Common Names

Celery seed
Botanical Name
Apium graveolens

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What is it?

Celery seed comes, of course, from the familiar Celery as used in salads, cooking etc. The seeds/fruits of Celery contain an abundance of essential oils which form at least part of its therapeutic action.




How has it been used?

Celery as a food has, for a long time, been valued as a spring antidote after the heavy, salty foods of winter. The seeds are particularly cleansing and ‘alkalising’ to the body and it is this action that has made Celery so popular in times past for conditions associated to ‘acidity’, such as arthritis and rheumatism.

Celery has historically been recommended to increase the milk in nursing mothers. Celery has also been an important traditional treatment for gout and for kidney stones, being seen as able to help flush out impurities from the body. Celery , both as a food and from the seeds as a medicine, has been used to sweeten the breath and to help the ‘fat to become lean’. The image of a stick of celery on a dieter's plate has been with us for a long time.

In the 19th century, eclectic doctor TJ Lyle wrote 'Celery seed is a moderately stimulating tonic nervine. It is useful in depression of the nervous system, whether it be from general debility or from overtaxing of the nerve centres. It is best used with some toning hepatic as Taraxacum (Dandelion) With Viburnum opulus (Cramp bark) it is good for pregnant females of a nervous temperament and having a tendency to cramp. Aletris & Helonias (True & False Unicorn root) may be added if there is a tendency to miscarriage. The vegetable is a soothing nervine but is less stimulating than the seed. In convalescence it is especially valuable in the treatment of those of a nervous temperament'

The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia (BHP) describes the actions of Celery seed as 'antirheumatic, sedative, urinary antiseptic and says it is indicated for 'rheumatism, arthritis, gout, inflammation of the urinary tract and specifically indicated for 'rheumatoid arthritis with mental depression. The BHP recommends doses of 0.5-2 grams or the 60% ethanolic extract at a dose of 0.3-1.2mls and suggests that the therapeutic action appears to be potentiated by Dandelion.

Thomas Bartram writes that the actions of Celery seed include 'alkaline reaction on the blood, antirheumatic, urinary antiseptic, diuretic, antispasmodic, carminative, tonic digestive, galactagogue, assists elimination of uric acid, anti-gout, anti-inflammatory, hypotensor, aphrodisiac'. He suggests uses for it including rheumatic disorders, stiffness and muscular pain, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation of the urinary tract, cystitis, to increase milk flow in nursing mothers, bad breath'. Bartram recommends doses of 0.5-2mls of the liquid extract and a quarter to half a tsp of the bruised seeds to each cup of water, gently simmered 10 minutes in a covered vessel.


Science on Celery

~ In a clinical trial in Australia, 15 patients with long-standing rheumatic pain received Celery seed extract over 12 weeks. Parameters measured included usual pain and current pain and patients reported significant reductions in pain intensity and also that the number of joints at which pain was experienced was significantly decreased over each 3 week period that the study was reviewed. Australian Patent 994699 10-A, Jan 1995)

~ Celery seed infused in water demonstrated a significant reduction in serum total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in a model of hyperlipidaemia (Tsi D, Das NP, Tan KH: Planta Medica; 61(1):1995, 18-21)

~ Celery seed oil administered orally increased liver tissue regeneration and methanolic extract of celery seed demonstrated significant hepatoprotective activity after oral administration in panadol induced hepatotoxicity. (Singh A, Handa SS: J Ethnopharmacology 49(3):119-126, 1995)

~ The authors, titles and the 'where-and-when' published of nearly 400 further studies and articles on Celery are listed in a PDF found here

Safety of Celery

Celery seed is regarded as an extremely safe herb that can be used by all ages. It will be entirely safe to take whilst pregnant or breastfeeding and should in fact encourage the flow of healthy milk.

A person who has kidney disease may find strong celery seed extracts to be aggravating as it contains an essential oil (terpenes and phthalides, especially 3-n-butyl) that has potent effects on stimulating kidney cells. Allergy to celery is fairly common, especially among those with sensitivity to birch pollen-related allergens. 

Note that if intending to use a course of Celery seed as a medicine it is important to obtain the seed from a trusted supplier of herbal medicines as many Celery seeds are sprayed with fungicides and would be unwise to use internally in high doses.

General comment on herbal safety

All medicinal herbs that have the power to do good have the potential to do harm. The old maxim 'the poison is in the dose' precisely describes how too much of anything can be bad for us. The ancient rule to 'firstly, do no harm is, to this day, held as the core directive by all practitioners of traditional herbal medicine. Not only are we careful to do our best to use the right herbs, but equally we take care to not give too much of them or use them overlong.

For some years now, against this proven and safe way of herbalism, there has been a rising tide of excessive caution and scare-mongering in many parts of the world. The same authorities that, not so long ago, decried herbal medicines as ineffectual, have now taken up a different adversarial position; that they are dangerous substances that should only be prescribed by Doctors, who of course have zero training in them.

Lists of '10 popular herbs and why you should avoid them' include things like Garlic and Ginger that might 'thin your blood'. Such cautions are absurd to the point of the ridiculous, but fear is a universal driver that has long been proven to be effective at manipulating people.

