Parsley is a popular and versatile herb that adds a mild flavor to many dishes. Oftentimes you’ll see it added to your dish for a more attractive presentation. However, parsley actually provides a number of benefits that you may be missing out on if you only use it as a garnish – for instance, it is made into a versatile essential oil with many uses. Learn more about parsley essential oil in this article.
Parsley essential oil is extracted from Petroselinum crispum, a hardy and fragrant biennial herb from the Apiaceae family. Parsley is native to the Mediterranean region, but is now grown in gardens worldwide as a versatile culinary herb. Its name is derived from the Greek word “petros,” which means “stone,” as this plant often grows in rocky terrains. Parsley reaches only one to two feet in height before flowering, and thrives best in areas with partial shade. There are two common types of parsley: Italian parsley, also known as flat-leaf parsley and popular in Mediterranean countries, and curly leaf parsley. Between the two, Italian parsley is said to have a more intense flavor, making it a more popular choice for cooking.
In culinary applications, freshly picked parsley is preferred. Parsley cannot be isolated just as a part of appetizing and aesthetic food presentation. More than just a culinary herb, Parsley leaves and its seeds are used throughout the world as a magnificent spice that kindle the taste and zest of the food to which it is added to. Simply wash the leaves and stems, chop into small pieces, and then sprinkle over the dish before serving.
Parsley essential oil, on the other hand, is extracted from the seeds, roots, and leaves of the plant. The seeds actually contain more essential oils, although the entire plant can be actually used for making the oil. Parsley essential oil is either colorless or a very pale yellow color, and has a more bitter scent compared to the fresh plant.
Parsley was traditionally used in making tea for treating gallstones and dysentery. Trusted as a powerful carminative, the leaves, seeds and roots of Parsley were used in treating numerous digestive problems including diarrhea, ulcer, flatulence and colic pain. The juice extracted from the roots of this plant was used in folklore medicine as a diuretic and for treating kidney disorders like nephrolithiasis (kidney stones).
Parsley herb is used for garnishing and adding extra flavor to all types of food items and is a major ingredient in tabbouleh, the national food of Lebanon. Crushed Parsley leaves have been used for topical application for insect bites, skin parasites and skin tumors. Other conventional uses of Parsley include its use for treating arthritis, anemia, cancer, prostate problems and liver disorders.
Parsley is thought to have originated in Sardinia, but records show that seeds were imported to Britain from Sardinia in 1548; the plant had already been introduced to northern Europe by the Romans. There are several varieties of the herb. The curly leaved or moss-curled is the one most familiar in Britain as a garnish. The plain- or flat-leaved, continental parsley has heavily divided leaves, but they are not so curly; this is the plant which can be confused with another, Aethusa cynapium or fool’s parsley, which is poisonous. Less familiar is the Neapolitan parsley from southern Italy which has thick stalks, eaten in Italy like celery (and, in fact, its French name is ‘persil aux jeuilles de cileri’). All parsleys have carrot-shaped roots which can be eaten, but the Hamburg parsley (P. fusiformis) has been developed for its roots rather than its leaves. The common parsleys have dark green leaves, pale yellow-green flowers in umbels, followed by fruit seeds.
The name petroselinum comes from the Greek for rock celery, referring to the natural habitat of the plant. Interestingly, selinum is thought to be the same as selinon, the Greek name for celery; the Romans called parsley ‘apium’, also the botanical name for celery; and French fool’s parsley is called ache des chiens, ache also once a name for wild celery. Celery also belongs to the Umbelliferae family, and possibly there have been confusions over the years.
The Ancient Egyptians used parsley, as did the Greeks, who crowned victorious soldiers with wreaths of it. Hercules did this after killing the Nemean lion, and thereafter victors in the Nemean and Isthmian games would do the same. They believed that parsley had grown from the blood of a hero, Archemorus, and Homer tells of a victory won by charioteers whose horses had renewed vigour after eating parsley. Parsley grew on Circe’s lawn in the Odyssey.
Pliny said that no sauce or salad should be without parsley, as did Galen, and both Pliny and Dioscorides thought of it as a diuretic and emmenagogue. Apicius sang its praises too. The Byzantines used it as a diuretic and made a strong infusion to help kidney stones. Charlemagne ordered that it be cultivated in the imperial gardens as a vegetable, and it was eaten at every meal. It also found a place in monastic gardens at this time.
