Parsley: curled leaf and flat leaf – petroselium crispum/neapolitanum

Perhaps one of the most commonly used but therapeutically under-rated of herbs, parsley is often seen as a garnish. However parsley is much more than that with more vitamin C than any other standard culinary vegetable, three times as much as oranges and about the same as blackcurrants. It is also a good source of iron, potassium manganese and calcium.

In Greek mythology parsley was associated with Archemorus, who was left as a baby by his careless nurse and then bitten by a serpent which resulted in his death. It was said that parsley sprang from the infant’s spilt blood and henceforward Archemorus became the harbinger of death. Parsley became an important part of Greek funeral rituals, and was scattered over graves during funeral ceremonies or planted over them. When the traditional funeral games were played, those participating wore wreaths of parsley

The Romans dedicated parsley to Persephone and to funeral rites. They would create wreaths with which to adorn their graves. It was believed that great fields of parsley grew on Ogygia, the death island of Calypso. There was also a saying,   “to need only parsley,” which was a gentle way of saying someone had “one foot in the grave.”

Pliny the Elder (23-79AD), a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher writes of parsley as a cure for ailing fish as well as flavouring for broths and sauces.

In the Middle Ages parsley was used for many conditions including ‘fastening teeth’ and for ‘brightening dim eyes’

Nicholas Culpepper (1616 – 1654), a physician-astrologer, referred to the distilled water of parsley as ‘a familiar medicine with nurses to give children when troubled with wind in the stomach or belly, and is also of service to upgrown persons’

Parsley was known for its medicinal properties long before it became commonly used as a food or spice in Europe around the middle ages.

Today parsley is a valuable remedy for water retention, painful urination and bladder disorders. It is also used in the treatment of painful menstruation, PMT and hot flushes as well as inflammation of the prostate gland.  As a general tonic, parsley strengthens hair nails and skin, settles the stomach and improves the appetite.

The best way to take parsley medicinally is as a fresh juice. The freshness and flavour of parsley is lost when dried, with the latter becoming much coarser, which can be fine in cooking but not as beneficial medicinally.  However, parsley freezes well and this is therefore the better way to preserve it. Use fresh parsley in salads and as a garnish, but make sure you eat it and don’t leave it on the side of your plate!