Parsely is found in this country only as a cultivated plant, having

been introduced into England from Sardinia in the sixteenth century.

It is an umbelliferous herb, which has been long of garden growth

for kitchen uses. The name was formerly spelt Percely, and the

herb was known as March, or Merich (in Anglo-Saxon, Merici). Its

adjective title, Petroselinum, signifies growing on a rock. The

Greeks held Parsley in high
esteem, making therewith the victor's

crown of dried and withered Parsley, at their Isthmian games, and

the wreath for adorning the tombs of their dead. Hence the proverb,

Deeisthai selinon (to need only Parsley) was applied to persons

dangerously ill, and not expected to live. The herb was never

brought to table of old, being held sacred to oblivion and the


It is reputed to have sprung from the blood of a Greek hero,

Archemorus, the fore-runner of death; and Homer relates that

chariot horses were fed by warriors with this herb. Greek gardens

were often bordered with Parsley and Rue: and hence arose the

saying when an undertaking was in contemplation but not yet

commenced, Oh! we are only at the Parsley and Rue.

Garden Parsley was not cultivated in England until the second year

of Edward the Sixth's reign, 1548. In our modern times the domestic

herb is associated rather with those who come into the world than

with those [408] who go out of it. Proverbially the Parsley-bed is

propounded to our little people who ask awkward questions, as the

fruitful source of new-born brothers and sisters when suddenly

appearing within the limits of the family circle. In Suffolk there is

an old belief that to ensure the herb coming up double, Parsley

seed must be sown on Good Friday.

The root is faintly aromatic, and has a sweetish taste. It contains a

chemical principle, apiin, sugar, starch, and a 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, which may be now had from all leading

druggists. Apiol exercises all the virtues of the entire plant, and is

especially beneficial for women who are irregular as to their

monthly courses because of ovarian debility. From three to six drops

should be given on sugar, or in milk (or as a prepared capsule) twice

or three times in the day for some days together, at the times

indicated, beginning early at the expected date of each period. If too

large a dose of apiol be taken it will cause headache, giddiness,

staggering, and deafness; and if going still further, it will induce

epileptiform convulsions. For which reason, in small diluted doses,

the same medicament will curatively meet this train of symptoms

when occurring as a morbid state. And it is most likely on such

account Parsley has been popularly said to be poison to men, and

salvation to women. Apiol was first obtained in 1849, by Drs. Joret

and Homolle, of Brittany, and proved an excellent remedy there for

a prevailing ague. It exercises a singular influence on the great

nervous centres within the head and spine. Bruised Parsley seeds

make a decoction which is likewise beneficial against [409] ague

and intermittent fever. They have gained a reputation in America as

having a special tendency to regulate the reproductive functions in

either sex. Country folk in many places think it unlucky to sow

Parsley, or to move its roots; and a rustic adage runs thus: Fried

parsley brings a man to his saddle, and a Woman to her grave.

Taking Parsley in excess at table will impair the eyesight, especially

the tall Parsley; for which reason it was forbidden by Chrysippus

and Dionysius.

The root acts more readily on the kidneys than other parts of the

herb; therefore its decoction is useful when the urine becomes

difficult through a chill, or because of gravel. The bruised leaves

applied externally will serve to soften hard breasts early in

lactation, and to resolve the glands in nursing, when they become

knotty and painful, with a threatened abscess. Sheep are fond of

the plant, which protects them from foot-rot; but it acts as a

deadly poison to parrots.

In France a rustic application to scrofulous swellings is successfully

used, which consists of Parsley and snails pounded together in a

mortar to the thickness of an ointment. This is spread on coarse

linen and applied freely every day. Also on the Continent, and in

some parts of England, snails as well as slugs are thought to be

efficacious medicinally in consumption of the lungs, even more so

than cod-liver oil. The Helix pomatia (or Apple Snail) is specially

used in France, being kept for the purpose in a snaillery, or

boarded-in space of which the floor is covered half-a-foot deep

with herbs.

The Romans were very partial to these Apple Snails, and fattened

them for the table with bran soaked in wine until the creatures

attained almost a fabulous size. Even in this country shells of Apple

Snails have been [410] found which would hold a pound's worth of

silver. The large Snail was brought to England in the sixteenth

century, to the South downs of Surrey, and Sussex, and to Box Hill

by an Earl of Arundel for his Countess, who had them dressed, and

ate them because of her consumptive disease. Likewise in Pliny's

time Snails beaten up with warm water were commended for the

cure of coughs. Gipsies are great Snail eaters, but they first starve

the creatures, which are given to devour the deadly Night Shade,

and other poisonous plants. It is certain, that Snails retain the

flavour and odour of the vegetables which they consume.

