You probably recognize parsley as a familiar fresh herb or dried spice, but did you know that this everyday herb could prove to be a boon to your health? Even when eaten in small amounts, there are numerous parsley health benefits because it’s packed with beneficial nutrients, essential oils and antioxidants — to the point that it’s often called a superfood.
Parsley benefits the body in many ways and is considered a naturally effective treatment for a wide range of symptoms and diseases. Derived from the petroselinum plant, parsley and parsley essential oil have been used as a natural detox remedy, diuretic, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory agent for centuries in folk medicine. Today, fortunately, many studies back up health claims about parsley that traditional populations have believed for many years.
According to a 2013 report in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, parsley has been used as “a treatment of gastrointestinal disorder, hypertension, cardiac disease, urinary disease, diabetes and also various dermal diseases in traditional and folklore medicines.” (1)
The impressive health benefits of parsley come via its active ingredients, which include phenolic compounds, antioxidant flavonoids, essential oils like myristicin and apiol, and various nutrients like vitamins K, C and A.
This makes parsley an all-natural and safe plant to include in your diet in order to act as a free radical scavenger, heart protector, brain protector, antidiabetic, antibacterial, antifungal, and even a digestion soother for its ability to help regulate bowel movements and decrease bloating. (2)
Although more formal research is needed, there is strong evidence for all of these parsley benefits. In addition, parsley and parsley essential oil are associated with helping to fight the following symptoms and disorders: (3, 4)
- Oxidative stress, or free radical damage
- Bladder infection
- Digestive problems, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Kidney stones
- Bad breath
- Bloating, or edema
- Acid Reflux
- Poor immunity
- Skin problems
½ cup of fresh chopped parsley (or about 8 tablespoons) has about: (5)
- 8 calories
- 0 grams of fat, sugar, carbs, protein or fiber
- 496 mg Vitamin K (554%)
- 40 mg Vitamin C (54%)
- 128 mg Vitamin A (15%)
- 48 mg Folate (12%)
- 92 mg Iron (10%)
- 40 mg Calcium (4%)
- 16 mg Magnesium (4%)
- 168 mg Potassium (4%)
Health Benefits of Parsley
1. High Source of Flavonoid Antioxidants
Parsley contains a range of protective flavonoid antioxidants that are responsible for many of the disease-fighting parsley benefits being researched today. These antioxidants including luteolin, apigenin, lycopene, beta carotene and alpha carotene.
Antioxidants help to slow the aging process by fighting free radical damage, or oxidative stress, along with inflammation within the body. This is important because free radical formation is known to contribute to almost every age-related disease, including cancer, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases and eye disorders.
When adults were given high quantities of parsley, they showed a significant improvement in lowering oxidative stress levels compared to those who didn’t receive parsley, according to a 1999 study done by The Institute of Food Safety and Toxicology. (6) During the study participants were initially given a diet that didn’t contain sources of antioxidants. The researchers noticed that when the subjects were on the restricted diet, their oxidative stress markers rose, but when parsley was added to their diet during the second half of the study, parsley reversed the signs of oxidative stress.
2. Provides Beneficial Essential Oils That Fight Cancer
Parsley contains unique elements in its oil known as volatile oil components — myristicin, limonene, eugenol and alpha-thujene. These powerful oil components benefit the body’s immune system and help fight cancer formation, in particular slowing tumor growth, neutralizing oxidative stress and fighting off carcinogens from harming the body. (7)
Parsley is sometimes called a “chemoprotective” plant because it helps protect DNA from damage, stops cell mutation and helps induce apotosis, or the death of harmful cells. One of parsley’s beneficial compounds called apigenin has been found to “inhibit progestin-dependent synthesis of human breast cancer cells, significantly delaying the development of, and decreasing the incidence and multiplicity of mammary tumors”, according to research done in 2013 by the American Association of Cancer. (8)
3. Acts as Natural Diuretic and Helps to Relieve Bloating
Strong evidence exists that parsley can be used as a natural diuretic to help relieve water retention and ease bloating, according to a 2002 review study done by The American University of Beirut. In the study, rats given parsley seed extract showed a significant increase in the volume of urine they produced over the 24 hours following. (9) Parsley benefits digestive health because it helps stimulate kidney production of urine and draws excess water out of the abdomen, where it can cause discomfort and indigestion.
4. May Help Fight Kidney Stones, Urinary Tract Infections and Gallbladder Infections
According to Dr. John Christopher of the Herbal Legacy Group, “Parsley is used for inflammation of the kidneys and bladder, gravel, stones, and urine retention.” He notes that when jaundice and venereal diseases are present, the root and leaves work well for the liver and spleen. (10)
When other remedies fail, parsley can also help reduce edema, says Dr. Christopher. Meanwhile, parsley juice can soothe the blood vessels, particularly the capillaries and arterioles. He continues, “Parsley is remarkable for its ability to expel watery poisons, excess mucoid matter, [even] flatulence, reducing swollen and enlarged glands.” (11)
Dr. Christopher recommends parsley tea for helping the body to detox and to fight off kidney stones, bladder and edema problems. To treat these issues, make at least two quarts of strong parsley tea and then drink them slowly over the course of the day. Drink one half cup to a full cup every hour.
