Parsley health benefits: for pain and halitosis

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Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

A video outlining the main points in this article is available on Youtube here: Parsley Health Benefits

Curled parsley is often used for garnish (flat leaf is inset bottom left)

Curled parsley is often used for garnish (flat leaf is inset bottom left)

Most people have parsley (Petroselinum crispum) growing in their gardens somewhere – it can be quite invasive if allowed to set seed, so if you’re starting from scratch with this herb, it’s best in a large pot, rather than sown directly in the ground. This will also help to prevent attacks from the carrot root fly (carrots are a close relative), if you plant it about halfway down, leaving the rest of the pot empty, and put it on a wall or pot holder. It’s said that carrot flies travel about a foot above the ground, sniffing out their prospects, so the higher the walls around the plant, and the higher up the pot is, the less likely you are to suffer from this pest.

Parsley is biennial, so you can either buy plants from the nursery or sow seed in April and August for a year-round crop. The seeds take some time to germinate, so soak the seeds overnight before sowing and don’t give up if your seedlings don’t show for a couple of months. If growing in the ground or a large container, allow 9″ (22cm) between plants. Wherever you grow it, try and find it a semi-shaded area in rich soil (unlike most herbs), and water in dry weather. If you want to collect the seeds, allow the plants to flower, otherwise, cut off flowering stems as soon as they appear. Either bring pots indoors or provide protection in the winter months if you live in an area with cold winters.

Remember that, if you want to use parsley medicinally, it’s important that it is grown organically so that its properties are not masked and you don’t end up ingesting toxic ingredients (such as pesticides), by accident.

Before I go any further, you need to know that parsley is not suitable for use in large amounts or as a herbal remedy during pregnancy or by anyone suffering from a kidney disorder.

Parsley comes in several varieties, either curled (Petroselinum crispum) or flat leaved (Petroselinum crispum latifolium). There’s also a tuberous rooted variety, but it’s not generally used as a herb, although the leafy part could be if nothing else is available. The curly type is the one most often seen, but the flat types are supposed to have the best flavor, so are the best for salads. The parts of the plant normally used for herbal medicine are the seeds and leaves. You can store the leaves in the freezer, or dry them.

Make a standard infusion by putting 2-4 teaspoonfuls of chopped fresh leaves or 1-2 teaspoons of dried in a pot, adding 250ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) of boiling water and leaving to stand for 15 minutes to 4 hours before straining and drinking. Take no more than 1 cup of this per day.

Parsley is carminative and diuretic, and a good source of iron, and vitamins C and A. Adding the leaves to salads is helpful for those suffering from anemia or in need of a general tonic. You can also chew the leaves to guard against bad breath, especially after eating onions or garlic.

The standard infusion is useful for anemia, arthritis, painful periods, fluid retention and urinary disorders (not kidney disorders).

To treat coughs, bronchitis and asthma, you can make a parsley tincture. To make this, you need a bottle of vodka or other white alcoholic spirit (of the type you might buy to drink, not surgical spirit). Measure out 670ml of vodka and add 330ml of water to make 1 litre. Put 200g of chopped parsley into an airtight container and pour over the vodka/water mixture. Seal tightly and put in a cool place. You need to shake the mixture once or twice a day for 2 weeks, then strain to remove the herbs, squeezing them so as to get as much of the liquid out as you can. Store in brown glass bottles, and make sure you label them. The dosage is 1 teaspoon/5ml three times a day.

If you suffer from flatulence (“gas” or “wind”), chewing a teaspoonful of seeds will help. Don’t use seeds from a seed packet, as these may have been dressed with chemicals.

I offer dried parsley in my online shop.

As with all herbs and other medicinal plants, it’s vital that parsley intended for this purpose is grown organically so that your remedy isn’t tainted with nasty chemicals. Visit the Gardenzone for more information about growing organic parsley.


There are 2 types of parsley essential oil, one produced from the whole herb which is toxic and should not be used, and the other from the seed, which should only be used under the supervision of a professional aromatherapist.

As with all essential oils, parsley essential oils should never be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

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