Before the advent of modern medicine, herbs were well known for their healing properties and used for thousands of years in various cultures. Egyptian schools of herbalists were in existence as early as 3000 B.C. Herbs are also mentioned in Genesis, the first book of the Holy Bible. As time went on, the focus turned to pharmaceutical drugs for healing, but more people are now looking to herbs like parsley to cure various ailments.
Parsley is an herb that has a wide range of health benefits. It is high in antioxidants and can help a variety of health issues, ranging from strengthening the immune system to regulating blood pressure. While the benefits are numerous, it wasn’t always viewed in a positive light.
Parsley may be known as a healthy, edible herb now, but it wasn’t always that way:1
- The Ancient Greeks associated parsley with death.
- The Romans wore garlands of parsley on their heads to prevent becoming intoxicated. Nursing mothers were told to avoid parsley because it was believed to cause epilepsy in their infants. Wreaths of parsley were also given away at weddings to ward off evil spirits.
- In England, parsley was associated with death as well: “Where parsley’s grown in the garden, there’ll be death before the year’s out.”
Even in modern times, parsley is still used for things other than eating. When dining at an expensive restaurant, you may notice a small piece of parsley added to your plate as garnish. While many people eat everything but that cute little food ornament, it might be one of the most nutritious items on the menu.
Parsley as a Garnish
The use of parsley as a plate decoration started in the 1800’s. Restaurants began to imitate butchers and decorate the steaks in their shop windows with parsley.2 In the 1970’s, frozen foods became more common in restaurants, and parsley was used to make the meals look more appealing (as well as fill empty spaces on the plate.) In 1978, the head of the Southern California Restaurant Association is quoted as saying: “We have to make food attractive. It’s part of the cost of putting an item on the table.” It was – and is – probably true that an ungarnished plate looked unattractive to most Americans.2
Fortunately, people are starting to discover something the ancient Romans did centuries ago: parsley can help cleanse the palate and freshen breath, making it ideal to eat after the meal is completed.
Health Benefits of Parsley
Even though parsley was originally viewed in a negative light, it is now regarded as a nutritional powerhouse and has many health benefits:
High in nutrients. Parsley is high in vitamin C, B12, K and beta-carotene. The vitamin C in parsley helps to neutralize free radicals in the body. Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body, and is believed to reduce the risk of getting diseases such as diabetes, colon cancer, and atherosclerosis. The vitamin K in parsley helps regulate blood clotting and may be helpful in reducing bone loss and fractures.
- Skin cancer. Parsley contains myricetin, which is believed to help decrease a person’s risk of skin cancer. Parsley also contains chlorophyll, which has shown to be effective at blocking the carcinogens that are generated when grilling foods at a high temperature.3
- Breast cancer. In a study conducted by the University of Missouri-Columbia, researchers note that apigenin, a compound found in parsley stopped breast tumor cells from multiplying and growing compared to rats who were not given apigenin.4 Another study conducted at The Ohio State University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center found that apigenin changed the gene regulation in breast cancer cells by changing them back to normal cells.5
- Other lab studies on apigenin show it can kill a variety of cancer cells including ovarian, lung, pancreatic and colon cancers.5
- Lung cancer. Flavonoids in parsley were found to kill 86% of lung cancer cells in a 2013 study published in Pubmed.5
Kidney function. Parsley is a natural diuretic that supports kidney function by removing excess fluid from the body. It was also used in World War II to treat soldiers with kidney and bladder ailments.6
Blood pressure. The diuretic properties in parsley increase the excretion of sodium as well as water from the body, which can help reduce blood pressure.
Hay fever. A study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology cites findings that parsley inhibits the release of histamine. Histamine is produced by the body and is responsible for triggering allergy symptoms.7
Fresh breath. As described previously, parsley can be eaten after a meal to freshen breath. The antibacterial levels of chlorophyll are believed to be the reason why this is effective.
Arthritis. A study reported in The Journal of Natural Remedies found that rats treated with an extract made from parsley leaves had reduced inflammation in their paws.8 Parsley also contains eugenol, an oil that is anti-inflammatory and may reduce swelling in the joints.
Heart health. Parsley is rich in folate, which helps convert the amino acid homocysteine into harmless molecules if their numbers become too high in the body. If left unchecked, homocysteine can damage the body’s blood vessels.
Studies are still ongoing, but the general consensus is that parsley should be eaten, NOT left on the plate.
How to Incorporate Parsley into Your Diet
Parsley can be used for much more than decoration on a plate. Here are a few ways parsley to enjoy parsley, and please choose organic and grass-fed ingredients when possible:
Marinate. Parsley can be used to marinate grass-fed and pastured meats.
- 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves, minced
- 1/4 cup minced red onion
- 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil or avocado oil
- 1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
- Sea salt and ground black pepper
- Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Rub the mixture all over the steaks and then set aside for at least 30 minutes to marinate prior to cooking.
Parsley tea. Parsley tea can be made using either the seeds, leaves or the roots:9
Fresh Parsley Leaf Tea
Makes 1 serving
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh parsley leaves
- 8 oz (250 ml) purified water
- Boil water at high heat
- Rinse 1/4 cup (60 ml) of fresh parsley leaves under cool, running water. Pat the leaves dry using clean paper towels. The parsley can either be chopped up or left whole.
- Steep the parsley for 5-10 minutes in a teacup.
- Strain the leaves and pour in a separate cup.
- Drink immediately.
- Can be sweetened with a touch of Stevita stevia (the one I use) or raw honey.
Dried Parsley Leaf Tea
Makes 1 serving
- Same preparation as fresh parsley leaf tea.
Parsley Root Tea
Makes 1 serving
- 1 to 2 Tbsp (15 to 30 ml) parsley root
- 8 oz (250 ml) purified water
- Bring water to a steady boil.