Unfortunately, the same unnecessary fear and worry has crept into many natural health websites and popular publications on herbs. Herbs that we have safely used for thousands of years, that have no reports of adverse reactions in the medical literature despite widespread use by millions of people, are suddenly described as contraindicated because of something that should have been seen as completely unimportant, or at the utmost a merely theoretical concern, such as a laboratory study on one of the herb's constituents to use an all too common example.

I wonder sometimes if the writers of such articles feel that the herb will be more deserving of respect if it is thought to be a little bit dangerous, in other words more like a drug than something that has simply come out of the earth and been used by ordinary people for generations beyond count.

There is just so much misinformation about herbal medicine on the internet now. Ludicrous claims and cautions abound in equal measure; it seems like one group are trying to make money out of the public whilst the other are busily trying to scare them off.

I have to believe that the kind of reader who takes the time to read pages on herbs that are as extensive as this one is much less likely to be swayed by marketers or misinformers. I hope that you will keep your wits about you if you get conflicting opinions from people who have never really got to know these herbs, who have never worked with them, or learned how to use them safely and effectively.

I want to remind you that the reason that herbs can never be patented and owned by any individual or corporation is because they are, and always will be, the People's medicine. They belong to all of us and it is my great hope in sharing this work that you will learn how to use them wisely for yourself, and the people you care for. Be safe, but do not be afraid.


Personal experiences

I rate Celery highly for its ability to help the kidneys to flush out acidic waste products and have used it to obvious benefit in many formulas for aching, painful joints or a stiff, unyielding muscular-skeletal condition. Along with a number of other tests from a tiny finger-stick, I routinely test my patients for their uric acid levels at the first visit. Many people have high uric acid without actually having an attack of gout. They usually report feeling more stiff and sore than is usual but have just learned to adapt to it. A treatment of cleansing herbs, which may well include Celery seed, nearly always sees a significant improvement in general health and a return to normal of the uric acid levels by the return visit.

In some cases, where there is an acute inflammation such as one might find in an attack of gout or polymyalgia rheumatica, it can be best to use a high-dose course of Celery to help get the job done and then rest it until needed again - see the recipe below for one option of how to go about that but, because not everyone will be able to drink large amount of Celery seed tea, it is also appropriate to use it in tincture form whereby up to 10 or 12 mls a day in an acute crisis will be safe and should be effective.

My much greater use of Celery is In more chronic cases of joint inflammation and stiffness where as little as 2, or up to 3 or 4 mls a day, in at least two divided doses and given over a course of weeks or more has been seen to give sure help, usually along with herbs such as Ginger, Turmeric, Devil's claw etc.

For anyone reading this who might be studying herbal medicine or who maybe just wants to deepen their understanding and relationship with these great plant allies there is an ancient, rather excellent practice I encourage you to pick up whereby you take a dose of the herb's tea or tincture and then listen closely to your body's responses with a quiet and receptive mind, read more about that here

In the case of Celery, at least speaking for myself, I find it a compelling but not altogether unpleasant taste and I can feel how, whilst it is a rather gentle remedy, it nevertheless caries a potent and palpable action deep into the body in general and the kidneys in particular. I think that anyone who was to drink a good dose of Celery seed tincture or tea would notice that they would get a considerable amount of cleansing through their kidneys for some time afterwards!

Celery seed combines perfectly with Devil's claw for hard arthritic joints, with Juniper berry for kidney stress and acidic blood and with Wild Yam for a stiff, congested general condition.


Celery seed recipe for Gout

Place 15 grams (approx half an ounce) of organic, unsprayed Celery seed in a saucepan with 1 large cup of water.

Briefly bring the Celery seeds to the boil, cover the saucepan and then allow the mixture to cool for about 5-7 minutes, then strain off the liquid from the seeds and drink. You may find it helpful to dilute it with some cool water if it is too hot or too thick to be easily drunk nice and quickly (this is not a tea you would probably drink for pleasure!)

You can repeat this treatment as often as required and you can do it twice or a maximum of 3 times a day if things are particularly bad but note that it still may take up to 48 hours to see a major turnaround with the gout.

I have personally only ever recommended this tea to a person during an acute attack of Gout, which you can read more about here. Drink plenty of water whilst you are using it and keep to a cleansing diet at the same time, more detailed info about how to do that here

Constitutional note

Much of the information here about the traditional uses of Celery is consistent with the model of thinking whereby one may treat problem A with plant B. There is value in this approach, especially in how it helps us pass on useful knowledge to one another, but it falls short in one vital area; and that is that people are not all cut from the same cloth! Something that works brilliantly for one person may do less for another -- why is this?

Part of the reason is that people vary in their constitutions as to whether they are either hotter or cooler and, at the same time, either dryer or damper. This useful and rather fascinating subject is introduced further here

Another big part of using the right herb when it is most needed comes from understanding the need to treat what is going wrong for the person that had led up to their getting a health condition. In this light, Celery can particularly offer its benefits when a cleansing action is needed in the 'cycle of healing', more about this here

Please understand that I cannot advise you, including on products or dosage, without seeing you in person in my clinic but for ideas on how you might find a good herbalist in your area read here

This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!




© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd