Parsley is a popular and versatile herb that adds a mild flavor to many dishes. Oftentimes you'll see it added to your plate for a more attractive presentation. However, parsley actually provides a number of benefits that you may be missing out on if you only use it as a garnish — for instance, it is made into a versatile essential oil with many uses. Learn more about parsley oil in this article.
What Is Parsley Oil?
Parsley oil is extracted from Petroselinum crispum, a hardy and fragrant biennial herb from the Apiaceae family.1 Parsley is native to the Mediterranean region, but is now grown in gardens worldwide as a versatile culinary herb. Its name is derived from the Greek word "petros," which means "stone," as this plant often grows in rocky terrains.2
Parsley reaches only 1 to 2 feet in height before flowering and thrives best in areas with partial shade.3 There are two common types of parsley: Italian parsley, also known as flat-leaf parsley and popular in Mediterranean countries; and curly leaf parsley. Between the two, Italian parsley has a more intense flavor, making it a more popular choice for cooking.
In culinary applications, freshly picked parsley is preferred. Simply wash the leaves and stems, chop into small pieces and then sprinkle over the dish before serving.
Parsley oil, on the other hand must be extracted from the seeds, roots and leaves of the plant. The seeds actually contain more essential oils, although the entire plant can be used for making the oil. Parsley oil is either colorless or a very pale yellow color, and has a more bitter scent compared to the fresh plant.
Uses of Parsley Oil
In industrial applications, parsley oil is used as an ingredient for soaps, cosmetics, detergents, colognes and perfumes, especially men's fragrances.4 It also has aromatherapeutic uses and has been used to treat various illnesses, including jaundice and malaria.5 This oil also has antibacterial and antifungal properties that can help treat pimples, acne and skin infections, as well as disinfect pores.
Diluted parsley oil can also be massaged onto the scalp to help prevent hair loss.7 However, do NOT use undiluted parsley oil topically (especially concentrated formulations) because it can burn your skin. Instead, you can:6
• Dilute parsley oil in a carrier oil like olive or almond oil and then apply it to the face. Leave it for at least 30 minutes before rinsing.
• Mix a drop of parsley oil with tea tree oil and apple cider vinegar and use as a toner to help keep your skin blemish-free.
Composition of Parsley Oil
The principal constituents of parsley oil include a-terpinene, a-pinene, apiole, a crystalline substance, as well as myristicine, glucoside apiin, palmitic acid, oleoresin and tetramethoxyally-benzene.8 It also contains certain flavonoids such as apigenin, appiin luteolin and crisoeriol.9
Benefits of Parsley Oil
Parsley oil exhibits antimicrobial, antiseptic, astringent, carminative, digestive, diuretic, and detoxifying properties. It can be useful for various health ailments, such as:
• Infections — Parsley oil can help kill microbes and inhibit their growth, protecting you from various infections and diseases.
• Rheumatism and arthritis — These are diseases that result from obstructed blood circulation and the accumulation of uric acid in the muscles and joints. Parsley helps detoxify your body of toxins and refreshes your blood. It also increases circulation, which helps relieve pain brought on by these ailments.
• Digestive issues — Parsley oil's carminative properties can help relieve and treat indigestion, nausea, flatulence, vomiting and stomach aches.
Animal studies have also found that parsley's potent volatile oils, particularly myristicin, may help inhibit tumor formation, especially in the lungs. This means that parsley and its essential oil potentially have chemoprotective properties.
How to Make Parsley Oil Infusion
Most parsley oil brands sold today are highly concentrated and are made via steam distillation. However, you can easily make an edible oil infusion in your kitchen. Here are the steps: 10, 11
• Boil a pot of water. Once it's boiling, blanch the parsley, stems intact: Simply place the parsley in a sieve and put it into the boiling water for 10 seconds and then immediately remove and transfer to a bowl of iced water for a few seconds, until the parsley is cold. Dry the parsley on paper towels.
• Place the parsley in a blender along with a cup of the olive oil and blend completely or until the paste turns a bright green color. Do not let the blender run for too long, though, as the friction may create heat, causing the color of the parsley to fade.
• Transfer the parsley paste into a clean glass jar. Add the remaining oil and shake well, then cover tightly. Place in the refrigerator for a day. You'll notice that the herbs will settle to the bottom of the jar.
• Put an unbleached coffee filter over another glass jar and then ladle the parsley mixture into the filter. Let it drain.
You can drizzle this parsley oil infusion over your salads, adding a beautiful green color and flavor to them. You can also use it to decorate serving plates. Mix it in a vinaigrette, add it to a cold soup or use it to garnish chicken or fish. Refrigerated, it will stay fresh for a week. For a longer shelf life, store it in the freezer.
How Does Parsley Oil Work?
Parsley oil's health benefits mostly come from its unique plant compounds. For example, apigenin was found to be a potent antioxidant that has anticarcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties. Meanwhile, the apiole is associated with antispasmodic and vasodilatory effects.12
While fresh parsley leaves can be consumed or added to facial masks and other homemade natural remedies, the same cannot be said for parsley essential oil. Most brands are highly concentrated and, if used incorrectly or in excessive amounts, may actually do more harm than good. When utilized as an essential oil, you should always dilute parsley oil with a carrier oil.
Is Parsley Oil Safe?
I do not recommend the aromatherapeutic use of parsley oil without the supervision of a qualified health care practitioner. Do not ingest this oil, especially in large amounts, as it can be hepatotoxic, meaning it may cause severe liver damage. Do not use it if you are suffering from any liver-related ailments.
I also advise pregnant women and nursing moms to avoid using this oil because it is an abortifacient, meaning it can induce spontaneous abortion. Do not use this oil on very young children either. When applying topically, dilute parsley oil in a safe carrier oil like olive, almond or coconut oil. I also advise doing a skin patch test before using this oil to make sure that you do not have allergic reactions to it.
Side Effects of Parsley Oil
Parsley oil contains oleoresin which, according to research, acts as a distinct stimulus on your brain's and spine's nerve centers. Beware: In large amounts, it can produce the opposite of the desired effect and may be dangerous. Watch for symptoms like sudden low blood pressure, giddiness, deafness and slow pulse. Seek a doctor immediately if you experience any of these effects.