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.

A tea made from the "fruits" or seeds of parsley is also a traditional remedy for colic, indigestion, and intestinal gas.4,5

What Is Parsley Used for Today?

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.

Dosage

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

Safety Issues

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.

Interactions You Should Know About

If you are taking lithium, use parsley only under doctor's supervision.