The chalky downs of the South of England are literally covered with

small snails, and many persons suppose that the superior flavour of

South Down mutton is due to the thousands of these snails which

the sheep consume together with the pasture on which they feed. In

1854 a medical writer set forth the curative virtues of Helicin, a

glutinous constituent principle derived from the Snail, and to be

given in broth as a remedy for pulmonary consumption. In France

the Apple Snail is known as the great Escargot; and the Snail

gardens in which the gasteropods are fattened, and reared, go by the

name of Escargotoires. Throughout the winter the creatures

hybernate, shutting themselves up by their operculum whilst lying

among dead leaves, or having fixed themselves by their glutinous

secretion to a wall or tree. They are only taken for use whilst in this

state. According to a gipsy, the common English Snail is quite as

good to be eaten, and quite as beneficial as an Apple Snail, but there

is less of him. In Wiltshire, when collected whilst hybernating,

snails are soaked in salted water, and then grilled on the bars of the

grate. About France the Escargots are dried, and prepared as a

lozenge [411] for coughs. Our common garden Snail is the Helix

aspersa. On the Continent for many years past the large Apple Snail,

together with a reddish-brown slug, the Arion Rufus, has been

employed in medicine for colds, sore throats, and a tendency to

consumption of the lungs. These contain limacine, and eight per

cent. of emollient mucilage, together with helicin, and uric acid

just under the shell. Many quarts of cooked garden snails are sold

every week to the labouring classes in Bristol; and an annual Feast

of Snails is held in the neighbourhood of Newcastle. Mrs. Delaney

in 1708, recommended that two or three snails should be boiled in

the barley-water which Mary takes who coughs at night. She must

know nothing of it; they give no manner of taste. Six or eight boiled

in water, and strained off, and put in a bottle would be a good way

of adding a spoonful of the same to every liquid thing she takes.

They must be fresh done every two or three days, otherwise they

grow too thick. The London Gazette, of March 23rd, 1739, tells

that Mrs. Joanna Stephens received from the Government five

thousand pounds for revealing the secret of her famous cure against

stone in the bladder, and gravel. This consisted chiefly of eggshells,

and snails, mixed with soap, honey and herbs. It was given in

powders, decoctions, and pills. To help weak eyes in South

Hampshire, snails and bread crust are made into a poultice.

A moderate dose of Parsley oil when taken in health, induces a

sense of warmth at the pit of the stomach, and of general well-being.

The powdered seeds may be taken in doses of from ten to fifteen

grains. The bruised leaves have successfully resolved tumours of

hard (scirrhous) cancer when cicuta, and mercury had failed.

Though used so commonly at table, facts have proved [412] that the

herb, especially when uncooked, may bring on epilepsy in certain

constitutions, or at least aggravate the fits in those who are subject

to them. Alston says: I have observed after eating plentifully of raw

Parsley, a fulness of the vessels about the head, and a tenderness of

the eyes (somewhat inflamed) and face, as if the cravat were too


The victors at the old Grecian games were crowned with chaplets of

Parsley leaves; and it is more than probable our present custom of

encircling a joint, and garnishing a dish with the herb had its origin

in this practice. The Romans named Parsley Apium, either

because their bee (apis) was specially fond of the herb, or from

apex, the head of a conqueror, who was crowned with it. The

tincture has a decided action on the lining membrane of the urinary

passages, and may be given usefully when this is inflamed, or

congested through catarrh, in doses of from five to ten drops three

times in the day with a spoonful or two of cold water.

Wild Parsley is probably identical with our garden herb. It is called

in the Western counties Eltrot, perhaps because associated with the

gambols of the elves.

The Fool's Parsley (oethusa cynapium) is a very common wayside

weed, and grows wild in our gardens. It differs botanically from all

other parsleys in having no bracts, but three narrow leaves at the

base of each umbel. This is a more or less poisonous herb,

producing, when eaten in a harmful quantity, convulsive and

epileptic symptoms; also an inflamed state of the eyelids, just such

as is seen in the scrofulous ophthalmia of children, the condition

being accompanied with swelling of glands and eruptions on the

skin. Therefore the tincture which is made (H.) of Fool's Parsley,

when given in small doses, and diluted, proves [413] very useful for

such ophthalmia, and for obviating the convulsive attacks of young

children, especially if connected with derangement of the digestive

organs. Also as a medicine it has done much good in some cases of

mental imbecility. And this tincture will correct the Summer

diarrhoea of infants, when the stools are watery, greenish, and

without smell. From three to ten drops of the tincture diluted to the

third decimal strength, should be given as a dose, and repeated at

intervals, for the symptoms just recited.

This variety is named oethusa, because of its acridity, from the

Greek verb aitho (to burn). It has faculties, says Gerard,

answerable to the common Hemlock, the poisonous effects being

inflamed stomach and bowels, giddiness, delirium, convulsions, and

insensibility. It is called also Dog's Parsley and Kicks.

The leaves of the Fool's Parsley are glossy beneath, with lanceolate

lobes, whereas the leaflets of other parsleys are woolly below.

Gerard calls it Dog's Parsley, and says: The whole plant is of a

naughty smell. It contains a peculiar alkaloid cynapina. The

tincture, third decimal strength, in half-drop doses, with a

teaspoonful of water, will prevent an infant from vomiting the breast

milk in thick curds.

Another variety which grows in chalky districts, the Stone Parsley,

Sison, or breakstone, was formerly known as the Hone-wort,

from curing a hone, or boil, on the cheek. It was believed at one

time to break a glass goblet or tumbler if rubbed against this article.