Most people think of parsley as just decoration and leave it to the side of the plate uneaten. That’s a shame because the health benefits of parsley are quite amazing and it’s a superfood we’d all do well to eat a lot more of, particularly if we’d like to lower our risk of diseases like cancer, arthritis and heart disease.
Parsley is also a very beneficial digestive aid, detoxifier and cleanser and can even make you smell better. There’s definitely a lot more to this herb than just garnish.
Parsley – the Anti-Cancer Herb
Parsley has a variety of nutrients that may protect us against developing cancer. It is rich in antioxidants like vitamin C, beta-carotene and quercetin, but also contains less well known flavonoids like apigenin, luteolin and chrysoeroil.
Apigenin research studies have associated it with a decreased risk of pancreatic cancer, leukemia, cervical and ovarian cancer. Apigenin has also been shown to interfere with cancer cell proliferation, exhibiting strong anti-tumor properties.
The flavonoid luteolin found in parsley has a chemopreventive (anti-cancer) action by reducing the effects of carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons found in foods like cooked meat. Research has also shown luteolin to have an anti-proliferative effect against hormonal cancers such as prostate, thyroid and breast cancer.
A third flavonoid, chrysoeroil, has also been studied for its potential anti-cancer benefits, particularly with regards to preventing breast cancer.
Parsley benefits also includes high levels of polyacetylenes such as falcorinol, which is believed to inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells and be strongly cytotoxic (cancer killing).
Chlorophyll in parsley may also help deactivate harmful carcinogens that promote tumours. Additionally, vitamin K, one of the real standouts in parsley nutrition, may also have a role to play in cancer prevention.
Certain volatile oils in the herb are considered chemopreventive. Myristicin in particular, which has been found to be a high percentage of the volatile oil in parsley, has been studied for its ability to increase the activity of our body’s major detoxifer glutathione.
Patients with cancer and many other serious diseases are usually found to have reduced glutathione levels. Glutathione is our bodies premiere antioxidant. If the myristicin found in the herb can actually increase its action, the health benefits of parsley may apply not just for preventing cancer, but for a wide variety of other diseases as well.
Osteoporosis and Arthritis
Parsley is a good source of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, fluoride and boron which may help protect against further bone thinning in the case of osteoporosis.
Low levels of vitamin K in the diet has also been linked to developing osteoporosis. Parsley is extremely rich in this important but hard to get nutrient.
Parsley is a potent source of antioxidants such as vitamin C and beta-carotene and contains a wide variety of potentially anti-inflammatory nutrients which may help reduce the symptoms of arthritis. Eating the herb regularly is also said to speed up the excretion of uric acid, a substance that can increase joint stiffness and pain for arthritis sufferers.
A teaspoon of parsley made into a tea in a cup of boiling water is often recommended as a useful arthritis treatment. Fresh parsley is probably better, though dried organic flakes are also reported to be effective for many people.
Parsley for a Healthy Heart
The various beneficial antioxidants in parsley, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, quercetin and other flavonoids can help to prevent oxidization in our cardiovascular system by neutralizing free radicals, thus potentially reducing our risk of heart disease.
The polyacetylene falcarinol found in parsley is believed to have both anti-inflammatory and anti-platelet-aggregatory properties that could be beneficial in preventing heart disease and stroke.
Additionally, myristicin, a major volatile oil in fresh parsley, may increase the activity of antioxidant glutathione in our bodies. If it does, this could have a protective effect against a wide variety of inflammatory diseases, including cardiovascular disease.
The herb is also a good source of folate, which is involved in neutralizing homocysteine molecules in the blood stream that can damage blood vessels, eventually leading to heart attacks and strokes.
While difficult to prove conclusively (and there’s no incentive since you can’t patent a herb), it seems there are many potential health benefits of parsley for preventing cardiovascular disease.
How Parsley Aids Digestion and Improves Your Breath
Parsley can stimulate appetite and improve digestive processes. It is full of enzymes that aid in the proper breakdown of our food during digestion. And it is rich in a variety of different vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that are beneficial for the absorption and proper utilization of the food we eat.
Compounds in parsley are said to cleanse and detoxify the kidneys, liver and bladder. The herb is also a natural diuretic that may help to relieve water retention and bloating.
Parsley tea is a popular remedy for an upset stomach and indigestion. To make it steep a teaspoon of the leaves in a cup of boiling water for 15 minutes and then drink slowly. Alternatively, there are parsley teabags available.
Finally, and perhaps of more benefit to those around you, eating parsley helps reduce flatulence problems. And, as many people know, it is also an excellent breath freshener, able to overpower even the strongest cases of bad breath caused by garlic, onions or other high sulfur foods.
There are so many parsley health benefits it’s surely worth eating it should you find it on the side of your plate. Better still, plant it in your garden if you have one or grow a few pot plants on your windowsill and try to use it whenever you can in meals.
If you have a good supply of fresh parsley and a masticating juicer or a powerful blender, coming up next is another extremely beneficial way to use it – as parsley juice for kidney cleansing and liver detoxification.