Herb: Parsley

Latin name: Petroselinum crispum

Synonyms: Apium petroselinum, Carum petroselinum, Petroselinum hortense, Petroselinum sativum

Family: Umbelliferae

Medicinal use of Parsley:

Parsley is a commonly grown culinary and medicinal herb that is often used as a domestic medicine. The fresh leaves are highly nutritious and can be considered a natural vitamin and mineral supplement in their own right. The plants prime use is as a diuretic where it is effective in ridding the body of stones and in treating jaundice, dropsy, cystitis etc. It is also a good detoxifier, helping the body to get rid of toxins via the urine and therefore helping in the treatment of a wide range of diseases such as rheumatism. The seed is a safe herb at normal doses, but in excess it can have toxic effects. Parsley should not be used by pregnant women because it is used to stimulate menstrual flow and can therefore provoke a miscarriage. All parts of the plant can be used medicinally, the root is the part most often used though the seeds have a stronger action. Parsley is antidandruff, antispasmodic, aperient, carminative, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, galactofuge, kidney, stomachic and tonic. An infusion of the roots and seeds is taken after childbirth to promote lactation and help contract the uterus. Parsley is also a mild laxative and is useful for treating anaemia and convalescents. Caution is advised on the internal use of this herb, especially in the form of the essential oil. Excessive doses can cause liver and kidney damage, nerve inflammation and gastro-intestinal haemorrhage. It should not be prescribed for pregnant women or people with kidney diseases. A poultice of the leaves has been applied externally to soothe bites and stings, it is also said to be of value in treating tumours of a cancerous nature. It has been used to treat eye infections, whilst a wad of cotton soaked in the juice will relieve toothache or earache. It is also said to prevent hair loss and to make freckles disappear. If the leaves are kept close to the breasts of a nursing mother for a few days, the milk flow will cease.

Description of the plant:


60 cm
(2 feet)

June to


Habitat of the herb:

Grassy waste places on walls and rocks, especially on limestone and near the coast.

Edible parts of Parsley:

Leaves - raw or cooked. Parsley is frequently used as a garnish or as a flavouring in salads and many cooked dishes, but has too strong a flavour to be eaten in quantity for most palates. It is an ingredient of the herb mix "bouquet garni". The leaves should be harvested regularly in order to encourage fresh growth and get maximum yields. The leaves are difficult to dry but are easily frozen. For drying they require a well-ventilated room that receives long hours of sunlight - the leaves need to be quite crisp if they are to store. Very rich in iron, iodine and magnesium, parsley is also a good source of other minerals and the vitamins A, B and C. The stems can be dried and ground and used as a food colouring. A tea is made from the fresh or dried leaves, it is rich in vitamin C. An essential oil is obtained mainly from the leaves - it is used as a commercial food flavouring. The leaves yields about 1% essential oil, whilst about 6% is obtained from the seed. Some caution is advised on the use of this plant, especially the essential oil. See the notes above on toxicity.

Other uses of the herb:

A good companion plant, repelling insects from nearby plants. The juice is an effective mosquito repellent when it is rubbed into the skin and is also used to relieve the pain of stings and bites. An essential oil obtained from the plant is used in perfumeries for men. An infusion of the leaves is an excellent rinse for dark hair and also helps in the treatment of dandruff.

Propagation of Parsley:

Seed - Three sowings can provide a year round supply of fresh leaves. The first sowing is made in a greenhouse in late winter. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out in mid to late spring. The second sowing is made outdoors in situ in the middle of spring and the third is also made in situ outdoors, this time in mid to late summer. Germination usually takes place in about 7 days at 25C, though it can take 4 - 6 weeks. Germination time can be reduced by pre-soaking the seed for 12 hours in hot water that is allowed to cool quickly, but be careful not to overdo the heat and cook the seed. The seed remains viable in normal storage for 2 - 3 years.

Cultivation of the herb:

Grassy waste places on walls and rocks, especially on limestone and near the coast.

Known hazards of Petroselinum crispum:

Parsley is said to contain the alleged 'psychotroph' myristicine. Excessive contact with the plant can cause skin inflammation. Although perfectly safe to eat and nutritious in amounts that are given in recipes, parsley is toxic in excess, especially when used as an essential oil.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.