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Parsley: More Than Just A Garnish On Your Plate

by Leanne J. Sotir, PhD, RNCP

Parsley: More Than Just A Garnish For Your PlateWhen we think of adding a green leafy to our diet, we often choose kale, chard, or spinach. Although I highly recommend these greens for their exceptional nutritional properties….you may want to try the green leafy herb parsley! This herb is native to the Mediterranean region and is actually in the same family as carrot and celery. The two most common varieties you often see are curly and the Italian flat leaf. Parsley first made its way to the side of our plates because of its benefits with digestive issues and its abilities as a breath freshener. This “powerhouse” herb just may be, in fact, the most underutilized and underestimated herb in disease prevention. It contains a full supply of important nutrients as well as various antioxidants that can inhibit the disease process in the body. If you never thought of adding parsley to your diet,  here’s why you should!

Constituents: it is rich in chlorophyll, fiber, vitamins A (in the form of beta carotene) C, B, K, and folic acid. It is also abundant in minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium as well as the antioxidants lutein, and zeaxanthin. Its other chemical compounds are limonene, apiin alpha-thujene, eugenol, luteiolin, a-pinene, crisoeriol, and b-phellandrene. The most -well studied bioactive components found in parsley are its volatile oils myristicin, apiol, and apigenin.

Actions: anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, antibacterial, antiseptic, abortifacient, antispasmodic, detoxifying, diuretic, emmenagogue, galactagogue, hypotensive.

Parts Used: fresh and dried leave, seed (fruit), and root


IMMUNE SYSTEM HEALTH
Why choose Parsley for disease prevention and a healthy immune system? Adding fresh parsley to your diet is like taking a high potency multivitamin/mineral with extra antioxidants. There is no shortage on research regarding Vitamin C and its important role in a healthy immune system. Parsley is loaded with vitamin C, even higher than oranges and red peppers. It also contains a plethora of antioxidants that are our body’s best defense against free radical damage. Excessive free radical production in the body can cause cells to be injured or die leading to many chronic diseases. Chlorophyll found in Parsley not only protects and enhances our immune system by promoting the cells of our body to regenerate, but has been proven in studies to modulate the production of Nitric Oxide, a powerful free radical scavenger.

Prescription drugs for allergies and certain inflammatory conditions suppress the immune system and have many side effects. This has sparked researchers to investigate further, the antioxidant properties and healing capabilities of parsley oil and its potential use for various immune disorders.  Current data compiled from various studies showed parsley’s anti-inflammatory constituents such as apigenin and eugenol may be potential natural candidates to treat allergies as well as some autoimmune conditions. These studies discovered the compounds found in parsley’s oil exhibit properties that modulate macrophages (white blood cells) without toxic effects. Macrophages play an important role in our immune response when reacting to foreign substances, infections, and inflammation.

Along with parsley’s high nutrient content and anti-inflammatory properties, it also contains other volatile oils, limonene and a-pinene, that have been proven to have antifungal and antibacterial actions. The health benefits of this magical herb, doesn’t stop there, it is also considered a powerful detoxifier. It does this by supporting the liver, kidneys and lymph system of the body ensuring the elimination of impurities and heavy metals via the kidneys. Elimination of toxins from the body helps the body with the healing process and assists in maintaining a healthy functioning immune system.

DISEASE PREVENTION WITH PARSLEY
Adding fresh parsley to your diet not only will benefit your overall immunity but also can have long-term preventative effects on potential health conditions. Parsley’s various active compounds appear to have multifunctional properties making this herb a great choice for anyone with interested in preventative health, as well as in the treatment of certain health conditions using a natural approach such as:

Bone and Joint Health: we all strive for strong healthy bones, but most of us focus on dairy products for our source. Studies show green leafy vegetables build strong bones better than dairy products or even calcium supplements, and parsley is no exception. This herb is abundant in bone and joint building nutrients such as Vitamin C, calcium magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and vitamin K. Although parsley does not contain vitamin D, there are vitamin D precursors found in plant foods and leafy greens, known as ergosterols; parsley is a particularly rich source (Colbin, 1998). These bone building nutrients makes parsley a great choice in the prevention of osteoporosis, and certain arthritic conditions that affect the bones.

