Anti-cancer effects of Parsley

Parsley, which is often regarded in the United States as only a decorative garnish, is packed with anti-cancer flavones, including: quercetin, genistein, luteolin, and apigenin.

Apigenin has been shown to have several anti-cancer effects, by inducing apoptosis (programmed cell death) and by inhibiting the formation of new blood vessels that feed a tumor in cancer cells of the colon, cervical, and prostate, skin, thyroid, gastric, and liver, and to inhibit migration and invasion of ovarian cancer cells. Apigenin can have estrogen like activity and should be avoided for those with estrogen dependent cancer, however. However, apigenin does strongly inhibit growth of HER2/neu overexpressing breast cancer cells.

The flavone luteolin increases the effects of the chemo drug Taxol, and quercetin has been shown to inhibit the proliferation of estrogen-independent (ER) breast cancer cells.

There are several types of Parsley, including Italian, flat leaf, and Cilantro (Chinese parsley). Antioxidant content reduces if grilled or fried, but increases if boiled. Parsely seed oil has oleic acid and has been shown to inhibit breast cancer, but is very concentrated. It needs to be avoided by pregnant women as it can lead to miscarriage, and also by those with kidney, heart, and liver disorders or if on certain medications.

Parsley, which is also often called “rock-celery” is also a good source of vitamin A, C, folic acid, and vitamin K. It is native to the Mediterranean area (Italy, Algeria, and Tunisia), and is eaten as an herb, spice, and vegetable, and has been cultivated for over 2,000 years. The ancient Greeks considered parsley to be sacred, decorating tombs and also athletic stars. Cilantro (Chinese parsley, or Coriander) is popular in Mexican, Caribbean, and Asian cooking. When purchased, it should be rinsed and left moist and can be stored for up to a week.

Cilantro Slaw
(Sunset Low Fat Mexican Cookbook ):

5-6 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup firmly packed cilantro leaves, minced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon each water and honey
½ tsp cumin seeds
Salt and pepper to taste


by Julie Harris, M.S., R.D., L.D.


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