Apium graveolens
Celery (Apium graveolens)
Illustration - Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz (1885) (PD)

Celery - Botany And History

Celery is a highly popular, albeit relatively ancient herb with origins that date back to the time of the Mycenaeans and the Ancient Egyptians, where it was employed as it is today - both as a vegetable and a medicinal herb. The Early Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians considered celery a sacred plant, although the latter generally associated it with sorrow and death, while the two former attributed a variety of medicinal properties to the plant. Celery is a partly-annual plant of the Apiaceae family, and is characterized by its generally pinnate to bipinnate leaves and uniquely rhomboid-shaped leaflets that measure a trifle at three to six centimetres long and a maximum of four centimetres in breadth. It is a small, delicatelooking, albeit relatively hardy plant that measures no more than one metre tall upon maturity. It is highly discernable for its small ivory-white hued florets that grow in dense umbels found on the topmost parts of the stems, and for its highly aromatic nature.

Celery is also known and often cultivated for it's tiny, slightly ovoid to globular fruit (typically though erroneously referred to as 'seeds') that measure no more than two millimetres in length at the most, and a minimum of one to one-and-a-half millimetres in some specimens. Some varieties of celery (i. e. Apium graveolens var. rapaceum) were even consumed primarily for their root systems, which developed large, globular growths (sometimes called celeriac). Common celery is generally known for its thick, broad, and tough stem, which is primarily cultivated and consumed as a vegetable. During ancient times, all the constituent part of celery were employed and consumed as a vegetable, or otherwise employed as a medicine, although nowadays, only the thick, fleshy stems are consumed, with the leaves and the root of the plant playing only minor culinary, and even far more minor medicinal employment. [1]

While celery was known throughout much of the ancient world, it was not until well after the Renaissance that celery became integrated into European naturopathy and cuisine. It was generally assumed by the majority of the European population that celery was a poisonous plant, and was thus left for fodder or otherwise left to grow untouched. It was not until the early 1600s that it became adopted into the general cuisine of Europe, in imitation of Germanic and Scandinavian cuisine, which employed celery as a vegetable. Its use as medicine later followed suite, although most Europeans favoured Apium graveolens var. rapaceum, more so than Apium graveolens var. dulce, which is preferred more by inhabitants of the New World. While celery is generally considered a native of the Mediterranean, it is actually a highly prolific plant found throughout the Old and New World. [2]

While its use as a vegetable and food only came secondary to ancient peoples until well into the latter part of the 1700s, celery's medicinal employment soon eventually lessened, and was replaced with the more common employment it is associated with today. However, there is a slow resurgence of the reemployment of celery as a medicinal herb alongside its usage as a culinary foodstuff, influenced mainly by the revival in the practice of traditional and natural modes of healing.

Celery - Herbal Uses

Nowadays, celery is most commonly employed as a vegetable and potherb, although it is chiefly prized for its thick, semi-sweet, slightly savoury, crunch petioles (stems), which are generally consumed as a vegetable or a fresh snack, either in its raw or cooked form. Celery petioles are often harvested separately from its leaves and its edible roots, chiefly due to the fact that the stems are far more favoured for modern flavour palates than the far more bitter leaf and the slightly bitter-sour tasting root. Celery stems play an integral and almost near-indispensible role a number of culinary practices, the most famed being Cajun and Creole cooking, which incorporates celery stems into their 'holy trinity' of seasonings, alongside onions and bell-peppers, a practice which they have gleaned from French cuisine which employs a similar mix (called mirepoix composed of celery, onions, and carrots. Celery stems have even played an integral role in the creation or flavouring of a number of alcoholic beverages and mixes, usually in the form of cocktails such as the Bloody Mary. [3]

Celery stems are also employed in the medicinal sense, generally as weight-loss inducing foodstuff, in the belief that celery is a 'low calorie, low carbohydrate, fibre-rich' food that helps the body trim down without necessarily starving itself or depleting itself of much-needed nutrition. This approach however can prove to be ineffective simply because celery, like all food, are digested and synthesised by the body, with more intake resulting in more absorption of sugars, carbohydrates, and other trace amounts of nutrients, in spite of the fact that celery stems are mostly composed of water and organic cellulose. Celery, is, however, a powerful nutritional powerhouse and is packed with essential macro and micronutrients that are integral to the overall health and wellness of the body. Celery stems pack a powerful dose in vitamins such as Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B-complex, trace amounts of Vitamin A, and essential minerals such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium. Celery is also chock-full of fibre - an essential organic compound necessary for the proper functioning of the digestive tract. [4]

When consumed as a foodstuff, or otherwise integrated into soups and stews, celery stems also possess potent diuretic, carminative, anti-asthmatic, and expectorant benefits, and may be given to individuals who suffer from asthma, coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath as a quick remedy. Given to sick individuals who suffer from any of the above-stated ills, it can help to hasten healing and eventual recovery. A moderately potent decoction of celery stems may even be given to individuals who suffer from indigestion, flatulence, and hyperacidity as a quick and reliable remedy. [5] The true medicinal benefits of celery stems as best obtained when consumed in its raw form. When blended with a food processor and drunk as a slushy, it not only helps to detoxify the body, but it also helps to remedy diseases associated with the digestive system, while detoxifying the body simultaneously. It has can also be employed to treat various urinary disorders, and is highly beneficial for the treatment of urinary tract infections and diseases of the bladder. Celery juice or celery slush is also believed to be beneficial for the treatment of heart disease, rheumatism, arthritis, hyperacidity, and (as attributed to in folkloric medicine) even impotence or frigidity. [6]

