Parsley is perhaps one of the most commonly used but therapeutically under-rated of herbs. How often one sees a dish in a restaurant garnished with parsley, and the waiter leaves the parsley on the serving dish or the customer rejects it as mere decoration.
Parsley contains more vitamin C than any other standard culinary vegetable, with 166mg per 100g (4oz). This is three times as much as oranges and about the same as blackcurrants. The iron content is exceptional with 5.5mg per100g (4oz), and the plant is a good source of manganese (2.7mg per 100g) and calcium (245mg per 100g). It is also exceptionally high in potassium, with one whole gram of potassium in 100g (4oz) .
In the Middle Ages parsley was used for many conditions including ‘fastening teeth’ (because scurvy which is caused by a deficiency of vitamin C makes the gums spongy and the teeth loose) and for ‘brightening dim eyes’ (bad eyesight is a sign of shortage of vitamin A). The old herbalists often had good results without their knowing the chemistry involved. The old Greeks were in awe of parsley because the herb was associated with Archemorus who was eaten by a serpent having been put on a parsley leaf as a baby by his careless nurse. Henceforward he became the harbinger of death.
On the bright side, they decorated the heroes of the isthmian games with parsley garlands and decorated the many maidens that sang at feasts in the same way. This last use may be associated with the great effectiveness of parsley in increasing menstruation and helping in regular process of monthly periods. This action is due to the presence of apiol which is a constituent of the female sex hormone estrogen. The plant was used against the effects of malaria with some success and Father Kniepp said it was one of the most proven of all remedies as a diuretic to cure water retention or dropsy.
Today parsley is a valuable therapy for kidney stones, as a diuretic, for rheumatism, menstrual insufficiency and as a general stimulant. It settles the stomach and improves the appetite. The high content of vitamin C is not only useful in its own right, but also assists the absorption of the valuable quantity of iron.
Parsley juice, being a herbal drink, is quite powerful and is usually taken in quantities of about 2 fl oz (50ml) three times a day and is best mixed with other juices. The leaves can be deep frozen and are easily stored. It is a good idea to use parsley in cooking as well as in the form of juice. Dried parsley is not a very satisfactory alternative to fresh and has a coarser flavor.