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Apiaceae (Umbelliferae) (Carrot Family);

Subfamily Apioideae, Amminae Tribe

Forms and Subspecies

The species is divided into two subspecies (Frank

1994, 105):

Petroselinum crispum ssp. crispum (leaf parsley;

has a smooth-leaved and a crisp-leaved form,

as well as three chemotypes [see

"Constituents"] )

Petroselinum crispum ssp. tuberosum (Bernh. ex

Rchb.) So (root parsley, parsley root)


Apium hortense E.H.L. Krause

Apium laetum Salisb.

Apium petroselinum L.

Apium romanum Zuccagni

Apium vulgare Druce

Carum petroselinum Benth. et Hook.

Helosciadium oppositifolium Reuss

Ligusticum levisticum Elsmann

Petroselinum hortense Hoffm.

Petroselinum macedonicum (Lonitzer) Bubani

Petroselinum petroselinum Karst.

Petroselinum sativum auct. non. Hoffm.

Petroselinum sativum Hoffm.

Petroselinum vulgare Kirschl.

Selinum petroselinum E.H.L. Krause

Sium oppositifolium Kit.

Wydleria portoricensis DC.

Folk Names

Apio ortense (Italian), apium, bittersilche, elixanter,

gartenpetersilie, jaubert, maghdunes (Iraq), oxillatrum,

parsley, perejil (Spanish), persil, peterchen,

peterlein, peterling, peterselie (Dutch), petershiljen,

petersilie, petersilienkraut, petersill, petersillig,

petroselino, petrosella, pitar saleri (Hindi), prezzemolo,

silk, tukhm-i-kalam (Persian)


It is possible that Dioscorides described parsley

under the name sison as a seed that was savored in

Syria (3.57). Whether the ancient Egyptians used

the plant is a subject of debate (Germer 1985,

144 f. *). One of the earliest descriptions of parsley

mentions a psychoactive property: "It produces

seriousness in the mind of a person" (Hildegard

von Bingen, Physica 1.68). It has been listed as a

medicine in all pharmacopoeias since the Middle

Ages (Schneider 1974,3:43*).

The chief significance of parsley is culinary; it is used as a kitchen spice, soup seasoning, and aromatic

substance (including for alcoholic beverages;

cf. alcohol). In the history of psychoactive substances,

the plant is of only minor importance. It

may have been an ingredient in witches' ointments

and theriac. It was often used as a beer additive.

Since the 1960s, the dried herbage has been

smoked as a marijuana substitute (cf. Cannabis

indica). The root is sometimes used as an ingredient

in incense, while parsley oil is used in the

(illegal) manufacture of psychoactive phenethylamines

of the MDA or MDMA type (see Myristica

fragrans, herbal ecstasy; Shulgin and Shulgin 1991*).


Parsley is thought to have originated in the

Mediterranean region. As a result of cultivation, it

is now found throughout the world and has

become wild in some areas.


Parsley is very easily grown from seed. The seeds

need only be broadcast onto a bed of good topsoil

and watered.


This biennial fragrant plant has pinnate, incised

leaves, a smooth stalk, and a spindle- or turnipshaped

vertical root. The root of the subspecies

tuberosum is substantially thicker and more

bulbous than that of the rest of the species. The

white umbel, which grows from the center of the

branching stalk, does not appear until the second

year. For this reason, most hobby gardeners are

unfamiliar with flowering parsley. The flowering

period is from June to July. The gray-brown, 2 to 3

mm long fruits mature on the ten- to twentyflower

pedicels, which are arranged on the umbel

in a radial manner.

Parsley can be confused with the only other

member of the genus, Petroselinum segetum (L.)

Koch. It is also very similar to the toxic dog parsley

(Aethusa cynapium L.) and poison hemlock

(Conium maculatum) (Frank 1994, 106).

Psychoactive Material

- Herbage (petroselini herba, folia petroselini,

herba petroselini, parsley leaves), fresh or dried

- Seeds (semen petroselini, petroselini fructus)

- Parsley fruit oil (petroselinum aetheroleum e

fructibus, oleum petroselini, parsley seed oil,

grtines apiol, apiolum)

- Root (petroselini radix, radix petroselini,

parsley root)
Preparation and Dosage

The subspecies crispum is used primarily for its

herbage, while the subspecies tuberosum is used

chiefly for its root.

A daily medicinal dose is regarded as 6 g of the

dried herbage (Frank 1994, 115). For the ingestion

of powdered parsley fruits, a therapeutic single

dose is 1 g. For a cold- or hot-water extract, a daily

dose is listed as 1 to 3 g of seeds crushed shortly

before being steeped (112). A hot-water extract or

infusion should be allowed to steep for five to ten


Parsley fruit oil is obtained by distilling the

mature fruits. The composition of the oil varies

depending on the chemical race (see "Constituents").

