Parsley is a popular and versatile herb that adds a mild flavor to many dishes. Oftentimes you’ll see it added to your dish 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 one to two 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 is said to have 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, is extracted from the seeds, roots, and leaves of the plant. The seeds actually contain more essential oils, although the entire plant can be actually 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.
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.
Diluted parsley oil can also be massaged onto the scalp to help prevent hair loss.7
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 like 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 relieves 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
Most parsley oil brands sold today are highly concentrated and are made via steam distillation. However, you can easily make an edible version in your kitchen. Here’s are the steps: 10,11
3 bunches flat-leaf parsley
3 cups olive oil (you can also use coconut oil)
Boil a pot of water. Once it’s boiling, blanch the parsley, stems intact: simply place the parsley in a sieve 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 anti-carcinogenic 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.
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 abortion. Do not use this oil on very young children as well.
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 out for symptoms like sudden low blood pressure, giddiness, deafness, and slow pulse. Seek a doctor immediately if you experience any of these effects.
If you’re going to be undergoing a medical procedure, or you struggle with chronic pain, reaching for your playlist may be as good as reaching for a bottle of pain pills.
The power of music for relaxation, stress relief, and pain reduction is undeniable, although individual research studies proving the same were too small to show a strong connection.
That all changed when researchers pooled the data from 73 randomized clinical trials focusing on the role of music among surgery patients. Researcher Dr. Catherine Meads at Brunel University told NPR:1
"As the studies themselves were small, they really didn't find all that much… But once we put them all together, we had much more power to find whether music worked or not."
Music Reduces Pain Before, During, and After Surgery
Given that music is non-invasive, safe, and inexpensive – and most people find it enjoyable – the researchers suggested hospitals should routinely offer it to patients. The study found music helped patients drop an average of two points on a 10-point pain scale, while also using significantly less pain medication.
This level of relief is comparable to that achieved by a dose of pain-relieving drugs. In addition to reductions in pain, less anxiety and more patient satisfaction were also noted.
Benefits were found when music was played before, during, or after surgery, and even music played while patients were under general anesthetic was effective. Although in many cases the patients themselves chose the music, music was beneficial regardless of the type of music played or who selected it.
About the only downside noted was that several studies found music played in operating rooms may make it harder for surgical staff to hear directions, potentially increasing the risk of errors. This can be remedied by reserving the music for before and after the actual procedure.
Music Works Better Than Anti-Anxiety Drugs
After reviewing 400 studies, another meta-analysis revealed listening to music resulted in less anxiety and lower cortisol levels among patients about to undergo surgery than taking anti-anxiety drugs.2
Other evidence showed music has an impact on antibodies linked to immunity and may lead to higher levels of bacteria-fighting cells. Still more research revealed that playing music in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) improved the health of premature babies with respiratory distress or sepsis.3
When parents sang to their babies, or sounds mimicking those in the womb were played, numerous benefits occurred, including changes in heart rates, sucking behavior, and parents’ stress levels. The researchers noted:
“Entrained with a premature infant’s observed vital signs, sound and lullaby may improve feeding behaviors and sucking patterns and may increase prolonged periods of quiet–alert states. Parent-preferred lullabies, sung live, can enhance bonding, thus decreasing the stress parents associate with premature infant care.”
How Does Music Help with Pain and Anxiety Relief?
While some have suggested music serves as a distraction from pain, others believe there are intrinsic qualities in music that make it so effective. Music has been used since ancient times as a form of healing; even the ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras reported used stringed instruments to practice “musical medicine.”4
It’s now known, however, that music triggers activity in the nucleus accumbens, a part of your brain that releases the feel-good chemical dopamine and is involved in forming expectations.
At the same time, the amygdala, which is involved in processing emotion, and the prefrontal cortex, which controls abstract decision-making, are also activated, according to research published in the journal Science.5
Based on the brain activity in certain regions, especially the nucleus accumbens, captured by an fMRI imager while participants listened to music, the researchers could predict how much money the listeners were willing to spend on previously unheard music.
Songs that triggered activity in the emotional and intellectual areas of the brain demanded a higher price.