5. Improves Digestion
Parsley, and parsley essential oil, are used to cure a number of gastrointestinal symptoms and disorders, including gas, constipation, bloating, indigestion and nausea. According to Ayurveda practices, parsley benefits digestion because parsley essential oil can help increase bile production and beneficial gastric juices that are needed for proper enzyme functions involved in food and nutrient absorption. Parsley essential oil can be added to a bath or diluted and rubbed on the stomach area for relief. (12)
6. Has Antibacterial and Antifungal Properties
Parsley benefits skin and dental health by fighting off infections and bacteria. Parsley’s essential oils are believed to be effective at eliminating fungus, plus it clears up bacteria-caused blemishes on the skin. The parsley oil held within the oil of the plant’s leaves, roots and seeds is considered antimicrobial; it’s used in soaps, detergents, perfumes and other hygiene products for its ability to kill bacteria and odors.
Parsley oil is very strong and can cause a skin reaction or topical burn. So, do not apply it directly to the skin, but instead mix it with a carrier oil like coconut, olive or almond oil and then apply to the skin in order to avoid any reactions.
7. Helps Reduce Bad Breath
8. Good Source of Bone-Protecting Vitamin K
Parsley provides high levels of vitamin K, an essential nutrient for maintaining bone density, fighting bone breaks and fractures. It works together with the other bone-building nutrients in parsley — calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D and magnesium.
9. Contains Immune-Boosting Vitamin C
Parsley benefits your immune defenses due to its high levels of antioxidants, including vitamin C and vitamin A. Vitamin C helps to maintain a healthy gut environment, where much of the immune system is actually located. High intakes of vitamin C correlate with lower levels of inflammation and help prevent diseases like atherosclerosis (dangerous plaque build-up in the arteries), arthritis, colon cancer, diabetes and asthma.
10. Helps Protect Eye and Skin Health by Providing Vitamin A
Parsley nutrition is loaded with vitamin A, which includes two antioxidants — pro-vitamin A carotenoid and beta-carotene — used by the body and that can boost eye health. These antioxidants protect the retina and cornea from damage as someone ages, helping to prevent eye disorders like macular degeneration and cataracts. Vitamin A also fights signs of aging on the skin, protects eyes and skin from UV light damage, and may be able to help prevent skin cancer.
11. Provides Folate That Is Needed for Heart Health
Because it’s a vital B vitamin that plays a critical role in protecting your heart, folate deficiency is very dangerous. Parsley benefits cardiovascular health because we need folate in order to convert homocysteine, a type of amino acid found in the blood. Homocysteine is a potentially troublesome molecule that can cause damage to blood vessels when uncontrolled, potentially leading to a heart attack or stroke.
12. Helps Balance Hormones
Since it helps to prevent neural tube defects that can result when a folate deficiency takes place, the folate within parsley is also important for a healthy pregnancy. Another one of the parsley’s benefits? It’s believed to help balance hormones — important for fertility and preventing symptoms of PMS.
History of Parsley
Parsley, which has the scientific name petroselinum crispum, is a species of Petroselinum, a member of the family of Apiaceae plants. Other plants in the Apiaceae family incude carrots, celery, and other herbs like cumin, dill and anise. Parsley is originally native to the central Mediterranean region, yet even today it’s still the highlight of many of the area’s regional recipes. Countries and regions such as southern Italy, Algeria and Tunisia were some of the first growers of parsley.
Used in natural folk medicine, parsley was traditionally taken as a tea for treating gallstones, indigestion, kidney stones, constipation and edema (bloating). Today, parsley’s leaves, seeds and roots continue to be well known for being powerful digestive aids and relievers of diarrhea, ulcers, flatulence and colic pains.
Parsley seeds have traditionally been used as an important spice in Asian countries and in India for normalizing menstruation, treating amenorrhea (loss of menstrual cycle) and menstrual pain. Today, many cultures use parsley not only to add flavor to dishes, but also for the high nutrient value. Parsley adds a fresh, almost peppery taste to many recipes, and it’s especially popular in European and Middle Eastern cuisines.
How to Buy Parsley
Parsley can be grown in cooler climates, or in subtropical warmer climates, but it does best when planted in moist soil that gets a lot of sunshine. You can normally find parsley year-round, as it’s cultivated in many different areas of the world with varied climates and tends to grow in large quantities pretty easily. In the U.S, parsley is usually available in spring and summer months at your local farmer’s market.
Look for parsley that is bright green and doesn’t have noticeable wilting or brown spots.