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the leaves of celery are often employed as a potherb or additive to soups, stews, and stir-fries or otherwise decocted into a strong tea and drunk as a remedy for flu, fevers, and hypertension. Due to its highly potent and pungent nature, celery leaf is often only incorporated into meat-based dishes. In Western cuisine however, celery leaves are often dried and ground into a fine powder and used as a type of seasoning, either by itself, or usually as a mixture alongside other herb and spices. Among the most popular condiments and seasonings which contain celery is Old Bay seasoning and celery salt (a combination of either the ground leaves or seeds of celery mixed with rock salt, kosher salt, or table salt) - both of which are an integral part of a number of American culinary fares. The leaves of celery, just like the stems, may also be brewed as a tisane and drunk as a carminative, as digestive, an anti-histaminic or anti-inflammatory beverage, or otherwise consumed as a nutritive drink. Kampo (Traditional Japanese Medicine) and Traditional Chinese Medicine also employed strongly decocted celery leaves as a cardiovascular and respiratory tonic. [7] Recent studies have revealed that celery may even possess powerful anti-carcinogenic properties, and that moderate regular consumption of the herb may be beneficial in the prevention or progression of certain types of cancers.

The roots of the celery can be eaten for both its nutritive and medicinal benefits, or employed solely as a powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-histaminic in its own right either through direct oral ingestion or via the ingestion of potent decoctions. The roots also possesses liver and kidney tonifying properties, as well neuro-tonifying properties, although the roots are considerably less potent when employed as medicine compared to either the leaves or the stems, and is best when consumed in its raw or slightly prepared form.

The seeds of celery however (actually its fruit), are by and large the most medicinally employed part of the whole plant. It usage as medicine dates back to ancient times, where it was crushed and mixed into drinks, employed as spicing agent for wines, or otherwise ground, compacted, and made into tablets or pills for the relief of pain and swelling. The seeds possess a powerful antihistaminic and antiinflammatory compound which, when consumed orally, or applied topically can help to relieve pain as readily as any local analgesic. The seeds of celery have also been prescribed by many natural systems of medicine as a remedy for high-blood pressure and heart disease, with modern studies confirming its efficiency. [8] The seeds may also be extracted for its essential oil which is commonly employed in perfumery, some types of confectionery, and in traditional systems of medicine as a topical analgesic and antimicrobial, generally in its highly diluted form. [9] Celery seeds may even be employed in cookery, generally as a type of spice added to stews in either whole or ground form for its slightly salty flavour. It may even be lightly toasted and ground into a fine powder, and afterwards mixed with salt to create the secondary variant of celery salt.

Celery - Esoteric Uses

When employed for esoteric uses, celery seed is often favoured above all its other constituent parts. It was long believed that celery seed helped to increase the overall efficiency and potency of one's innate pychic abilities, and hence is readily found as a primary ingredient in psychic-enhancement drinks. It can be burnt as an incense for similar purposes, or otherwise taken orally to help improve one's ability to control lucid dreams. It was assumed in Mediaeval times that witches partook of celery seeds prior to riding upon brooms (now generally suggested by a majority of magickal schools as a metaphor for lucid dreaming) to prevent dizziness and motion sickness while traversing the skies at high speeds. [10]

The leaves of the celery itself, when dried and burnt as incense (usually when combined with the seeds, or otherwise employed by itself) can be burnt as an incense to help attract love, passion, and fertility. It can be employed in love philtres and potions, or otherwise brewed into a magickally charged tea and drunk to encourage fertility in both males and females.

Safety Notes

While celery is considered safe if consumed in moderate amounts, celery is also notorious for being an allergenic substance, with a number of individuals being highly allergic to products containing, or having been contaminated with celery. Individuals who are allergic to celery can experience potentially lethal repercussions, and often enter anaphylactic shock upon the slightest ingestion of contaminated products (similar to individuals who are allergic to peanuts). It is because of its potentially allergenic nature that individuals should take care to not readily employ celery as an herbal remedy without prior knowledge of any possible allergic reactions. Likewise, the consumption of celery in all of its forms and preparations should likewise be discontinued during pregnancy or nursing, as it can cause complications ranging from miscarriage due to premature uterine contractions, to possible foetal deformities. Celery is best consumed in fresh, raw form, as the nutritional benefits derived from 'stale' celery are generally inferior to the benefits and nutrients derived from fresh samples.

Celery - Other Names, Past and Present

Chinese: qincai / qin cai
Japanese: serori (onomatopoeia and transliteration of the English 'celery')
Korean: selleoli (onomatopoeia and transliteration of the English 'celery')
Sanskrit: ajmoda
Hindi: ajava'ina / ajwan / karmauli
French: aches des marais / celeri / fruit de celeri / graine de celeri / persil des marais
Italian: sedano / seleri
Spanish: apio
English: celery / smallage
German: selleriefruchte / selleriesamen
Greek (ancient): selinon / se-ri-no (Mycenaean Greek)
Greek (ancient): selinon / se-ri-no (Mycenaean Greek)
Latin (esoteric): selinon
Latin (scientific nomenclature): Apium graveolens var. dulce (other nomenclatures exist, depending on the varietal and the specie)


[1][2][3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celery

[4] http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=14

[5] http://juicing-for-health.com/basic-nutrition/healing-vegetables/health-benefits-of-celery.html

[6] http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-882-CELERY.aspx?activeIngredientId=882&activeIngredientName= CELERY

[7] http://www.naturalnews.com/027977_celery_healing.html

[8] https://aggiehorticulture.tamu.edu/archives/parsons/publications/vegetabletravelers/celery.html

[9] http://www.liveandfeel.com/medicinalplants/celery.html

[10] http://www.oocities.org/samual53115/herbs/magical-properties/celery.html

Main article researched and created by Alexander Leonhardt.
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