This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
Garden Parsley was not cultivated in England until during Edward the Sixth's reign (1548). We use it rather as a garnish, and for stuffing, together with other herbs, than for any medicinal purposes. Nevertheless, it possesses, in root, and branch, potential virtues for the sick, and ailing; though in the present day a Parsley bed is associated rather with those who come into the world, than with those who would guard themselves against leaving it. Proverbially this herb patch in the garden is held out as the fertile source of new-born brothers, and sisters, when appearing (unexpectedly by the other youngsters) suddenly within the limits of the family circle. In Germanybabies are "brought by the stork." The Parsley root is faintly aromatic, and has a sweetish taste. It contains a chemical principle "apiin," with sugar, starch, and an aromatic volatile oil. Likewise the fruit furnishes the same volatile oil in larger abundance, this oil comprising parsley-camphor, and "apiol" the true essential oil of Parsley). Such "apiol" is dispensed by our druggists, and is of singular use for correcting female irregularities of periodical function.
Country folk in many places think it unlucky to sow Parsley, or to move its roots; and a rustic adage puts it that "Fried Parsley brings a man to his saddle, and a woman to her grave." The bruised leaves when applied externally, will serve to soften breasts which are hard in early lactation, and to resolve them whilst nursing when knotty, and painful, with threatened abscess. Likewise the bruised leaves have successfully dispelled tumours suspected to be cancerous, when more orthodox remedies had failed. It is quite certain that the dispersion, or healing of cancerous growths, and tumours, have followed administration of this, and other herbal medicaments, even in advanced cases of an undeniably malignant character: such remedies to wit as Celandine, Clover, Comfrey, Cinnamon, and Violets. If cause and effect are at work in such cases, it is possible that some occult common principle underlies, and runs through them all, which has yet to be discovered. Though used so commonly at table, yet Parsley is proved by indisputable facts to have induced epilepsy in certain bodily systems when eaten to excess, particularly whilst uncooked.
Alston says: "I have observed, after raw Parsley has been eaten freely, a fulness of the blood-vessels about the head, and an inflamed state of the eyes, with congestion of the face, as if the cravat were too tight." The name was formerly spelt "Percely," and the adjective title "petroselinum" signifies growing on a rook. In Prance a rustic application to scrofulous swellings is successfully used, which consists of green Parsley, and snails, pounded together in a mortar to the thickness of an ointment, some of which is spread on linen, and applied liberally every day. Parsley tea exercises a decided action on the lining membrane of the urinary passages, and may be given helpfully when this is sore, or inflamed. The essential oil of Parsley-has proved beneficial against epilepsy in certain subjects. The excellence of Parsley-sauce - useful as a medicament always depends on chopping the fresh green leaves very small. Take a handful of fresh Parsley, wash it, bruise the stalks, and boil them with the leaves for ten minutes in only a little water; then chop them small, first picking out the tough woody pieces; put them into a sauce boat, with some of the liquor in which they were boiled, and pour well-made white sauce (not rich with melted butter) over them.
When "Aux fines herbes' 'is directed in cookery, Parsley is practically intended, though a mixture of tarragon, Parsley, chervil, shalots, chives, basil, and mushrooms, chopped, and sweated in fat, may be signified as well.
"One morning in the garden bed The onion and the carrot said Unto the parsley group: ' Oh, when shall we three meet again. In thunder, lightning, hail, or rain? ' Alas! ' replied, in tones of pain The parsley, ' in the soup.' "
Botanically, all the Parsleys show themselves singularly wise in their generation; having many single, diminutive, insignificant-looking flowers (which furnish the nectar), they agree to unite these in one important-seeming umbel. Nevertheless, none but small fry, such as gnats, thrips, ants, and flies can effect entrance so as to possess themselves of the honey in the tiny florets; and thus it is that the whole umbel by way of attractiveness simply for such insects, displays only neutral work-a-day tints warranted to wear well, and to wash until thread-bare, instead of the brilliant blues, the warm reds, and the gay golden yellows, of those richly-decorated corollae which serve to allure painted butterflies, and lepidopterous lordlings.