Today I’ll be profiling an herb that takes me back to my childhood lunches, an often-overlooked and under-appreciated plant known for its relative tastelessness and crunch- I’m talking, of course, about Celery! A sure bet to find sitting next to buffalo wings, or on a pre-made veggie platter, this plant has become so much a part of our diets that it can be surprising to find that it has marked medicinal value as an anti-inflammatory and anti-rheumatic agent. Its mythic origins lie in ancient Greece, but it has been used in folk medicine for centuries as an anti-hypertensive herb. Continue reading below to learn more about this everyday herb!
Celery’s Traditional Uses
Celery as symbology abounded in the ancient world, closely linked to the passage of life through death, or the journey to the underworld. More than likely, this association stems from the fact celery is a winter plant, with its growing season stretching from September to April, and the plant’s spicy flavor and dark leaf color. Celery leaves were found engraved on Pharoh Tutankhamun’s tomb, and celery leaves made into wreaths often adorned the bodies of the deceased in ancient Greece. Celery itself was said in Greek mythology to have sprouted from the spilt blood of Kadmilos, father of three underworld deities linked closely with Hephaestus. In Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, celery appears as well– the horses of the Myrmidons graze on wild celery that is found in the Trojan marshes, and fields of violet and wild celery grow near Calypso’s cave. Ancient use of celery is explained by the Roman encyclopedist Aulus Cornelius Celsus– he stated in AD 30 that celery seeds could be taken in pill form to provide pain relief, and that this was the most popular use for celery.
Wild celery can often be found growing in marshlands, smaller than the cultivated kind and with a coarser, earthier flavor. Its domesticated cousin, Apium graveolens, or common celery, grows to be around 12 inches tall, with long, fibrous stalks, light green in color, tending towards white closer to the root. The leaves are a medium to dark green, pinnate or feathery and often soft and floppy in constitution. When broken, a celery stalk will readily separate into strings, which are cellular bundles protecting the softer inside of the stalk where the plant’s water stores reside. The seeds are small ovals coming to a point on each end, tan in color, with vertical grooves running vertically from end to end. The flowers are off-white in color, 2–3 mm in size, and grow clumped together in umbrella-like formations called umbels, which points to the plant’s identity as a member of the Apiaceae family. Be careful if wildcrafting celery, as poisonous water hemlock grows in the same kinds of areas, and resembles wild celery.
Healing Attributes of Celery
The entirety of the celery plant can be used medicinally, from the seeds to the stalks! Tinctures, capsules, tablets as well as eating the plant raw are all efficient ways to get celery into your system. The key healing actions of the plant are anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic, gas relief and the fact it stimulates urine flow. Take a look at the list below to see how you can use celery in your everyday life!
- Detox + weight loss- juice from the stalks and leaves, a cup a day
- Inflamed joints- celery stem, leaf, and seed stimulate the kidneys to flush out the salts accumulating in your joints.
- Urinary tract infection- 1.5 grams of celery seed a day, until infection clears
- High blood pressure- celery seed extract, 1-2 grams daily
- Reduce stomach ulcers- celery seed extract, 1-2 grams a day
- Combat indigestion and bloating- eating celery stalks raw or 1-2 grams of celery seeds daily
- Boost immune system- 1-2 grams celery seed daily, max 15 grams in a week
Celery is often used with White Willow bark (Salix alba), which I will be profiling in the future, for increased anti-inflammatory action. Pregnant women and those with kidney disease should avoid celery seeds due to the volatile oils contained in them, but the stalks and leaves are perfectly safe to consume!
I hope you found this article helpful, and will think twice the next time you see celery in your local farmer’s market or veggie tray! Please leave your ideas, experiences, and usage advice on celery in the comments below, I’d love to hear what you have to say!
Smiles and senna,