- Chop the parsley root, then rinse under cool water.
- If root is dirty, rinse under cool water again and wipe away the dirt.
- Steep the root for 10 minutes into the bottom of a teacup.
- Strain the solid pieces of root through a strainer into a separate teacup.
- Can be sweetened with a touch of Stevita stevia or raw honey.
Parsley Seed Tea
Makes 1 serving
- 2 tsp (10 ml) parsley seeds
- 8 oz (250 ml) purified water
- Bring water to boil.
- Steep the parsley seeds for 5 minutes in a cup.
- Strain the seeds via strainer to a separate cup.
- Serve sweetened or unsweetened.
- Note: in all cases, the longer the tea is steeped, the stronger the taste.
- 3 qts. (6 oz.) lightly packed mixed greens
- 1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 1/2 cup fresh tarragon leaves
- 1 tablespoon minced shallot
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Put greens and herbs in a large salad bowl. Whisk together remaining ingredients in a small bowl, add to greens, and toss to mix.
Parsley Lemonade Green Smoothie
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 cups green seedless grapes
- 1 bunch chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1/2 avocado, peeled (can include pit as well if using Vita-Mix blender)
- 2 teaspoons minced ginger
- Stevita stevia to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon wheatgrass or greens powder (optional)
- 2 cups ice cubes
- Water to thin, if needed
- Add contents to blender and mix on high for 30 to 60 seconds until smooth and creamy.
External Uses of Parsley Oil11
Parsley can also be applied externally and has been used in the following ways:
- Aroma therapies
Make parsley oil at home via the following steps:
- 3 bunches flat-leaf parsley
- 3 cups olive oil (you can also use coconut oil)
- Boil a pot of water. Once it’s boiling, blanch the parsley and stems intact: place the parsley in a sieve put it into the boiling water for 10 seconds, and then immediately remove and transfer to a bowl of iced water for a few seconds, until the parsley is cold. Dry the parsley on paper towels.
- Place the parsley in a blender along with a cup of oil and blend completely, or until the paste turns a bright green color.
- Transfer the parsley paste into a clean glass jar. Add the remaining oil and shake well, then cover tightly. Place in the refrigerator for a day. The herbs will settle to the bottom of the jar.
- Put an unbleached coffee filter over another glass jar, and then ladle the parsley mixture into the filter and drain.
Parsley oil can be left in the refrigerator for one week or frozen for future use.
Skin Care with Parsley
Parsley can be applied on the skin to help with the following:
Erases dark circles under the eyes. The vitamin C, chlorophyll, and vitamin K in parsley helps to lighten the eye area and reduce puffiness.
Soak cotton balls in parsley juice and keep under the eyes for 10 minutes twice weekly.
Mix parsley oil with apple cider vinegar and a small amount of diluted tea tree oil and apply to face for 30 minutes then rinse off.
- Take a spoonful of dried parsley leaves and add it to 200 ml of water
- Boil for minimum of 20 minutes
- Remove from flame and let cool at room temperature.
- Use this water to rinse face once or twice a day.
- Prepare fresh rinse daily to obtain maximum benefits
Toner. Parsley can be applied as a toner for glowing skin and to balance the pH level in the skin.
Take a bundle of parsley leaves and extract the juice by mashing with a fork.
- Add distilled boiling water to it and let it cool.
- Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 3 drops of diluted tea tree oil and 3 drops of rosemary essential oil
- When required, dip a cotton ball in the toner and apply it to the face in circular motion. Can be stored in the refrigerator.
Hair loss. Parsley contains the flavonoid apigenin, which is believed to control hair loss through the regulation of the TGF-beta 1 gene. Parsley has been used as to disinfect the scalp and control hair loss.12
- Puree a handful of parsley sprigs and add 100 ml of water to it.
- Apply this tonic on wet scalp, wrap your hair in a towel and allow it to sit for an hour.
- Then wash it off with shampoo.
Hair Growth. Parsley is believed to be highly beneficial to promote hair growth.
- Rub powdered parsley seeds onto scalp and massage scalp gently.
- Repeat twice weekly for 2 months.
Ear infections. A small mixture of parsley, olive oil, and salt can be poured into the ear to help alleviate ear infections.
Selection and Storage
Both fresh and dried parsley are available year round. When choosing fresh parsley, opt for parsley that’s dark green, fresh and crisp (avoid parsley that has wilted or yellow leaves, mold, or dark spots). Do not store parsley in direct sunlight and wash thoroughly to remove pesticides. Dry the leaves on a towel and store in the refrigerator, the leaves will stay crisp for approximately 10 days. Parsley can also be kept in water in the refrigerator. The water should be replaced every two to three days to prevent any bacteria growth.
Parsley may be small but it packs a powerful punch. It is used to make food on plates look more appealing, but its real appeal is the many internal and external health benefits it offers. Add parsley to your already healthy diet and your body will thank you.
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- Our Herb Garden – History of Parsley
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- MNT – Parsley: Health Benefits, Facts & Research
- Science Daily – Parsley as a Crucial Component
- Endo Riot – Parsley Compound kills 86% of Lung Cancerous Cells
- Trendy 10 – The 7 Top Health Benefits of Drinking Parsley Tea
- The Herbal Resource – Parsley Benefits
- Everyday Health – Best Foods to Fight Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Parsley Tea
- The Blender Girl – Parsley Lemonade Green Smoothie
- Mercola – Parsley Oil
- CVO Oil
- The Cellular Healing Diet Book
- Pink Himalayan Salt
- Water Filtration
- Stevita Stevia
- Dried Parsley Leaves
- Skinny & Co. Coconut Oil
- #3 Bactrex
- #4 FungDX