“Let food by thy medicine and let thy medicine be food…”
So stated the physician Hippocrates, born in 460 BC on the Greek Island of Cos. He believed in the natural healing processes of diet, rest, fresh air and cleanliness – and that the body should be treated as a whole rather than a series of different parts. The “Father of Medicine” developed an Oath of Medical Ethics taken by many doctors as they begin their medical practice. But these days, you are unlikely to be handed a stick of celery as you walk into any surgery, and more likely to be told:.
So let us examine that stick of celery to see what it can do for us. Wild celery was first known as a medicinal herb rather than a vegetable. In Ancient Greece, it was revered as a holy plant and the green leaves fashioned into laurels to decorate winning athletes. Hippocrates used celery to treat anxiety and the essential oils in celery seeds do appear to have a calming effect on the central nervous system.
Hippocrates also used the seeds to increase the flow of urine. The diuretic properties of celery along with its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory compounds make it a useful and popular treatment for urinary tract infections. Celery is also recommended for gout sufferers as it aids in the removal of excess uric acid, a chemical that can trigger painful gout attacks. In addition, the insoluble fibre in celery stalks helps to prevent constipation by speeding up the passage of food and waste through the gut.
Celery contains significant amounts of potassium and organic sodium which regulate fluid balance. In China, where the health benefits of celery were first documented in the 5th century AD, clinical studies have demonstrated that celery seeds from the flowers of the plant may lower blood pressure. Active compounds called phthalides relax arterial muscles, allowing them to dilate, thereby reducing blood pressure.[i] It is worth buying organic to avoid pesticides and also noting that celery should not be eaten in large quantities by pregnant women, people with acute kidney inflammation or anyone on diuretics without first seeking medical approval.
Did you know that the celery plant is related to carrots, parsnips and parsley? Enjoy fresh celery by adding its leaves or sliced stalks to salads, soups, stews and stir-fries. The next time you juice carrots, add a celery stalk, particularly if suffering from a hangover. Use fresh celery to scoop up cottage cheese. Or for another really tasty snack, cut the stalks into 3-inch (8 cm) lengths and fill the hollow with nut butter.
And here is a fine formula from the 1600’s for any budding witches, “Eat celery seeds so that you won’t get dizzy when flying about on your broom”. Harry Potter would do well to take note.
[i] Houston MC (2005) Nutraceuticals, vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals in the prevention and treatment of hypertension. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases. 47 (6) 396-449.