When it comes to the survival garden, those of us with insufficient space or inadequate growing conditions feel kind of stuck. Rather than fight to overcome environmental conditions beyond our control, I have been actively promoting the establishment of a medicinal or health-related garden in lieu of a food garden.
The most obvious reason is that herbs, spices, and other medicinal plants do not take a lot of room and many can be grown in pots either indoors or outdoors. Perhaps a more important reason is this: given a survival situation, traditional healthcare and medicines may be difficult to get so having supplies of herbs and the knowledge of how to use them will become invaluable.
Furthermore, as much as I believe in the healing power of essential oils, during an extended embargo on new goods coming into the marketplace, stocks of essential oils will be depleted and may become as difficult to come by an traditional medicines. The only difference is that essential oils can be purchased in quantity and stockpiled in the same manner as food storage.
With that introduction, I would like to call your attention to the health benefits of parsley, an easy to grow herb that is readily available as seeds. First, with the able assistance of Carmella Tyrell, I will address the basics of parsley as an herbal power house.
Survival Plants in Action: The Parsley Power House
Have you ever been so poor that you didn’t know what you were going to eat until your next pay day? In a time of major social collapse, even if you stockpile enough gold to fill Fort Knox, there simply may not be enough food to buy. As someone who has gone through some tough times, I can tell you that super nutrient dense foods are critically important. Believe it or not, one of the best foods, parsley, may be as close as the herb pot sitting on your window sill.
As a survival food and medicine, few can rival parsley for delivering important key nutrients in a small space. This article will give you information on the hidden nutritional benefits of parsley, medicinal value, and how to grow it for survival needs.
What is Parsley?
Parsley, or Petroselinum crispum, is a biennial herb that traces its origins back to the Mediterranean region. Not surprisingly, it is featured often in Italian cuisine and has become a favorite herb throughout the world. There are three basic types of parsley:
- Italian/ Flat Leaf Parsley – this form has flat, dark green pointy leaves on a single stem. In order to make more leaves, additional stems will come up from the root. This variety has the strongest flavor and is recommended for its medicinal value and nutrients.
- Curly Leaf Parsley – Curly parsley has leaves that look like they are all rumpled up. Their growth habit is similar to Italian Parsley in the sense that new leaves come up from the roots instead of branching off from existing stems. Other than being more bitter than Italian Parsley, this variety is milder in taste, but still carries most of the nutrient and medicinal properties.
- German/ Hamburg Parsley – German Parsley tends to have flat leaves that grow on longer stems. This variety is used mostly for its roots, which have a mild flavor. Nutritionally and medicinally speaking, the roots have similar value to Italian and Curly Leaf varieties.
The Surprising Nutritional Value of Parsley
Did you know that 30 grams of parsley (½ cup) have half a full day’s supply of Vitamin C? That’s 3x more than what you would get in a single orange. If you think that’s a lot of vitamins packed into a tiny amount, have a look at some other key nutrients packed into that same ½ cup:
- 30 grams of parsley yields 41 mg of calcium compared to just 30 mg in spinach and 38 mg in milk.
- 30 grams of parsley also has 1.88 mg of iron compared to between .6 and .8 mg in the same amount of beef. To add insult to injury, the iron found in beef and most other meat sources will be absorbed by your body whether you need it or not. Plant-based sources of iron found in parsley and other plants are referred to as “non-heme”iron because your body will only take in the iron if it is needed. This reduces the number of free radicals that get into your body, which reduces your risk of developing cancer.
- 30 grams of parsley also yields over 500 times more Vitamin K than you need for a full day’s supply. Since your body cannot absorb or use calcium without Vitamin K, lack of this vitamin leads to poor bone health. In addition, lack of Vitamin K also increases the risk of brain damage from Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Parsley is also an excellent source of Vitamin A and folate. It also has good, easily digestible amounts of copper, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus.
- On a scale of 0 to 100% in terms of a complete source of all needed nutrients, Parsley scores a whopping 91%. Parsley is also high in protein and contains almost all the required amino acids for good health.
Medicinal Benefits of Parsley
Aside from the known benefits that come from many nutrients found in parsley, this herb also has medicinal properties that range from acting as a diuretic to fighting cancer to treating diabetes, lowering blood pressure, and reducing anxiety levels.
Here are some of the key compounds that may reach therapeutic levels in parsley essential oil and other preparations:
- Apigenin– can be used to shrink breast cancer tumors. Apigenin may also help prevent prostate, breast, and skin cancer. It is also a powerful anti-inflammatory and may also help with neural disorders.
- Eugenol – has some antibacterial properties, and can also act as a pain reliever. Eugenol also contributes to the anti-inflammatory effects of Parsley and can reduce pain and swelling from rheumatoid arthritis. Some research also shows that Eugenol can help lower blood sugar levels by making body cells more sensitive to insulin. This is especially important for Type II diabetics.
