Parsley – The Magic Herb In Your Kitchen!
We all know parsley, if not by name, then by appearance. When we were kids it was always in our plate along with the hated veggies, and now that we’re adults, it’s still almost always in our plates ot drinks, as a garnish, and we don’t look twice at it. None of us actually appreciate the powerpacked herb, that languishes silently in a corner in our fridges!
People from ethnic backgrounds have more exposure to the healing properties of parsley because of traditional herbal cures and remedies being more consistently present in their lives. This gives them a chance to appreciate more closely, all the health benefits that parsley imparts, and they in turn incorporate it more closely in their life. But what is parsley, really? And what does it do?
Parsley is an edible herb that was originally native to the Mediterranean region, from where its use has spread worldwide. Most of the plant is edible- while we’re used only to the leaves being used as garnish and condiment, the root which is a tap root is also edible, and used in cooking as a vegetable in Europe. The leaves are used in a vast number of spice palettes, in various countries. It is also used in a number of herbal remedies for its chemical constituents.
Parsley is extremely rich in compounds called Flavonoids, which are extremely potent compounds. In plants they are secondary metabolites, formed as byproducts of processing, but in humans, these flavonoids have been researched to have anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, they contribute to the body’s defense mechanism by their anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. Not just that, but parsley is anti-diarrheal as well. Its anti-cancer properties also being researched, and so far have yielded promising results.
But how does parsley do so much? This is because of their multiple direct and indirect effects. Parsley is also a rich source of antioxidants. These antioxidants do not attack dangerous free radicals directly, but increase their elimination by increasing production of uric acid for their excretion. So indirectly, the harmful oxidants are eliminated as well.
This property again comes into play when considering the anti-inflammatory effect of parsley, which stem from its inhibition of the activity of pro inflammatory enzymes, and simultaneous inhibition of nitrogen based free radical compounds, while boosting the action of the immune system cells at the cellular level.
This multipronged action of the flavonoids also functions to reduce the risk or progress of inflammation based diseases like hypertension, excessive clotting of blood, atherosclerosis, reducing intravascular inflammation, and boosting carbohydrate and lipid metabolism as well as changing the levels of lipids in blood. In fact parsley has also been linked to slowing down cellular aging, and its anti-aging uses are being looked into.
And that’s only the effect of the Flavonoid component. Parsley also contains Flavones like Apigenin, which is why its anticancer uses are being established. Apigenin works at a cellular level by causing leukemic cells (in blood cancers) to automatically kill themselves, or ‘eat’ themselves, a process called Autophagy. This property could be hugely beneficial if a way to employ it can be understood, while dodging the interactions it has with some other anti cancer drugs.
It has also been shown to increase the life and health of the cells of the urinary system. In addition, the effects of parsley in soothing drinks and concoctions is justified, when you consider its calming and anti-anxiety effects. But that’s not all.
Parsley has significant amounts of the vitamins A, C, K, and Folic Acid.
Vitamin A is essential for healthy growth and development of all the epithelia of the body, which means that the health and integrity of all your skin, your mucus linings inside your mouth, nose, etc. and your respiratory and intestinal linings too.
Vitamin K is essential for proper clotting of blood, and maintaining the coagulation cascade which is responsible for the clotting of blood in wounds.
Vitamin C is again responsible for maintaining health epithelia, because without it collagen protein synthesis is impaired, by its antioxidant properties, as well as in many enzymatic reactions of metabolism and digestion, vitamin C is necessary.
Folic acid is a B vitamin that is essential for human beings right from fetal life, without which infants are born with serious developmental defects such neural tube defects. Folic acid is also needed for growth and proper maturation of the red blood cells of blood, and for proper synthesis of myelin, which covers the nerves of the body.
All these, all of these and more, are found in parsley.
Which explains all the things parsley has been used for, in traditional methods, parsley is used for to treat wounds, bites, stings, to cover bruises, parasites on the skin, anywhere its antibacterial and antifungal properties can be utilized.
Because of its lipid profile regularizing properties, parsley has been used to prevent gallstones, and in liver and kidney diseases. It has been used as a tonic for people suffering from jaundice, or with compromised liver function. Again, in the kidney, the root is more potent than the herb itself, but the herb too is very useful for treatment of urinary tract infections, renal stones, because of its effect on the renal cells as well as its antibacterial properties.
Its effect on the elimination of uric acid makes it useful for people with arthritis as well, as well as for people with hypertension and constipation.
It is a known carminative, even though the seeds are more potent that the herb itself, for reducing gas, improving digestion and relieving bloating and abdominal cramps.
Another unusual use for parsley is for regularizing menstrual cycle in women. Parsley has uterotonic properties, which means that it increases muscle contractions in the uterus. For this reason, while it is useful for women with menstrual cramps and irregular periods, it is advised that pregnant women not eat too much parsley. In fact historically, it’s even been used as an abortion causing herb, in some cultures, for this very reason.
Who knew that parsley had such a huge, huge spectrum of action?