Interestingly, the study’s lead author noted that your brain learns how to predict how different pieces of music will unfold using pattern recognition and prediction, skills that may have been key to our evolutionary progress. Time reported:6
“These predictions are culture-dependent and based on experience: someone raised on rock or Western classical music won’t be able to predict the course of an Indian raga, for example, and vice versa.
But if a piece develops in a way that’s both slightly novel and still in line with our brain’s prediction, we tend to like it a lot. And that, says [lead researcher] Salimpoor, ‘is because we’ve made a kind of intellectual conquest.’
Music may, in other words, tap into a brain mechanism that was key to our evolutionary progress. The ability to recognize patterns and generalize from experience, to predict what’s likely to happen in the future — in short, the ability to imagine — is something humans do far better than any other animals. It’s what allowed us (aided by the far less glamorous opposable thumb) to take over the world.”
Music Therapy Is a Growing Field
Music therapy is a bona fide profession that’s been around since the 20th century (although, as mentioned, the use of music for healing has been going on for centuries). According to the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA):7
“The 20th century discipline began after World War I and World War II when community musicians of all types, both amateur and professional, went to Veterans hospitals around the country to play for the thousands of veterans suffering both physical and emotional trauma from the wars.
The patients' notable physical and emotional responses to music led the doctors and nurses to request the hiring of musicians by the hospitals. It was soon evident that the hospital musicians needed some prior training before entering the facility and so the demand grew for a college curriculum.
The first music therapy degree program in the world, founded at Michigan State University in 1944, celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1994.”
There are numerous ways to use music in the health care field. For instance, exposure to music may help people with Alzheimer’s disease to overcome neurolinguistic limitations, such as including more meaningful words and complex grammar when recalling memories.
When Alzheimer’s patients sat in rooms filled with music and were asked to tell a story about their life, their stories contained more meaningful words, were more grammatically complex, and conveyed more information (per number of words) than stories told in a silent room.8,9
This makes sense, as the study’s co-author noted, because “music and language processing share a common neural basis.”10 It's long been theorized that listening to music may boost your brainpower; you've probably heard of this with the "Mozart Effect," which suggests listening to classical music can make you smarter.
Indeed, research has shown listening to music while exercising boosts cognitive levels and verbal fluency skills in people diagnosed with coronary artery disease (coronary artery disease has been linked to a decline in cognitive abilities). Signs of improvement in the verbal fluency areas more than doubled after listening to music compared to that of the non-music session.11 In addition, AMTA notes that music therapy may be useful for the following:
Alleviating acute and chronic pain
Promoting movement for physical rehabilitation
Calming or sedation
Counteracting apprehension or fear
Lessening muscle tension
Relaxation, including the autonomic nervous system
Strengthening communication skills
Improving physical coordination among special needs students
Exploring personal feelings
Making positive changes in mood and emotional states
Increase or maintain physical, mental, and social/emotional functioning in the elderly
Vital support for physical exercise
Assistance during labor and delivery
Substance abuse problems
Developmental and learning disabilities
Suffering from Chronic Pain? Try Music
While you can seek out a music therapist to work with you on an individual health problem, you’re free to use music to your advantage whenever the mood strikes. And, of course, it’s not only useful for surgical pain but can also be used to help relieve chronic pain as well. Technology has given us a simple way to harness the power of music by allowing you to create different playlists for exercising, relaxing, working, pain reduction, stress relief, and other important aspects of your day so you can instantly access the right music for your mood or activity.
Most studies suggest that it doesn’t matter what type of music you listen to, so just choose the types that appeal to you most. About the only exception is during exercise, when a faster tempo may be best. For instance, in one study when the music's tempo slowed, the subjects' exertion level reduced as well.12 And when the tempo was increased, their performance followed suit. So a faster temp should help keep up your intensity.
Outside of exercise, only you know the “best” music for you and that will inevitably change – not only day to day with your mood but also over time with the different chapters of your life and health challenges you may be addressing. Recent research suggests a striking number of Americans – more than 25 million – suffer from daily pain, and 14.4 million describe the pain as being severe.13 Oftentimes prescription drugs aren’t enough to control the pain, and they carry steep side effects, so alternative treatments are welcomed. Listening to music is one such alternative that is safe and available to virtually everyone.
