pp. 294-5
  • Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, p. 287
  • Encyclopedia Britannica Online, Parsley
  • Germplasm Resources Information, Taxon: Petroselinum crispum (Mill.) Fuss
  • Brazilian Journal of Microbiology, Evaluation of the antibacterial potential of Petroselinum crispum and Rosmarinus officinalis against bacteria that cause urinary tract infections, 2013
  • Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Parsley: a review of ethnopharmacology, phytochemistry and biological activities, 2013
  • Rosemary Gladstar's Medicinal Herbs - A Beginner's Guide, p. 99
  • World Spice Plants: Economic Usage, Botany, Taxonomy, p. 282
  • Handbook of Herbs and Spices, pp. 444 - 447
  • University of Minnesota College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Sciences, Growing Parsley