PARSLEY (Petroselinum crispum): Origin: native to the Mediterranean region. This plant is symbolic of victory and dedicated to Zeus. Parsley also was associated with the goddess Persephone, who was kidnaped by Hades but allowed leave the underworld to return to the earth’s surface in spring and summer. Parsley was woven into crowns and worn at dinner by ancient Greeks to increase gaiety and to increase appetite. In antiquity, Greeks strewed their tombs with parsley, since it was considered by the ancients to be associated with oblivion and death. The Romans associated parsley with the god Mercury and also planted it on graves. Through the Medieval period, chewing parsley thought to relieve intestinal gas, cough, and effects of snakebite. Crushed parsley seeds were thought able to remove freckles, and to get rid of head and body lice. During the Dark Ages, Christians in Europe were forbidden to transplant parsley in the belief that doing so invited death and crop failure.

The Gerarde herbal described the virtues of parsley: the seeds are an excellent medicine, and make a person thin; they open and provoke urine; dissolve kidney stones; when given to women after delivery they bring away the birth and afterbirth. Parsley seeds also used to treat cough and resist poisons.

The Culpeper herbal says: parsley is comfortable to the stomach; provokes urine and women’s courses; opens obstructions of the liver and spleen; and is recommended against the falling sickness. Parsley will ease the pains and torments of kidney stones; is effective against the venom of any poisonous creature. Parsley in distilled water given by nurses to children will reduce have wind in the stomach or belly which they call the frets. Parsley leaves applied to inflamed eyes will reduce swelling. If a woman’s breasts are hard due to curdled milk, parsley leaves mixed with bread or meal and fried in butter may be applied and the condition will abate quickly. Parsley leaves can be used to remove black and blue marks from bruises or falls. Parsley juice when mixed with wine and dripped into the ear, eases pain. Culpeper provided recipe to treat jaundice and the falling sickness, dropsy, and kidney stones:

Take the seed of Parsley, Fennel, Annise and Carraways, of each an ounce; of the roots of Parsley, Burnet, Saxifrag, and Carraways, of each an ounce and a half; let the seeds be bruised, and the roots washed and cut small; let them lie all night to steep in a bottle of white wine, and in the morning be boiled in a close earthen vessel until a third part or more be wasted; which being strained and cleared, take four ounces thereof morning and evening, first and last, abstaining from drink after it for three hours. This opens obstructions of the liver and spleen, and expels the dropsy and jaundice by urine.

A Medieval British tradition said: “fried parsley brings a man to his saddle, and a woman to her grave.” A form of native parsley was reported by Richard Hakluyt in 1582, and the domesticated form was introduced to Peru from Spain in the mid-16th century, and to settlements in North America (Virginia) by 1612. A number of European and American traditions hold that if parsley is planted on Good Friday it will grow and flourish but if planted the day before Good Friday nothing will come up. Throughout Europe parsley wine has been considered an aphrodisiac for both men and women. Many British of the 19th century believed that if too much parsley grew in one’s garden, a family would have only girls. Another British tradition held that if a woman of childbearing age sowed parsley, she would become pregnant before it germinated. It is widely believed that if parsley is chewed after eating onions or garlic, all traces of those foods on the breath are removed. It is said that the wife dominates the family if parsley in the garden remains green throughout the year, alternatively, whoever plants parsley and it flourishes will be the head of household; parsley flourishes only when planted by a witch; if parsley in one’s garden is needed throughout the year, it must be planted on Good Friday; parsley seeds visit the Devil three-seven-nine times before it grows and flourishes; never transplant or give away parsley as gifts, lest the recipient become ill and or bring bad luck stories abound in rural England that children who ask about the origin of babies are told – babies are dug up from parsley beds using golden shovels; women recently delivered encouraged to eat much parsley for quick recuperation. An old English saying goes: Parsley grows for the wicked but not for the just.

(Summarized from: Gerarde, 1597, pp. 860-862; de la Vega, [1609/1966] 9:29, pp. 601-602; Culpeper, 1653, p. 131; Thiselton-Dyer, 1889, p. 184; Colin, 1962, p. 68; Lehner and Lehner, 1962, p. 107; Northcote, 1971, pp. 34-36; Powell, 1977, p. 109; Priestley and Priestley, 1979, pp. 95-96; Vickery, 1995, pp. 272-275; Grivetti, 2004, pp. 97-98).

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