More recently, in the nineteenth century research was done on the emmenagogic properties of a constituent of the oil, apiol, by Professor Galligo, and doctors de Poggeschi and Marrotte. These were later confirmed by Dr Leclerc, proving to be truly efficaceous in treating cases of menstrual problems, particularly pain.
The oil is extracted from the seeds, roots and leaves. The seeds contain more essential oil than the leaves and roots, but an extraction from the entire plant is the most esteemed. Parsley essential oil is colourless, or a very pale yellow and it smells more bitter than the fresh plant.
The principal constituents: a.-terpinene) pinene) and a crystalline substance, apiol, with glucoside apiin, myristicine, an oleoresin and palmitic acid.
Apiol was discovered by Jovet and Homelle in 1850) and in 1890, Mourgues wrote a paper about many of the other chemical and physiological constituents of parsley.
Dangers: The physiological action of the oleoresin in parsley has not yet been fully researched, but the indications are that it acts as a distinct stimulus on the nerve centres of the brain and spine. In large quantities this can produce the opposite effect to that desired, and can be dangerous. Symptoms can be sudden low blood pressure, giddiness, deafness and slowing of the pulse. Apiol and myristicine have been implicated in miscarriage.
Benefits of Parsley Essential Oil
The health benefits of Parsley Essential Oil can be attributed to its properties as an anti-microbial, anti-rheumatic, anti-arthritic, antiseptic, astringent, carminative, circulatory, detoxifier, digestive, diuretic, depurative, emenagogue, febrifuge, hypotensive, laxative, stimulant, stomachic and uterine substance.
Has anyone read the world famous comic book “Adventures of Asterix and Obelix” by Uderzo and Gossinni? If not, here is a quick summary. It presents a scenario of Rome and some Gallic villages during the reign of Julius Caesar. In that book, every now and then, you will find Obelix gobbling down those roasted wholesome wild boars garnished and decorated with parsley leaves (its a different part of the story than when he uses those parsley branches for cleaning his ears).
Where there are microbes, there are infections and diseases, but where there is parsley essential oil, there are no microbes. But why? Perhaps because this oil has extensive antimicrobial properties. That is, this oil has certain components which can kill microbes and inhibit their growth. Therefore, it can effectively give protection against a multitude of infections.
Anti-rheumatic and Anti-arthritic
Rheumatism and arthritis are two diseases that are caused by two main reasons, namely, the accumulation of uric acid in the muscles and joints, as well as obstructed blood circulation. The essential oil of parsley has certain properties which can help you with both of these causes. First of all, it is a detoxifying agent and a depurative, which is due to the diuretic and stimulant properties that it possesses. While a detoxifier speeds up the removal of toxins from the body, a depurative purifies and refreshes the blood. Now, as a diuretic, it also increases urination, and as we all know, the toxic and unwanted substances of the body such as excess water, salts, and uric acid are removed through urine. Then, as a stimulant, it stimulates the flow of blood or increases circulation. This helps in two ways. First, it warms up the body and second, it does not let uric acid accumulate at any particular place, giving relief from the pain of arthritis and gout.
Wounds and certain soft and sensitive internal organs can become septic due to infection by microbes. The danger is greater when the wound is from dirty or caused by rusty iron objects. Sepsis brings pain accompanied by cramps, convulsions and even hydrophobia (if it develops into tetanus). Its cure lies in eliminating microbes and inhibiting their growth in the affected area and this is exactly what parsley essential oil does. It stops microbes from multiplying and eliminates them.
Astringency is a property by virtue of which a substance can induce contractions in the tissues and muscles. The effect of an astringent can be local or on the whole body. Some astringents, such as the synthetic ones like fluorides which are added in toothpastes, induce local contraction of the gums. Others, most of which are natural or herbal, such as those found in guava leaves and many essential oils, can be ingested and induce contractions in internal organs and the whole body, as the astringent is carried to all the tissues by the blood. The essential oil of parsley is one such astringent. How good is it as an astringent? It can be used externally and internally to induce contractions in the gums (which holds teeth stronger), muscles and skin (gives a lift and firmness in the body, a feeling of fitness and a younger look), hair roots (prevents hair loss) and in the blood vessels (this can slow down or stop hemorrhaging from wounded vessels). Pretty impressive!