- Chyrsoeriol– helps lower blood pressure and relax blood vessels.
- Luteolin– has been used in Chinese medicine as an anti-inflammatory, to fight cancer, and reduce allergic reactions.
- Imperatorin – inhibits skin, stomach, and lung cancer.
Newbies and advanced herbal medicine users can easily be lulled into thinking that parsley and other medicinal foods can be consumed without worrying about side effects. While eating parsley has many health benefits, care must still be taken to avoid the following problems:
- If you are inclined to get calcium-oxalate kidney stones, it may be best to avoid parsley because it is high in oxalates. That being said, if you have no problems with spinach, beets, rhubarb, okra, swiss chard, peanuts, almonds, quinoa, wheat germ, and bran flakes, then parsley may be an additional nutrient source to consider.
- Since Vitamin K helps the blood clot, parsley can interfere with the blood thinning action of Coumadin and several other drugs.
- Parsley is also known to increase uterine contractions. As such, if you are pregnant, consuming parsley can cause a miscarriage.
- Even though higher concentrations of Eugenol have therapeutic value, they can also cause liver damage. As with any other medication, start with the lowest possible dose so that you do not risk taking more than is needed to treat the medical condition.
- Myristicin is readily concentrated in essential oil made from parsley. This compound can cause dizziness, headaches, and hallucinations. If you must use essential oil of Parsley, use it in the most minimal amounts.
How to Grow Parsley for Food and Medicine
Parsley is one of the easiest plants to grow indoors and outdoors. It does well in most climates and will produce plenty of healthy green leaves within just a few weeks. Parsley prefers full to partial sun and well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Even though the seeds take longer to germinate than some others, the plants catch up quickly and remain strong producers throughout the growing season.
No matter whether you decide to grow parsley indoors or out, make sure that you won’t have to move the plants for at least two years. Parsley produces one single, deep root that does not adapt well to being moved or disturbed. When planting indoors, it is better to choose a deep pot so that you don’t have to worry about transplanting.
Be sure to choose heirloom or non-hybrid seeds so that you can save seeds to start a new generation of plants. Since parsley is a biennial, you will only get a chance to collect seeds in the second year of the plant’s life. Unlike many other plants, you cannot start new parsley plants from rhizomes. Some people claim that they have successfully grown parsley from cuttings, however, I have not been successful with these methods. You can still try it if you have extra leaves on hand and want to experiment.
Once you pick parsley, it will only last a few days before rotting. Therefore, if you plan to harvest a large amount, you should also be ready to begin drying on the same day.
When harvesting parsley, try to cut leaves from the outer areas and work inward. If there is still time left in the season, this will make it easier for the plant to continue growing and producing more leaves. Without a question, if you want to season foods and only need a few sprigs, selecting the outermost leaves will give you plenty to work with and reduce the risk of damaging the plant.
Have you been looking for super foods or super herbs that will cover a range of needs in a crisis situation? If so, then parsley may be an herb that you may have overlooked because it is so common and readily available.
Author’s Note: My gratitude to Gaye Levy for giving me a chance to guest post! It is my sincere hope that readers of this site gain good value from this post and that in time of need, this information will help save lives.
About Carmela Tyrrell – I have been a prepper for many years and enjoy applying gardening, homemaking, and other skills to this fascinating subject. I am always looking for new ways to live a better life by cutting reliance on all things “municipal” and embracing self-sustainable living. Please see survivorsfortress.com for more of my articles on different aspects of prepping.
Parsley Tea for Bladder and UTI Discomfort
One very useful application for parsley is in a tea. Because the volatile oil in it’s leave and roots have diuretic properties, minor bladder problems can be treated by drinking 3 or 4 cups a day.
To make a parsley tea, add 1 teaspoon of minced parsley to a cup of boing water and let it steep for five minutes. Strain and drink.
The Final Word
Parsley was one of the first herbs I grew as I was cultivating my green thumb back in the 70s. I don’t know about elsewhere, but here in the Pacific Northwest, parsley is a biennial which means we get two years of growth for the price of one. Late in the second year, the plant bolts and seed develop. Many of these seeds will germinate and become volunteers in subsequent years, thus providing a never ending supply of parsley.
Before closing, I want to add a word about using parsley for bad breath. Parsley is often prescribed as a remedy for bad breath and it certainly works better than breath sprays after consuming a meal laden with garlic. That said, parsley will not cure chronic bad breath that is caused by some underlying health or dental issue.
Still, it does a fantastic job of temporarily freshening the breath. In a survival situation where we may be in close quarters with others, having some fresh sprigs of parsley in the garden might make an unpleasant situation a bit for tolerable.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!