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Parsley Plant

Parsley Plant

Botanical Description & Habitat

Petroselinum sativum


Common names

Garden parsley
Rock parsley

Found in southern Europe, North Africa, southwest Asia; it is cultivated throughout the world.

A biennial herb with a smooth, branched, bright green stem. The leaves are shiny, dark green, and bi- or triternately divided. The flowers are green-yellow and grow in compound umbels, blooming from June to August. The fruit is an egg-shaped gray-brown seed.

Care must be taken if gathering from the wild because of the similarity of 3 poisonous plants:

Dog poison (Aethusa cynapium)
Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum)
Water hemlock (Cicuta maculata)

Medicinal parts

Historical Properties & Uses

The chief uses of parsley are as a diuretic, emmenagogue, antispasmodic, carminative, and expectorant; of these, all but the expectorant property have received experimental support. Parsley tea and expressed juice are used medicinally. Parsley is an effective laxative, hypotensive, uterine tonic, and antimicrobial agent.

Numerous anecdotal accounts of successful treatments of conjunctivitis and other eye inflammations with parsley have not been experimentally substantiated. Parsley contains several active components, including apiole and myristicin, plus a large quantity of protein. However, persons on a low-salt diet should be aware parsley contains above-average quantities of sodium.

The toxicity of whole parsley has probably been grossly exaggerated. While it is true large doses of concentrated parsley extracts or of pure apiole and myristicin have produced toxicity, the whole plant appears to be safe to use. Most herbalists recommend pregnant women avoid the use of parsley because of its uterine tonic or stimulating property; there are reports parsley can be used to induce abortion.

Parsley herb and root have approval status by the German Commission E for the urinary tract and kidney stones.


Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Method of Action

Parsley components have spasmolytic and diuretic activity
Terpenes, apiole, myristicin, and other fractions of parsley's essential oil had differing levels of spasmolytic activity on isolated rabbit intestine. Strengths ranged from low to moderate. Reactivity was governed primarily by the presence of OCH2O groups. Only a purified apiin/apioglucoside mixture had a slight saluretic activity when tested on dogs. Apiole and a crude flavonin-containing preparation lowered diuretic activity and sodium chloride excretion.

Miscellaneous Pharmacology Of Parsley Extracts
In pharmacological studies of Egyptian parsley, plant extracts stimulated spontaneous activity of rat uterus and intestines in vitro, and lowered blood pressure and respiratory movements in anesthetized dogs. Growth of rats was stimulated and uterine weight was increased when parsley was added to the diet. These results suggest the use of parsley as a laxative, hypotensive, ecbolic, emmenagogue, and growth promoter. Essential oils from parsley, given with food to pregnant women, increased diuresis, blood plasma proteins and calcium.

Parsley has uterine tonic effects
Tonic effects were observed on isolated uterine tissue from small laboratory animals. These effects have been attributed to the presence of apiole, but were also found with aqueous extracts of parsley roots and leaves, from which the apiole had been removed.

Parsley contains an antithiamine factor
An aqueous extract of parsley contained an antithiamine-active substance, which was unaffected by cooking or by contact with synthetic gastric juice.

Parsley has some antibiotic properties
In one study, an extract of parsley seed strongly inhibited the growth of nine differnet bacteria and one fungus. In another test, parsley oil inhibited growth of Bacillus subtilis and Staphylococcus aureus at dilutions of 1:30 and 1:100, respectively. But in still another study, parsley oil displayed only slight in vitro antifungal activity against 7 of 15 fungi. In a study using the filter paper disk method, parsley was found effective against 9 of 10 organisms, including Sarcin lutea, Bacillus mesentericus, Aerobacter aerogenes, Bacillus subtilis, Micrococcus pyogenes var. aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Serratia marcescens, E. coli, and Proteus vulgaris.

Parsley has marked hypotensive activity
In doses of 0.25 to 1 ml/kg administered intravenously, parsley decreased the blood pressure of anesthetized cats by more than 40% for a period of more than 20 minutes, when administered intravenously at doses of 0.29 to 1.0 ml/kg body weight.

Drug Interactions & Precautions

Known Interactions
Since parsley's diuretic action increases the renal excretion of sodium and chloride, the herb may potentiate the hyperglycemic and hyperuricemic effects of glucose-elevating agents.

Diuretics in general may potentiate the action of antihypertensive, ganglionic or peripheral adrenergic blocking drugs, tubocurarine and, to a lesser degree, norepinephrine. Furthermore, the effects of dopamine and diuretic agents are additive.