Are You in Pain? Try This Before Drugs
If you are dealing with severe or chronic pain, my first suggestion would be to see a pain specialist who is familiar with alternative treatments and the underlying causes of pain. You need a knowledgeable practitioner who can help you attack the pain from multiple angles, giving you both relief and healing. This might involve music therapy or a combination of strategies, including those that follow:
The infrared wavelengths used in the K-Laser allow for targeting specific areas of your body, and can penetrate deeply into the body to reach areas such as your spine and hip. For more information about this groundbreaking technology, and how it can help heal chronic pain, please listen to my previous interview with Dr. Harrington.
Eliminate or radically reduce most grains and sugars from your diet. Avoiding grains and sugars will lower your insulin and leptin levels and decrease insulin and leptin resistance, which is one of the most important reasons why inflammatory prostaglandins are produced. That is why stopping sugar and sweets is so important to controlling your pain and other types of chronic illnesses.
Take a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat. My personal favorite is krill oil. Omega-3 fats are precursors to mediators of inflammation called prostaglandins. (In fact, that is how anti-inflammatory painkillers work, they manipulate prostaglandins.)
Optimize your production of vitamin D by getting regular, appropriate sun exposure, which will work through a variety of different mechanisms to reduce your pain.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is a drug-free approach for pain management of all kinds. EFT borrows from the principles of acupuncture, in that it helps you balance out your subtle energy system. It helps resolve underlying, often subconscious, and negative emotions that may be exacerbating your physical pain. By stimulating (tapping) well-established acupuncture points with your fingertips, you rebalance your energy system, which tends to dissipate pain.
K-Laser Class 4 Laser Therapy. If you suffer pain from an injury, arthritis, or other inflammation-based pain, I’d strongly encourage you to try out K-Laser therapy. It can be an excellent choice for many painful conditions, including acute injuries. By addressing the underlying cause of the pain, you will no longer need to rely on painkillers. K-Laser is a class 4 infrared laser therapy treatment that helps reduce pain, reduce inflammation, and enhance tissue healing — both in hard and soft tissues, including muscles, ligaments, or even bones.
Chiropractic. Many studies have confirmed that chiropractic management is much safer and less expensive than allopathic medical treatments, especially when used for pain, such as low-back pain. Qualified chiropractic, osteopathic, and naturopathic physicians are reliable, as they have received extensive training in the management of musculoskeletal disorders during their course of graduate healthcare training, which lasts between four to six years. These health experts have comprehensive training in musculoskeletal management.
Acupuncture can also effectively treat many kinds of pain. Research has discovered a "clear and robust" effect of acupuncture in the treatment of: back-, neck-, and shoulder pain, osteoarthritis, and headaches.
Astaxanthin is one of the most effective fat-soluble antioxidants known. It has very potent anti-inflammatory properties and in many cases works far more effectively than anti-inflammatory drugs. Higher doses are typically required and you may need 8 mg or more per day to achieve this benefit.
Ginger: This herb has potent anti-inflammatory activity and offers pain relief and stomach-settling properties. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea or grated into vegetable juice.
Curcumin: In a study of osteoarthritis patients, those who added 200 mg of curcumin a day to their treatment plan had reduced pain and increased mobility. A past study also found that a turmeric extract composed of curcuminoids blocked inflammatory pathways, effectively preventing the overproduction of a protein that triggers swelling and pain.14
Boswellia: Also known as boswellin or "Indian frankincense," this herb contains specific active anti-inflammatory ingredients. This is one of my personal favorites as I have seen it work well with many rheumatoid arthritis patients.
Bromelain: This enzyme, found in pineapples, is a natural anti-inflammatory. It can be taken in supplement form but eating fresh pineapple, including some of the bromelain-rich stem, may also be helpful.
Cetyl Myristoleate (CMO): This oil, found in fish and dairy butter, acts as a "joint lubricant" and an anti-inflammatory. I have used this for myself to relieve ganglion cysts and a mild annoying carpal tunnel syndrome that pops up when I type too much on non-ergonomic keyboards. I used a topical preparation for this.
Evening Primrose, Black Currant, and Borage Oils: These contain the essential fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which is useful for treating arthritic pain.
Cayenne Cream: Also called capsaicin cream, this spice comes from dried hot peppers. It alleviates pain by depleting the body's supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that transmits pain signals to your brain.
