Herb: Parsnip

Latin name: Pastinaca sativa

Synonyms: Peucedanum sativum

Family: Umbelliferae

Medicinal use of Parsnip:

A tea made from the roots has been used in the treatment of women's complaints. A poultice of the roots has been applied to inflammations and sores. The root contains xanthotoxin, which is used in the treatment of psoriasis and vitiligo. Xanthotoxin is the substance that causes photosensitivity (see note above on toxicity).

Description of the plant:


100 cm
(3 1/4 foot)

July to

Habitat of the herb:

Roadsides and grassy waste places, especially on chalk and limestone.

Edible parts of Parsnip:

Root - raw or cooked. When well grown, the cooked root has a very tender texture, though it is rather chewy raw. It is best harvested after there have been some autumn frosts because it will have developed a sweeter flavour. The root is delicious baked, it can also be used in soups etc and can be added to cakes, pies and puddings. Leaves and young shoots - cooked with other greens as a vegetable or added to soups etc. Used in early spring. The seed is used as a condiment. Similar in taste to dill.

Other uses of the herb:

The leaves and roots are used to make an insect spray. Roughly chop the leaves and roots, put them in a basin with enough water to cover, leave them overnight then strain and use as an insecticide against aphids and red spider mite.

Propagation of Parsnip:

Seed - sow from late winter to late spring in situ. Seed can be slow to germinate, especially from the earlier sowings, it is best to mark the rows by sowing a few radishes with the parsnips. The seed has a short viability, very few will still be viable 15 months after harvesting.

Cultivation of the herb:

Roadsides and grassy waste places, especially on chalk and limestone.

Known hazards of Pastinaca sativa:

Skin contact with the sap can cause photosensitivity and/or dermatitis in some people. Parsnip is said to contain the alleged 'psychotroph' myristicine.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.