Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is widely used in cooking throughout the world. The leaves are popular in Western countries and are a major ingredient of the Middle Eastern salad known as tabbouleh. Parsley leaves are also used in folk medicines as a diuretic, stomachic, and to treat menstrual problems, among many other uses. A laxative effect has also been reported as a folk remedy attributed to the leaves. Use of parsley seeds has also been reported in weight-loss products with a primary laxative effect, as well as in slimming teas.
To confirm or reject the claimed laxative effects of parsley, researchers at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, conducted a series of experiments using water extracts of parsley seed (in laboratory rats) to seek an answer. They sought to discover whether parsley had a laxative effect, as well as the herb’s underlying mechanism of action. They found that the extract significantly reduced net water absorption from the rats’ colons.
The research suggests that parsley inhibits both sodium and water absorption, thereby reducing net water absorption. It also stimulates an enzyme transport system, increasing electrolytes and water secretion. Whatever the exact mechanism of action and the compounds responsible, the researchers were able to confirm that a water extract of parsley seeds did indeed have a mild laxative effect. So the next time you sit down for a gourmet meal garnished with parsley, you may want to eat those leaves before the plate is whisked away by a well-meaning waiter. (1)
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(1) Kreydiyyeh, S. I., et al. “The mechanism underlying the laxative properties of parsley extract.” Phytomedicine 2001, 8(5): 382 – 388.