Medical cannabis has a long history as a natural analgesic,15 and many US states have legalized cannabis for medical purposes. Its medicinal qualities are due to high amounts (about 10 to 20 percent) of cannabidiol (CBD), medicinal terpenes, and flavonoids. As discussed in this previous post, varieties of cannabis exist that are very low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the psychoactive component of marijuana that makes you feel "stoned" — and high in medicinal CBD. The Journal of Pain,16 a publication by the American Pain Society, has a long list of studies on the pain-relieving effects of cannabis.
Volunteers ended up hallucinating and saw deformed facial traits and monsters.
A psychologist in Italy has figured out how to induce a drug-free altered state of consciousness by asking 20 volunteers to sit and stare into each other’s eyes for 10 minutes straight. Not only did the deceptively simple task bring on strange ‘out of body’ experiences for the volunteers, it also caused them to see hallucinations of monsters, their relatives, and themselves in their partner’s face.
The experiment, run by Giovanni Caputo from the University of Urbino, involved having 20 young adults (15 of which were women) pair off, sit in a dimly lit room 1 metre away from each other, and stare into their partner’s eyes for 10 minutes. The lighting in the room was bright enough for the volunteers to easily make out the facial features of their partner, but low enough to diminish their overall colour perception.
A control group of 20 more volunteers were asked to sit and stare for 10 minutes in another dimly lit room in pairs, but their chairs were facing a blank wall. The volunteers were told very little about the purpose of the study, only that it had to do with a "meditative experience with eyes open".
Once the 10 minutes were up, the volunteers were asked to complete questionnaires related to what they experienced during and after the experiment. One questionnaire focussed on any dissociative symptoms that the volunteers might have experienced, and another questioned them on what they perceived in their partner’s face (eye-staring group) or their own face (control group).
Dissociation is a term used in psychology to describe a whole range of psychological experiences that make a person feel detached from their immediate surroundings. Symptoms such as a loss of memory, seeing everything in distorted colours, or feeling like the world isn’t real can be brought on by abuse and trauma; drugs such as ketamine, alcohol, and LSD; and now, apparently, face-staring.
"The participants in the eye-staring group said they'd had a compelling experience unlike anything they'd felt before," Christian Jarrett writes for the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest.
Reporting in journal Psychiatry Research, Caputo says the eye-staring group out-scored the control group in all the questionnaires, which suggests that something about staring into another human being’s eyes for 10 uninterrupted minutes had a profound effect on their visual perception and mental state.
"On the dissociative states test, they gave the strongest ratings to items related to reduced colour intensity, sounds seeming quieter or louder than expected, becoming spaced out, and time seeming to drag on. On the strange-face questionnaire, 90 percent of the eye-staring group agreed that they'd seen some deformed facial traits, 75 percent said they'd seen a monster, 50 percent said they saw aspects of their own face in their partner's face, and 15 percent said they'd seen a relative's face."
The results recall what Caputo found back in 2010 when he performed a similar experiment with 50 volunteers staring at themselves in a mirror for 10 minutes. The paper, entitled Strange-Face-in-the-Mirror Illusion, reports that after less than a minute, the volunteers started seeing what Caputo describes as the "strange-face illusion".
"The participants' descriptions included huge deformations of their own faces; seeing the faces of alive or deceased parents; archetypal faces such as an old woman, child or the portrait of an ancestor; animal faces such as a cat, pig or lion; and even fantastical and monstrous beings," Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen L. Macknik write for Scientific American. "All 50 participants reported feelings of ‘otherness' when confronted with a face that seemed suddenly unfamiliar. Some felt powerful emotions."
According to Jarrett at the British Psychological Society, while the eye-staring group of this most recent experiment only scored on average 2.45 points higher than the control group in their questionnaires (which used a five-point scale where 0 is "not at all" and 5 would be "extremely"), Caputo says the effects were stronger than those experienced by the 2010 mirror-staring volunteers.
So what's going on here? Martinez-Conde and Macknik explain that it's likely to do with something called neural adaptation, which describes how our neurons can slow down or even stop their responses to unchanging stimulation. It happens when you stare at any scene or object for an extended period of time - your perception will start to fade until you blink or the scene changes, or it can be rectified by tiny involuntary eye movements called microsaccades.