Parsley is a culinary herb used in many types of cooking and as a nearly universal adornment to restaurant food. Originally a native plant of the Mediterranean region, parsley is grown today throughout the world. It is a nutritious food, providing dietary calcium, iron, carotenes, ascorbic acid, and vitamin A.1
Parsley's traditional use for inducing menstruation may be explained by evidence that apiol and myristicin, two substances contained in parsley, stimulate contractions of the uterus.2,3 Indeed, extracted apiol has been tried for the purpose of causing abortions.
Germany’s Commission E suggests the use of parsley leaf or root to relieve irritation of the urinary tract (such as may occur in bladder infections) and to aid in passing kidney stones.6 Although there is no evidence that parsley is helpful for these conditions, parsley, due to its constituents apiol and myristicin, is believed to have a diuretic effect;7-9,20 because diuretics would increase the flow of urine, this might help the body to wash out bacteria as well as stones. However, no studies have as yet evaluated whether parsley is actually beneficial for either health problem.
A test tube study evaluated parsley extract as a topical antibiotic, finding that the extract had a weak effect against Staphylococcus bacteria.10 However, it did not appear to be strong enough to be practically useful for this purpose.
The usual dose of parsley leaf or root is 6 g of dried plant per day, consumed in 3 doses of 2 g, each steeped in 150 ml of water. Extract of parsley leaf and root are made at a ratio of 1 g of plant to 1 ml of liquid, and used at a dose of 2 ml 3 times daily. Tea made from parsley seeds is used at a lower dosage of 2 to 3 g per day, using 1 g of seed per cup of tea.11,12
As a widely eaten food, parsley is generally regarded as safe. However, excessive quantities of parsley should be avoided during pregnancy, based on the evidence mentioned earlier that myristicin and apiol can stimulate the uterus.13,14 Myristicin may also cross the placenta and increase the heart rate of the fetus.15
Parsley is known as a plant that can cause photosensitivity, which is an increased tendency to sunburn; this result, however, occurs from prolonged physical contact with the leaves, not from oral consumption of parsley.16-19
Maximum safe intake of parsley in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.
If you are taking lithium, use parsley only under doctor's supervision.
1. . Review of Natural Products . St. Louis, MO: Facts and Comparisons; 1991: Parsley monograph
2. Review of Natural Products. St. Louis, MO: Facts and Comparisons; 1991: Parsley monograph .
3. Tyler V. Herbs of Choice. Binghamton, NY: Pharmaceutical Product Press; 1994:75-76.
4. Review of Natural Products. St. Louis, MO: Facts and Comparisons; 1991: Parsley monograph
5. Gruenwald J. PDR for Herbal Medicine. 1st ed. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics; 1998:1023-1024.
6. Blumenthal M. The Complete German Commission E Monographs. Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications; 1998:179.
7. Tyler V. Herbs of Choice. Binghamton, NY: Pharmaceutical Product Press; 1994:75-76.
8. Marczal G, Balogh M, Verzr-Petri G. Phenol-ether components of diuretic effect in parsley. I. Acta Agron Acad Sci Hung. 1977;26:7-13.
9. Newall C. Herbal Medicine. A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. London: Pharmaceutical Press; 1996:203-204.
10. Ross SA, Megalla SE, Bishay DW, et al. Studies for determining antibiotic substances in some Egyptian plants. Part 1— screening for antimicrobial activity. Fitoterapia. 1980;51:303-308.
11. Gruenwald J. PDR for Herbal Medicine. 1st ed. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics; 1998:1023-1024.
12. Blumenthal M. Herbal Medicine Expanded Commission E Monograph. Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000:291.
13. Review of Natural Products. St. Louis, MO: Facts and Comparisons; 1991: Parsley monograph
14. Tyler V. Herbs of Choice. Binghamton, NY: Pharmaceutical Product Press; 1994:75-76.
15. Newall C. Herbal Medicine. A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. London: Pharmaceutical Press; 1996:203-204.
16. Lagey K, Duinslaeger L, Vanderkelen A. Burns induced by plants. Burns. 1995;21:542-543.
17. Smith DM. Occupational photodermatitis from parsley. Practitioner. 1985;229:673-675.
18. Stransky L, Tsankov N. Contact dermatitis from parsley (Petroselinum). ContactDermatitis. 1980;6:233-234.
19. Zaynoun S, Abi Ali L, Tenekjian K, et al. The bergapten content of garden parsley and its significance in causing cutaneous photosensitization. Clin Exp Dermatol. 1985;10:328-331.
20. Kreydiyyeh SI, Usta J. Diuretic effect and mechanism of action of parsley. J Ethnopharmacol. 2002;79:353-357.
Last reviewed December 2015 by EBSCO CAM Review Board Last Updated: 12/15/2015