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Apiaceae (Umbelliferae) (Carrot Family);
Subfamily Apioideae, Amminae Tribe
Forms and Subspecies
The species is divided into two subspecies (Frank
Petroselinum crispum ssp. crispum (leaf parsley;
has a smooth-leaved and a crisp-leaved form,
as well as three chemotypes [see
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.
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
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).
- 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*)
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
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
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
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 undHandelsolen. Diss. (biology),Wtirzburg.