Vascular Disease: parsley is rich in vascular protective nutrients such as vitamin K and magnesium. It also contains folic acid an important B vitamin that works by preventing elevated homocysteine levels. Researchers found that people who had elevated levels of the amino acid homocysteine in their blood are at risk for vascular disease, stroke, and even certain forms of dementia.

Eye Health: as we age one of the first changes we often see is the decline in vision. Parsley contains copious amounts of eye protective nutrients such as vitamin C, and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants have been shown in numerous studies to be protective in preventing health conditions of the eye such as age related macular degeneration and cataracts.

Cancer: the most promising research to date is the exploration of parsley and its benefits regarding the prevention of certain cancers such as prostate, pancreatic, breast, and ovarian. This hidden jewel in the herb family has been found to contain some potent anti-cancer properties. The Zheng, Kenney, Zhang, & Lam (1992) study discovered the volatile oil myristicin found in parsley to be a potential cancer chemopreventitive agent.  Additional Research has discovered the volatile oils apigenin, and apiol in parsley to have anti-tumor properties. The real cancer cure has always been and always will be prevention, why not start the process by added this potent preventative herb to your diet.

PARSLEY FOR OTHER CONDITIONS
parsley is known for its strong diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties making it a great choice for issues with the urinary system and ailments that have an inflammatory component such as:

  • Enlarged Prostate
  • Cystitis
  • Chronic Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
  • Bladder Infection
  • Arthritis
  • Gout
  • Vaginal and Systemic Yeast Infection
  • Skin Conditions such as Rosacea and Mild to Severe Acne

HOW TO ADD MORE PARSLEY TO YOUR DIET
The fresh leaves of this hardy herb can last a long time in the refrigerator and you can grow it in your garden or on your windowsill. A small amount packs a real punch; remember this is an herb not a green leafy vegetable so it should be used as such. You only need to add a small handful to your juice recipe or whole food smoothie. You can also substitute basil for parsley in your favorite pesto recipe. Next time you are having a salad try adding a handful of parsley. And yes, you can still use fresh or dried parsley as a garnish on the top of your favorite recipes! Another way to use the fresh leaves would be to make a tea.

Parsley Tea

4 tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley (2 tablespoons if dried)

1 cups of boiled water (purified is best) removed from stove and add fresh chopped parsley to the boiled water, cover and let steep for 15 minutes and strain.

*You can add a sweetener such as stevia or honey and some lemon for taste

IMPORTANT FACTS AND CAUTIONS:
*Parsley oil is NOT the same as parsley essential oil which is topical and used by massage therapist and aromatherapists. These Essential oils differ in the way they are made and are not to be ingested. They are steam extracted and are found in cosmetics, perfumes/colognes, and detergents.

*Herbal Medicine Uses: although this article encourages the use of the fresh herb for its preventative properties, parsley can be used medicinally for various conditions and symptoms for healing. It is available in tincture form (whole plant) alone or mixed with other herbs for specific conditions. Also available in dried and oil capsules (should be used with caution) It is always best to consult with an experienced herbalist when choosing herbal remedies. This herb should not be used when pregnant because of its abortifacient and emmenagogue properties. Also parsley can be contra-indicated with certain medical conditions and prescription medication. Always check with your doctor before adding any new food or herb to your diet. 

REFERENCES:

Colbin, A. (1998) Food and our bones. OH: Grade A Notes Publishing.

Armirghofran, Z., Ebadi, P., Karimi, M.H., (2012). Parsley and Immunomodulation. Expert review Clinical Immunology 8 (4) 295-297

Zhang, H., Chen F., Wang X., & Yao, H. (2006) Evaluation of antioxidant activity of parsley (Petroselinum crispum) essential oil and identification of its antioxidant constituents. Food Research International 39 (2006)833-839.

Zhen, G. O., Kenney, P. M., Zhang, J., & Lam., L. K. T. (1992). Inhibition of Benzo (a) pyrene-induced tumorigenesis by myristicin, a volatile aroma constituent of parsley leaf oil. Carcinogenesis, 13(10), 1921-1923.