Gases in the intestine can put you in very embarrassing situations, more so when you are in a party or in a gathering or in a quiet place such as a prayer hall, and the gases start moving inside you making strange noises. The situation grows worse when these gases start to come out. It is left with no where. That was only the funny side of it. The darker side of the gases includes troubles like indigestion, flatulence, nausea, vomiting, headaches, stomachaches, chest pains, hypertension and even the risk of heart attacks (sometimes gases can trigger a heart attack or sometimes a heart attack can be misinterpreted as pain from gas, both ways is dangerous), caused by gases. So, the sooner they are out, the better it is. This can be done with the help of this oil. It does not let the gases form and helps them escape from the body.
Parsley essential oil promotes the removal of toxins and other unwanted substances from the body through the urine. This makes it a detoxifier. This helps keep you safe from many diseases which are born due to accumulation of these unwanted substances in the body, such as rheumatism, arthritis, boils, skin diseases and many others.
This property is a contributor to the detoxifying property of this oil. It increases the frequency and quantity of urination. One may wonder how more urination can be beneficial for the body. This is the one of the best ways to remove unwanted substances from the body (excretion is another). It removes unwanted water, salts and toxins like uric acid, fats, pollutants and microbes from the body. By removing toxins and uric acid, it protects you from diseases like rheumatism, arthritis, boils, moles, and acne. By removing water and fat, it helps you lose weight and gives relief to patients of swelling and water-logging. Added to these benefits, the more you urinate, the more calcium and other deposits and microbes are washed away from the kidneys and urinary tracts, thereby protecting you from renal calculi and infections in the urinary system.
Depurative means an agent that purifies the blood. This is done in two ways. First, by removing unwanted substances from the blood and cleaning the blood, which this oil does, being a detoxifier, and second, by helping oxygen reach the tissues, which again, this oil does by stimulating blood circulation, since it is a stimulant.
The essential oil of parsley has an emmenagogue property which makes it initiate obstructed or delayed menstruations. It stimulates the secretion of certain hormones like estrogen which help to achieve this. This oil also gives relief from problems associated with menstruation, such as abdominal cramps and pain, nausea, fatigue, and annoyance. These hormones also help bring about puberty and maturity in women and keep their reproductive organs (like the uterus) in good health.
Along with being a depurative, detoxifier and an antimicrobial at the same time, this essential oil is an effective febrifuge, that is, it reduces fever. How, you ask? Let me tell you. Due to its depurative and detoxifying properties, the toxin level is reduced in the body and this helps get rid of many ailments, including fever, which is sometimes caused due to an increase in the level of toxins in the blood because fever is a reaction of the body to any abnormal insurgence or adverse change in the body. Then, due to its antimicrobial properties, it inhibits microbial infections and this helps get rid of fever caused by microbial or viral actions, such as influenza, yellow fever, typhoid, or malaria.
Drugs based on opium and sorbitol are well known for their hypotensive actions. That is, they instantly lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack. These drugs are synthetically derived, so their reaction is fast. However, they have their own adverse effects and in the long run may give nervous and neurotic problems. The essential oil of parsley may not be that fast, but it is a good choice for regular administration in cases of chronic hypertension and it does not have any adverse effects either. If taken systematically, it helps keep the blood pressure lowered or normal.
Having clear bowels is a pleasant feeling and those who suffer from constipation know what that is worth. Here is good news for them. The essential oil of parsley comes with laxative properties and helps you get rid of hard and difficult motions, as well as constipation. It increases the discharge of gastric juices and facilitates the downward motion of excreta by stimulating peristaltic motion in the smooth intestines.
Its stimulating effects can be experienced on the whole body. It stimulates nerves, neurons, the circulation of blood and lymph, digestion, excretion and immune mechanism. Therefore, this essential oil keeps you more active, alert, energetic, strong, and safe.
Parsley essential oil takes care of the stomach, the power generator of our body. It soothes it, maintains proper flow of gastric juices into it, reduces inflammations in it, protects it from infections and helps heal wounds and ulcers.
This property is an outcome of its property of promoting secretions of certain hormones like estrogen and progesterone. These feminine hormones maintain uterine health by regulating menses and protecting it from other problems of uterus like uterine ulcers and dryness.
This essential oil is also found to be effective in curing many other problems such as blood vessel rupture, cellulite, sciatica, colic, hemorrhoids, amenorrhea, cystitis, and loss of libido.
