ParsleyAlthough the pretty, curly green Parsley (Petroselinum Sativum) will grow anywhere with a temperate climate, it is a native of Greece, and the Greeks very early on recognised it as a medicinal herb. The inclusion of the word 'sativum' in its botanical name tells us that it has been a culinary herb for a very long time, too.

The essential oil is obtained from the leaves and, occasionally, the roots, but mainly from the seeds, which are far richer in oil than any other part of the plant. The principal constituent is apiol, sometimes called Parsley Camphor. The oil is very thick, and varies from colourless to greeny-yellow, with an aroma very close to that of fresh parsley. It is a febrifuge and a mild stimulant and has a tonic effect on the smooth muscles, particularly those of the reproductive system. As a uterine tonic it is sometimes used as an aid to labour. The principal constituents: a.-terpinene) pinene) and a crystalline substance, apiol, with glucoside apiin, myristicine, an oleoresin and palmitic acid. Apiol was discovered by Jovet and Homelle in 1850) and in 1890, Mourgues wrote a paper about many of the other chemical and physiological constituents of parsley. Dangers: The physiological action of the oleoresin in parsley has not yet been fully researched, but the indications are that it acts as a distinct stimulus on the nerve centres of the brain and spine. In large quantities this can produce the opposite effect to that desired, and can be dangerous. Symptoms can be sudden low blood pressure, giddiness, deafness and slowing of the pulse. Apiol and myristicine have been implicated in miscarriage.

Among Frenchmen it has the reputation of increasing their sexual prowess - unfortunately we do not know whether or not this is justified! It is also tonic in its effect on the blood vessels and is sometimes used externally in the treatment of piles (haemorroids). Applied to bruises it helps to shrink the broken blood-vessels immediately below the skin, and so reduce the amount of blood seeping into the surrounding tissues.

Parsley is mostly used in aromatherapy as a carminative, tonic and diuretic. Although it was used by the ancients to salute and help men, I have found it most useful in helping women. Echoing the findings of researches in the nineteenth and our own centuries, I find the plant a marvellous remedy for women of all ages, not only as a tonic for the nervous system, but for all the female menstrual cycle problems ¬flatulence, water retention, pain, indigestion and all other symptoms around period time. It is the supreme remedy for all of us, and we should eat parsley every day, adding it to salads, sauces and stews although it is better raw than cooked.

Make a tisane of the leaves – a large handful boiled in a litre (1 3/4 pints) mineral water for 2 minutes, then infused for 10 minutes – and drink around the time of a period. This is good for rheumatism, too: drink several times daily for a few days until symptoms have disappeared. With a little honey added, this tisane can also relieve tonsillitis. For dysmenorrhoea, make up an oil to massage into stomach and lower back: 30 ml (2 tbsp) soya oil, 5 drops parsley, 2 drops chamomile and 1 drop tarragon.

For cystitis, mix an oil containing 30 ml (2 tbsp) almond oil, 2 drops wheatgerm, and 15 drops parsley and massage on the tummy, sacrum area and top of the hands. Baths containing parsley oils are good too for PMT and cystitis, and a little fresh juice extracted from parsley leaves should be drunk by sufferers of the latter first thing in the morning. Fresh parsley juice made from crushed leaves is famed for its ophthalmic value. For conjunctivitis, or tired, sore or irritated eyes, put a little juice into the affected eye(s), four times a day. It will also soothe hay fever eyes. The juice can also help reduce the pain and inflammation of wounds and stings, and speed their healing. Eating parsley is said to incease the flow of breast milk, and to sweeten the breath after eating garlic. But the principal use of Parsley is as a diuretic, and in the treatment of urinary tract problems and in particular, kidney and bladder stones.

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