Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Susan B. Collins, RN

Rather than back to the future, many head forward to the past, as in slow cooking instead of fast food. The more technological we become, the more we loose touch with things that make us human. We no longer speak to people on the telephone, but to machines with answers to questions we’ve never asked. An artificially automated world makes us long to touch the natural world. Particularly poignant is medicine where artificial remedies have replaced natural. As a part of the push into the past, we plan an occasional “Scarborough Fair” series on the medicinal uses of “parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.”

A case in point is Mark, my first child. Every afternoon he was colicky, crying inconsolably in pain. As evening approached, he stopped and went to sleep. Finally, the woman who cared for him while I worked told me to crush a thin layer of fennel seeds between two table spoons. After crushing the seeds, she said, “Simmer them in 8 ounces of water for 10 minutes, and after the liquid cools, strain it, and put it in a bottle for him to sip.” The next afternoon I tried it and within ten minutes he stopped crying and took a nap.

Keeping it in the family, my grandson Johnathon, also, cried as an infant. This time his great grandmother Ruth suggested parsley tea. She had learned about it from her other daughter’s Italian mother-in-law. I chopped up a tablespoon of parsley and poured boiling water over it as with regular tea and let it steep for 10 minutes. When it cooled, I strained, bottled, and gave it to the baby. He burped, relaxed, and went quietly to sleep. Parsley is an excellent carminative, that is, it relieves stomach pain. While useful for nausea and vomiting and as a diuretic, parsley tea works well when other remedies have failed to calm the stomach.

Native plants were used for medicinal purposes long before the arrival of “Better Living through Chemistry.” The French, as well as smart restaurants, place a sprig or two of parsley along with their entrĂ©es. Not just an adornment, a sprig when chewed, calms the stomach and clears the mouth, its high chlorophyll content refreshing the breath.

Parsley’s botanical Latin name is: Petroselinum crispum. Some varieties have small curly leaves and others broader leaves. Widely-used as a versatile herb in the kitchen, it’s also useful for medicinal purposes. As a natural diuretic, it helps relieve water retention but saves the potassium. A WARNING: too much, that is, 2 cups or more daily, can irritate the kidneys and bladder, and, in case of pregnancy, it shouldn’t be used at medicinal strength because it can cause uterine contractions.

Parsley can be made into a tincture by covering the sifted and dried stems and leaves with vodka until they float. Vodka has the right ratio of alcohol to water. Shake the bottle daily and after two weeks strain out the stems and leaves. Put the strained liquid in a brown bottle with a dropper and refrigerate. The tincture then can be added to water and used for the stomach and urinary tract.

Containing many vitamins and minerals, vitamins A and C, calcium, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin, parsley is effective for anemia. A tea made from parsley leaves is can also be used as a tonic.

Growing the plant from seeds is sometimes difficult but worth the effort. Garden centers sell parsley seedlings. Fresh parsley is a staple in local supermarkets. Pots of parsley often adorn kitchen window sills during the winter weather. A perennial, it is more often grown as an annual. While the leaves can be used anytime, during the winter the plant produces flowers and seeds with fewer leaves and stems. The leaves can be cut anytime, dried, and stored for future use.

More information about growing medicinal plants is available in Growing and Using Healing Herbs by Gaea and Shandor Weiss, Rodale Press, Emmaus, PA, c.1985.

Anyone desiring more information about using herbs medicinally may contact Sue Collins, RN, Family Nurse Practitioner and Certified Herbalist, at suecollins46@msn.com.

(Susan B. Collins is a Master Gardener volunteer. Dana Prom Smith, a Master Gardener volunteer, is coordinating editor for the Master Gardener Column. He can be contacted at stpauls@npgcable.com. For more information about the Master Gardener Program, call Hattie Braun, Coordinator of the Master Gardener Program, at 774-1868 ext.17 or visit our Web Site: highelevationgardening.arizona.edu.)

No comments: