Though you’re probably used to seeing this leafy plant as a garnish, parsley (Latin name – Petrosilenum crispum) is a medicinal and nutritious powerhouse.
Some types of parsley are grown as vegetables, but a lot of cooks use parsley purely for decoration, which means that diners end up missing out on all of the wonderful health benefits it offers.
It is rich in fiber and chlorophyll just like other greens, but parsley’s benefits don’t end there.
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Parsley is an herbaceous plant that grows as an annual in tropical climates, and a biennial in temperate areas.
It belongs to the Umbelliferae family of plants and is in the same family as the carrot, celery, hemlock, and fennel, and is native to southern Europe and Northern Africa.
Though most of the Western world is used to seeing leafy green parsley, there are several different cultivars of this species.
Some cultivars are grown for the familiar green leaves, while others are grown expressly for their roots.
The root cultivars are mainly seen in eastern European cuisine.
When it’s allowed to fully mature, parsley will develop several small yellowish or yellowish-green flowers.
These flowers help distinguish it from other, similar plants, like hemlock.
Helps Fight Cancer
Many fruits and vegetables are thought to have anti-cancer benefits due to a compound called apigenin. Parsley is a surprisingly rich source of this compound.
Apigenin has been found to make cells dormant, and inhibit the development of new blood vessels that feed tumors. As a result, it has anti-tumor properties.
The action of apigenin is a mixed blessing for cancer patients however, since this same compound also inhibits the effectiveness of many medications, including the drugs used in chemotherapy.
Because of apigenin’s paradoxical effects when it comes to cancer, more research is needed to determine exactly what kind of benefits it can offer as a potential tumor inhibitor.
In addition to apigenin, parsley is a good source of carotenoids.
Carotenoids are antioxidant plant pigment compounds, which help protect the body against cancer-causing cellular damage.
Helps You Relax
In addition to fighting tumors, Apigenin has some mild sedative effects.
Apigenin is one of a very few compounds that helps activate proteins called monoamine transporters, which are responsible for carrying neurotransmitters in the body.
This natural compound has been found to have very mild sedative effects, as well as functioning in an anti-anxiety capacity.
This means that parsley may be beneficial to people suffering from things like general anxiety, panic disorder, or other mental conditions resulting in nervousness and agitation.
Considering that many pharmaceutical medications for these conditions can be very addictive, parsley may provide an alternative for people seeking to avoid chemical dependency on benzodiazepines or other anti-anxiety drugs.
Flush Out Your System and You Lower Your Blood Pressure
Keeping the urinary system well “flushed out” is important for good health.
Doing so helps remove excess water from the body, and keeps bacteria from being able to get a foothold in the bladder or kidneys.
Parsley has a very unique action on the kidneys themselves.
It encourages the body to rid itself of water and sodium, while retaining potassium. As a result, it works as a gentle diuretic.
This same effect can also help lower blood pressure.
Since sodium can end up affecting high blood pressure for the worse, parsley’s gentle sodium-flushing properties can help lower blood pressure.
Fight Bacteria and Fungi
Parsley has long been touted as having antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Now that modern research is able to isolate the compounds in this plant, we know that these properties can be attributed to a class of chemicals called furocoumarins.
Furocoumarins are produced by many plants as a defense mechanism.
These compounds are usually toxic, and plants use them to fight off infections, pests, and other undesirables.
Even though they’re toxic, people can use parsley to help ward off infections externally and internally.
This only works for the whole herb, however- parsley oil is much too concentrate to use internally.
Parsley has uterotonic properties, which means that it encourages uterine contractions.
Many uterotonic herbs have been used in the past to help with menstrual irregularities, like amenorrhea or dysmenorrhea.
Because of this uterus-contracting action, pharmaceutical doses of parsley aren’t recommended for pregnant women.
Normal amounts, like those found in food, are considered perfectly safe.
How To Add Parsley To Your Diet
Far from being just a garnish, parsley makes a flavorful addition to salads, potatoes, fish, and other dishes.
So much of the vitamins and volatile compounds are lost during cooking, the best way to get the most benefit from this plant is to eat it raw, or as lightly cooked as possible.
It’s also easy to grow your own fresh, organic parsley.
In fact, because of many of the volatile compounds in it, parsley is a great companion plant for crops like tomatoes.
Parsley helps attract predatory insects, and the scent of its leaves can keep some pests at bay.
So when you next see parsley added to your meal as a garnish, know that this innocuous looking leaf contains a unique cocktail of compounds that make it a veritable one-plant pharmacy.
Not only that, you’ll be able to benefit from parsley’s unique ability to cleanse both your palate and breath after your meal.
If you have any comments or questions regarding parsley health benefits, please drop them below.
Photo: parsley- madlyinlovewithlife