Pity poor parsley. Most Americans relegate it to an untouched splash of green on a dinner plate. But parsley is much more than a mealtime accessory. This natural breath-freshener has impressive nutritional and medicinal benefits. It's a good source of antioxidant vitamins A and C, plus calcium, iron, and other vitamins and minerals.
In traditional herbal medicine, bruised parsley leaves have been made into poultices for insect bites, contusions, and itchy or chapped skin; the leaves or seeds used to settle the stomach, decrease flatulence, and treat colic; and the leaves and roots employed as a diuretic.
According to studies at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, rats given extract of parsley seed (which has a higher risk factor than the root or leaf) urinated significantly more than when they drank water. Diuretics are used to treat hypertension, so if you have high blood pressure, ask your physician about supplementing your medication with parsley tea. Another animal study, at Turkey's Istanbul University, found that parsley extract reduced levels of blood sugar in diabetic rats. And a Saudi Arabian investigation hints that tincture of parsley may help protect the stomach against ulcers.
Seeds, Oils, & Leaves
If you'd like to add more parsley to your diet, don't go picking it in the wild. Several poisonous plants, including hemlock, look remarkably like it.
Parsley itself can be dangerous under certain circumstances. While parsley-leaf tea may help soothe painful menstruation, the more potent parsley oil has been known to induce abortion. A woman who is pregnant or may become pregnant should not ingest parsley seeds or the juice or oil derived from them. Parsley supplementation is also not suggested for people with kidney problems.
If you're allergic to carrots, fennel, or celery, you may also be sensitive to parsley, which is in the same botanical family. Assuming that you're not allergic, eat as much leafy parsley as you like. To make parsley seed tea, use 1 to 2 teaspoons of bruised seed per cup of boiling water; steep for 10 minutes. In supplement form, the usual dose is 1,800 to 2,700 milligrams a day.