March is National Celery Month so it got me thinking about celery, one of my favorite vegetables. Did you know that celery is also an important medicinal herb? In Eastern medicine, celery’s bittersweet nature is used to balance hot and spicy dishes. It is a gentle stimulant that nourishes and restores weak conditions. Celery detoxifies the system and is a cleansing tonic. According to master herbalist, Nicholas Culpepper (1653),
“The plant is one of the herbs which is eaten in the spring, to sweeten and purify the blood.”
A homeopathic extract of the seeds is widely used in France to relieve retention of urine. Specifically, the actions of celery are:
- Urinary Antiseptic
- Increases Uric Acid Excretions,
- Carminative (expels or prevents intestinal flatulence)
- Reduces Blood Pressure
- May be Anti-Fungal
Celery seeds are mainly used as a diuretic and digestive stimulant. They help to clear toxins from the system so are especially helpful with gout and arthritis, both related to acid build-up. Seeds are generally taken as an infusion, which is just a tea that has steeped longer. To make an infusion, add ½ teaspoon of seeds to a glass of boiling water. Infuse for 10 minutes. Strain. Drink in three equal doses throughout the day.
Make a celery seed vinaigrette for your next salad.
Avoid large doses of the seeds during pregnancy.
THE WHOLE PLANT
Juice the whole fresh plant (all or parts of it) alone or add some to a green drink. Fresh celery helps inflammation related to rheumatoid arthritis, cystitis, or urethritis. It is also good for weak conditions and nervous exhaustion.
Eating fresh stalks of celery can help stimulate milk flow after childbirth.
The root is used in tincture form as a diuretic, as a component in arthritis remedies, as a kidney energy stimulant and as a detoxifier. It also acts as a bitter digestive remedy and liver stimulant. Here are 10 ways to cook with celery root.
For painful gout, add 15 drops of essential oil of celery to a bowl of warm water and soak the feet. For painful arthritic joints, add 5 to 10 drops of essential oil of celery to a quarter cup of almond or sunflower oil and massage into joints.
Avoid essential oil of celery during pregnancy.
CELERY AS FOOD
According to Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy,
“…four celery stalks a day can significantly lower your blood pressure, plus it’s a good source of vitamin C, fiber, potassium, phosphorus, iron, calcium and vitamins B1, B2, A, and K.”
Here are some ways to eat celery:
- Celery can be added to a green smoothie, as mentioned above.
- Use celery leaves in place of parsley or mix with parsley.
- Add 1 or 2 teaspoons of celery seeds to your favorite, homemade vinaigrette or sweet and sour salad dressing. See link to recipe for celery seed dressing, above.
- Cut up celery stalks, carrot sticks and whole radishes and put them in a bowl of water in the fridge and eat them crispy cold. Eat them plain or dipped in homemade ranch dressing.
- Stuff celery stalks with a mixture of softened cream cheese, ketchup and Worcestershire Sauce. Kids love this.
- Add finely chopped celery to lettuce, shrimp, and chicken salads.
- Add chopped celery to soup, chile, or spaghetti sauce.
- Simmer chopped celery, onion, garlic, bay leaf, turkey necks, and turkey gizzards in a pot of water as a base for turkey gravy.
- Add the bottom of a used up celery stalk to soup stock.
- In Vegetable Literacy, Deborah Madison suggests a spring salad with very thinly sliced celery, spring greens and herbs dressed with a Meyer lemon and shallot vinaigrette.
- And for the fall or winter, Madison suggests a salad of very thinly sliced celery and minced celery leaves with long wedges of Belgian endive and pears, blue cheese slices and toasted walnuts, all dressed with a walnut oil vinaigrette.
You can grow your own celery inside just by putting the root end of the celery into a shallow bowl of water and letting it regrow roots; it will regenerate. I grew celery outside from plants I got at the nursery and they grew well and were big and had lots of leaves. I didn’t find the stalks as crunchy as I like though and I suspect that celery does better in a moister climate. Still I loved growing it; give it a try, especially if it will get a lot of water.
Who knew celery was so wonderful? I’ve got an infusion of celery seeds steeping on the kitchen counter right now. What are your favorite celery recipes?
Thanks to Penelope Ody and her great book, The Complete Medicinal Herbal.
About Peggy O’Mara. I am an independent journalist who edits and publishes peggyomara.com. I was the editor and publisher of Mothering Magazine for over 30 years and founded Mothering.com in 1995. My books include Having a Baby Naturally, Natural Family Living, The Way Back Home and A Quiet Place. I have conducted workshops at Omega Institute, Esalen, La Leche League, and Bioneers. I am the mother of four and grandmother of three. Please check out my email newsletter with free tips on parenting, activism, and healthy living.