There are two main types of parsley plants used as herbs in recipes: (14)
- Curly-leaf parsley
- Italian, or flat-leaf parsley
Flat-leaf Italian parsley is more closely related to the wild parsley species that was first grown in the Mediterranean. Compared to curly parsley, it also has a stronger flavor and is easier to grow. However, some people prefer curly-leaf parsley because of its decorative appearance when it’s used on top of recipes. Both types taste very similar to someone who is not extremely familiar with them, and both offer similar health benefits.
Although it’s not seen very much in the U.S, there is another type of parsley: Hamburg root parsley, which looks similar to its relative the parsnip. This root vegetable plant is grown and used in parts of the world like the Middle East. Root parsley is used in some European cuisines, where it’s added to dishes like soups and stews, or eaten raw.
You can store parsley for usually up to one week. Prolong its freshness by first drying it and then wrapping it in a damp paper towel and putting it inside of a plastic bag in your refrigerator. It’s better not to wash parsley until you are going to use it; this way it doesn’t wilt and go bad quickly. Once you’re ready to use it, give it a good wash or add it to a bowl of cold water and swish it around for a minute to get any dirt off.
Cooking with Parsley
There are endless ways to incorporate parsley into your diet in order to take advantage of all of these parsley benefits. Parsley is used in soups, stews, pasta dishes, spreads, marinades, dips or added to salads and smoothies. Parsley’s “fresh” taste is said to go well with the flavors of potatoes, rice, fish, chicken, lamb, goose, grass-fed beef and almost every type of vegetable.
Curly-leaf parsley is often used as a garnish to finish dishes with a fresh, herby taste. In Europe, parts of the Middle East and in western Asia, many dishes are served with fresh chopped parsley sprinkled on top.
Others dishes are made using larger quantities of chopped, blended or cooked parsley, such as tabbouleh, a traditional Middle Eastern side dish that uses parsley as one of the main ingredients along with bulgur wheat and vegetables.
All over the world, parsley is the star ingredient in many dishes. In France, it’s used in persillade, a mixture of chopped garlic and chopped parsley. In Italy, parsley appears in salsa verde, a mix of parsley, capers, anchovies, garlic and vinegar.In England, it’s blended into a roux-based sauce that is commonly served over fish. In Brazil, parsley goes into cheiro-verde, a key seasoning for major Brazilian dishes. Meanwhile, across Europe, it stars in gremolata, a mixture of parsley, garlic and lemon zest.
Total Time: 20 minutes
- ½ cup almonds
- 2 tablespoons parsley
- 1 tablespoon grated organic lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon sea salt and ground black pepper
- 4 wild-caught Alaskan salmon fillets
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 4 cups spinach
- Grind the almonds in a coffee grinder or food processor.
- Mix almond powder, parsley, lemon zest, salt and pepper on a plate.
- Dredge the salmon on both sides through the almond mixture.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add salmon and cook for 5 minutes on each side, until cooked throughout.
- Serve over bed of greens and top with fresh lemon juice.
Total Time: 45 minutes
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 small zucchini, chopped
- 1 small yellow squash, chopped
- 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 1 medium-sized red pepper, chopped
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 8 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup grated, raw cheese
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a medium oven-proof skillet, sauté the onions in the coconut oil until soft and transparent. Add chopped vegetables. Sauté until they start to soften.
- In a separate bowl, combine eggs, salt, pepper, cheese, parsley and basil and stir well.
- Pour egg mixture over the vegetables in the skillet. Bake in oven for 35 minutes.
Total Time: 10 minutes
- 1/2 pound baby spinach
- 2 cups baby kale
- 1 pound mixed spring salad mix
- 1 small red onion, sliced thin
- 2 mangos, peeled, seeded and cut into strips
- 1 cup fresh blackberries
- 1/2 cup rough chopped walnuts, toasted
- 2 ripe mangoes, peeled, seeded and puréed in blender to make 1/3 cup
- 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
- 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- Toast walnuts in a small skillet over medium/high heat for 3-4 minutes until lightly browned. Place cooled walnuts and first 7 ingredients listed in salad bowl.
- Purée mango and measure 1/3 cup. Add the last 9 ingredients listed (including mango) except chopped parsley to blender and blend until well mixed.
- Pour dressing into a bowl and add parsley.
- Drizzle dressing over salad and serve.
Concerns with Parsley
Excessive consumption of parsley should be avoided by pregnant women since it naturally has an effect on hormone levels and the menstrual cycle. It’s considered safe in normal food quantities, but large amounts or using parsley essential oil has not been studied enough in pregnant women to be considered safe.
Parsley also contains a small amount of naturally occurring oxalates, which can sometimes be a problem for people with kidney stones or gout. Oxalates are found in certain plant and animal foods and usually don’t pose a problem for most people, but for people who have compromised kidney or gallbladder function, they may want to be cautious if they notice any symptoms worsen while consuming parsley.
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