As a result, the different oils have correspondingly

different applications and dosages.

The oil of the apiol race is used to induce abortions.

For this purpose, either a single dose of up

to 10.8 g or a daily dose of 1 g for one to two weeks

is ingested (Frank 1994, 109). Only the oil of the

myristicin race can be used for psychoactive purposes

(cf. Myristica fragrans). Unfortunately, no

reliable information regarding dosages is available.Ritual Use

Parsley herbage played a magical and apotropaic

role in the customs of central Europe:

In Moravia, the plant makes the influence of

witches upon cows ineffective if it is sown

between the 24th and the 26th of June. In

many communities, a wreath of parsley is

placed on a child's head on its first birthday,

for it has then survived the most dangerous

time. According to a widely held superstition,

pulling a parsley root from the ground will

bring death to that person who was thought of

when it was planted. In Galacia, the Ruthenian

bride carries bread and parsley on the way to

the church so as to ward off evil spirits. Garlic

and parsley are tied to the linen cloth under

which a woman in labor lies in order to

protect her from magic. (Schopf 1986, 124*)



Medicinal Use

Parsley herbage is used in folk medicine to purify

the blood and to treat diseases of the urinary tract.

In homeopathy, both an essence of the fresh herbage-Petroselinum-Petersilie (Petroselinum

crispurn hom. HAB1, Petroselinum sativum hom.

HPUS88)-and a tincture made from the mature

fruits-Petroselinum e seminibus-are used

(Schneider 1974,3:43*).


The entire plant contains an essential oil consisting

of myristicin, p-apiol (= parsley camphor),

monoterpenes, and sesquiterpenes. The seeds

contain the highest concentration of essential oil

(2 to 6%; average 2.70/0) (Czygan 1989, 268;

Fuhner 1943, 240*; Roth et al. 1994, 552*). Three

chemotypes (chemical races) have been distinguished

on the basis of the principal constituents

of the essential oil of the mature fruits (Frank

1994, 106; Warncke 1992):

- Myristicin race, with 49 to 77% myristicin, 0 to

30/0 apiol, and 1 to 23% allyltetramethoxybenzol

- Apiol race, with 58 to 80% apio!, 9 to 30%

myristicin, and up to 6% allyltetramethoxybenzol

- Allyltetramethoxybenzol race, with 50 to 60%

allyltetramethoxybenzol, 26 to 370/0 myristicin,

and traces of apiol

The essential oil of the root of the subspecies

tuberosum is composed chiefly of apiol (principal

constituent), ~-pinene, and myristicin but has

traces of elemicine, limonene, bisabolene, .sesquiphellandrene,

and germacrene-A (Czygan 1989,

370 f.; Frank 1994, 116). The herbage contains

flavones (apiine) and furanocoumarin (cf. coumarins).

The fruits are rich in a fatty oil (petroselinic

acid). The roots contain polyacetylene and

furanocoumarin. Parsley herbage has a high vitamin C content (165 mg per 100 g) and also

contains nicotine amide and considerable potassium

(1 %).


The essential oil of the apiol race has powerful

abortive effects (Fuhner 1943, 240*) and also can

induce coma (Frank 1994, 109). The essential oil

of the myristicin race has primarily psychoactive

and inebriating effects comparable to those of

Myristicafragrans (Czygan 1989,369).

Commercial Forms and Regulations

Fresh parsley is one of the most commonly sold

herb seasonings. The dried herbage, the seeds, and

the dried root (chopped drug) can be procured in

herb shops and pharmacies (without restriction).

The seeds can also be obtained in flower shops.


See also the entries for witches' ointments and

essential oils.

Czygan, Franz-Christian. 1989. Petersilienfrtichte

[and] Petersilienwurzel. In Teedrogen, ed. M.

Wichtl, 368-69 and 370-71. Stuttgart: WVG.

(Two separate articles.)

Frank, Bruno. 1994. Petroselinum. In Hagers

Handbueh der pharmazeutisehen Praxis, 5th ed.,

6:105-19. Berlin: Springer.

Warncke, D. 1992. Untersuchungen tiber die

Zusammensetzung der atherischen Ole von

Petroselinum erispum (Mill.) A.W. Hill und

Petroselinum segetum (L.) Koch unter besonderer

Berticksichtigung von Handelsdrogen und

Handelsolen. Diss. (biology),Wtirzburg.

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