Uses of Parsley Essential Oil
In industrial applications, parsley essential oil is used as an ingredient for soaps, cosmetics, detergents, colognes, and perfumes, especially men’s fragrances. It also has aromatherapeutic uses and has been used to treat various illnesses, including jaundice and malaria. This oil also has antibacterial and antifungal properties that can help treat pimples, acne, and skin infections, as well as disinfect pores.
However, DO NOT use undiluted parsley essential oil topically (especially concentrated formulations) because it can burn your skin. Instead, you can:
Dilute parsley oil in a carrier oil like olive or almond oil, and then apply it to the face. Leave it for at least 30 minutes before rinsing.
Mix a drop of parsley oil with tea tree oil and apple cider vinegarand use as a toner to help keep your skin blemish-free.
Diluted parsley oil can also be massaged onto the scalp to help prevent hair loss.
Parsley is very helpful for broken capillaries. Boil three sprigs of fresh parsley in 600 ml (1 pint) water for 2 minutes, then leave to steep for 5 minutes. Add a drop each of rose and calendula oils, and leave to cool. Drip on to a piece of gauze or cotton wool, apply to the face, and relax for a few minutes. An oil containing parsley essential oil is helpful, too, strengthening and draining broken capillaries or bruises. Mix together 10 ml (2 tsp) soya oil, 5 ml (1 tsp) wheat germ and 1 drop each of parsley and chamomile. Massage very gently into the affected areas.
Parsley is the omnipresent garnish on many restaurant dishes, and all too often it is left at the side of the plate. It would probably do more good for us than the main ingredient of the meal, as 25 g (1 oz) parsley contains more iron, for instance, than 100 g (4 oz) liver. Parsley is a rich source of vitamins A, Band C; it also contains calcium, potassium and some copper. So, use and eat parsley in salads, sauces, stuffings, marinades, in herb butters, in vegetable dishes, court bouillons and stocks. It is an essential ingredient of a bouquet garni and the chopped fines herbes in an omelette. It helps digestion of meats, fish, eggs and vegetables.
How to Make Parsley Essential Oil
Most parsley essential oil brands sold today are highly concentrated and are made via steam distillation. However, you can easily make an edible version in your kitchen. Here’s are the 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, stems intact: simply 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 the olive oil and blend completely, or until the paste turns a bright green color. Do not let the blender run for too long, though, as the friction may create heat, causing the color of the parsley to fade.
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. You’ll notice that 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. Let it drain.
You can drizzle this parsley essential oil infusion over your salads, adding a beautiful green color and flavor to them. You can also use it to decorate serving plates. Mix it in a vinaigrette, add it to a cold soup, or use it to garnish chicken or fish. Refrigerated, it will stay fresh for a week. For a longer shelf life, store it in the freezer.
How does Parsley Essential Oil Work
Parsley essential oil’s health benefits mostly come from its unique plant compounds, For example, apigenin was found to be a potent antioxidant that has anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties. Meanwhile, the apiole is associated with antispasmodic and vasodilatory effects.
While fresh parsley leaves can be consumed or added to facial masks and other homemade natural remedies, the same cannot be said for parsley essential oil. Most brands are highly concentrated and, if used incorrectly or in excessive amounts, may actually do more harm than good.
Is Parsley Essential Oil Safe
I do not recommend the aromatherapeutic use of parsley oil without the supervision of a qualified health care practitioner. Do not ingest this oil, especially in large amounts, as it can be hepatotoxic, meaning it may cause severe liver damage. Do not use it if you are suffering from any liver-related ailments.
I also advise pregnant women and nursing moms to avoid using this oil because it is an abortifacient, meaning it can induce abortion. Do not use this oil on very young children as well.
When applying topically, dilute parsley oil in a safe carrier oil like olive, almond, or coconut oil. I also advise doing a skin patch test before using this oil to make sure that you do not have allergic reactions to it.
Side effects of Parsley Essential Oil
Parsley essential oil contains oleoresin, which, according to research, acts as a distinct stimulus on your brain’s and spine’s nerve centers. Beware: in large amounts, it can produce the opposite of the desired effect and may be dangerous. Watch out for symptoms like sudden low blood pressure, giddiness, deafness, and slow pulse. Seek a doctor immediately if you experience any of these effects.