Possible Interactions

When taken in conjunction with corticotropin (ACTH) or corticosteroids, this diuretic herb is more likely to produce hypokalemia. An initial dose of the antihypertensive captopril may cause severe drop in blood pressure within three hours if a strong diuretic such as parsley is being used. The diuretic action of parsley may also reduce renal clearance of lithium.

It should be noted the use of diuretics may require dosage adjustments of antidiabetic drugs.

Veratrum alkaloids may potentiate the activity of parsley up to 50%. The antiarrhythmic agent, quinidine, may increase the hypoprothrombinemic effect of parsley.

The hypotensive effect of parsley this herb may be potentiated by anorectic drugs, such as fenfluramine, whose effects are mediated by brainstem 5HT.

Parsley should not be used with methotrimeprazine, a potent CNS depressant analgesic. In addition, allopurinol has been tentatively shown to increase the half-life of anticoagulants. Additive effects may occur between the hypotensive property of parsley and that of dopamine receptor agonists, such as bromocriptine mesylate.

Due to the presence of blood serum platelet-aggregation inhibitors (e.g., linolenic acid), parsley may potentiate the effects of anticoagulant drugs such as heparin.

Prolonged use of this diuretic herb may affect certain laboratory test results such as electrolytes, and especially potassium and sodium, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), uric acid, glucose, and protein bound iodine (PBI). The strong diuretic digitalis glycosides are being used. It should also be noted strong diuretics such as parsley may produce natriuretic effects when taken in conjunction with indomethacin.

The use of parsley in conjunction with ethyl alcohol, barbiturates or narcotics may lead to orthostatic hypotension. In addition, the hypotensive property of parsley may be additive with the CNS-depressant activity of the analgesics nalbuphine HCl and propoxyphene HCl.

To minimize central nervous system depression and synergism, it would be wise to avoid using parsley with procarbazine antineoplastic drugs. Due to the presance of apiole, this herb may also inhibit certain liver microsomal hydroxylating systems, thereby producing toxic effects from drugs which are normally metabolized by those systems.

Although the coumarin content of parsley is low at normal usage levels, it is important to note coumarins can affect the action of almost any drug.

There is evidence to show combined use of bactericidal and bacteriostatic agents will lower the effectiveness of the bacteriostatic agent. However, how this finding applies to herbal anti-infectives is still unknown.

A drug derived from parsley used to be availabe as an abortifacient (Apiol).

In Russia a drug derived from parsley juice (Supetin) is used to stimulate labor.

Safety Factors & Toxicity

Used as an herb, whole parsley is nontoxic, and has been used by pregnant women without adverse effects. However, some herbalists caution against use by pregnant women due to the uterine stimulating effect of parsley constituents.

No toxic effects have been observed in dogs receiving subcutaneous injections of parsley as large as 60 g/kg body weight. In chickens, an LD50 was obtained with injections of 17.8 g/kg body weight. Diarrhea, convulsions, paralysis and even death resulted. Parsley is not irritating or phototoxic, and produces no sensitization reaction. Furocoumarins are phototoxic and may cause allergic reactions. These chemicals are apparently not present in parsley at sufficient levels to cause a problem.

Persons with an allergy to umbelliferae (e.g. carrot, celery or fennel) may also be sensitive to parsley.

Pure apiole is said to cause abortion. Overdoses can harm the epithelium of the kidneys and liver, and can cause cardiac arrhythmia. There are reports, though several decades old, apiole and myristicin have caused fatty degeneration of the liver, when taken in high doses for prolonged periods.

It is therefore contraindicated during pregnancy.

The German Commission E notes the possibility that large doses of parsley seed oil has the potential to produce vascular congestion and contraction of smooth muscles in the bladder. intestines and uterus.

Parlsey herb and root have approval status by the German Commission E.

It is sometimes misidientifed because of the similarity of 3 poisonous plants:

Dog poison (Aethusa cynapium)
Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum)
Water hemlock (Cicuta maculata)


Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Preparation & Administration

Three times a day

Dried root
2-4 grams

made from 1 tsp of dried root

Fluid extract
1:1 in 25% alcohol, 2-4 ml

This herb has approval status by the German Commission E.

Recommended daily dosages in Germany are as follows:

6 g of the prepared herb.


Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Note: This Herbal Preparation information is a summary of data from books and articles by various authors. It is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health care professionals.


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