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Scientific Name(s): Apium graveolens L. var dulce (Mill.) Pers. Family: Apiaceae (carrots)

Common Name(s): Celery , celery seed , celery seed oil


The seed is used as a diuretic and as a treatment for arthritis and rheumatism. The seed oil has produced sedative effects. Celery has been used in herbal medicine to treat arthritis, nervousness, hysteria and various other conditions. The juice lowered blood pressure in several patients. Two components reduced tumors in mice.

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There is no recent clinical evidence to guide dosage of celery. Carminative use of the seed typically involves 1 to 4 g doses. 1


Contraindications have not yet been determined.


Generally recognized as safe or used as food. Safety and efficacy for dosages above those in foods are unproven and should be avoided.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

There are many reports of dermatitis among those cultivating and processing celery. Some develop phototoxic lesions, often followed by disturbed pigmentation in the same areas. Certain compounds in diseased or damaged plants may be carcinogenic. Large doses of the oil may produce CNS depression.


Some patients have experienced allergic responses, including anaphylaxis.


This biennial plant is native to Europe, 2 yet grown and consumed worldwide. A number of varieties of celery exist, many developed to meet commercial demands for particular colors, tastes and stalk sizes. Celery generally grows between 1 to 2 feet tall. It has tough ribbed green stems and segmented dark green leaves containing toothed leaflets. During June and July, small white flowers bloom which later bear the smooth gray seeds. Wet and salty soils, swamps and marshes are the preferred environment for celery. 2 Celery is blanched to generate the edible white stem during cultivation by burying the stem. 2 Celery seeds have a spicy odor and a spicy, yet slightly bitter taste. 3

The generic name pascal applies to any green celery. In Europe, the term celery is frequently used to refer to a related root vegetable, Apium graveolens L. var rapaceum, DC. Wild celery can refer to Vallisneria spiralis L., an aquatic perennial.

Celery seed oil is obtained by the steam distillation of the seed. According to the US Department of Agriculture, US growers in 1983 produced 914 tons of celery on 35,000 acres of farmland. The crop was valued at $235 million.


Celery originated as a wild plant growing in salt marshes around the Mediterranean Sea. About 450 B.C., the Greeks used it to make a type of wine called selinites. It served as an award at early athletic games, much as laurel leaves or olive branches. By the Middle Ages, Europeans were cultivating celery. Since that time, the plant has been used widely both as a food and as a medicine.

Late in the 19th century, various celery tonics and elixirs appeared commercially. These generally contained the juice of crushed celery seeds, often with a significant amount of alcohol. Celery seed is mainly used as a diuretic for bladder and kidney complaints and for arthritis and rheumatism. Sedative effects have been produced from the essential oil. 3

Celery continues to be used as a food flavor, in soaps and in gum. One product that is still available is a celery-flavored soda, Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray. Celery has become increasingly popular with dieters. This particular attraction stems from celery's high fiber content and the mistaken belief that chewing and digesting the stalks uses more calories than celery contains. 4


Celery is high in minerals, including sodium and chlorine, and is a poor source of vitamins. 5 The major constituents of celery seed oil are d-limonene (60%), selinene (10%) and a number of related phthalides (3%) which include 3-n-butylphthalide, sedanenolide and sedanonic anhydride. Celery contains a pheromone steroid previously identified in boars and parsnips. 6

The furocoumarin, bergapten, has been found in celery. 7 UV spectographic studies have indicated the presence of a compound similar or identical to 8-methoxypsoralen. Infrared spectography has detected yet another compound with a furocoumarin glucoside, isoquercitrin, and the coumarin glucoside apiumoside also have been identified. 8

Other organic components include isovalerianic aldehyde, propionic aldehyde and acetaldehyde. 9 Oil of celery seed is sometimes adulterated with celery chaff oil or d-limonene from less expensive sources.

Uses and Pharmacology

Herbalists recommend celery for treatment of arthritis, nervousness and hysteria. Oriental medicine uses the seeds to treat headaches and as a diuretic, digestive aid and emmenagogue. Celery has also been prescribed as an antiflatulent, antilactogen and aphrodisiac.

Animal data

An extract of celery (var dulce) has been reported to have hypotensive properties in rabbits and dogs when administered intravenously.

Clinical data

In man, the juice has been shown to have effectively lowered blood pressure in 14 of 16 hypertensive patients. 10

Other uses

The phthalides have been reported to have sedative 11 and anticonvulsant 3 activity in mice. The essential oil has in vitro fungicidal effects. 12 The oil has hypoglycemic activity. 13 Essential oils from celery may also possess potential anticarcinogenic properties. 14 Two component of celery, 3–n-butylphthalide and sedanolide were experimentally found to reduce tumors in mice. 15


There is no recent clinical evidence to guide dosage of celery. Carminative use of the seed typically involves 1 to 4 g doses. 1


Generally recognized as safe or used as food. Safety and efficacy for dosages above those in foods are unproven and should be avoided.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Since 1926, a number of sources have reported the occurrence of dermatitis in workers who cultivate or process celery. The dermatitis had been attributed to an allergic reaction to the volatile oil. 16

Some celery workers, primarily Caucasians, develop phototoxic bullous lesions. Workers in greenhouses are less susceptible to lesions than those who work outside. Once healed, the lesions often leave areas of depigmentation or hyperpigmentation. Significantly, the bullae develop only after contact with celery affected by “pink-rot” a condition caused by the fungus Sclerotinia sclerotiorum . Skin reactions probably result from exposure to a furocoumarin followed by exposure to sunlight (UVA light). The pink-rot apparently increases the availability of the furocoumarin. Use of a sunscreen can prevent this reaction. 17 Furocoumarins may be carcinogenic, and their concentration increases 100–fold in celery that is injured or diseased. 18 Large doses of the oil may induce CNS depression, although the specific toxic syndrome has not been well characterized.


Celery allergies in patients have led to urticaria and angioedema, respiratory complaints and anaphylaxis. 19 IgE antibodies have been experimentally associated with mediating celery allergies. 20


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15. Zheng GQ, et al. Chemoprevention of benzo[a]pyrene-induced forestomach cancer in mice by natural phthalides from celery seed oil. Nutr Cancer . 1993;19(1):77.
16. Palumbo JF, Lynn EV. Dermatitis from Celery. J Am Pharm Assn . 1953;42(1):57
17. Pauli G, et al. Celery sensitivity: clinical and immunological correlations with pollen allergy. Clin Allergy . 1995;15(3):273.
18. Ames BN. Dietary carcinogens and anticarcinogens. Oxygen radicals and degenerative diseases. Science . 1983;221(4617):1256.
19. Birmingham DJ, et al. Phytotoxic Bullae Among Celery Harvesters. Arch Dermatol . 1961;83:73.
20. Pauli G, et al. Celery allergy: clinical and biological study of 20 cases. Ann Allergy . 1988;60(3):243.

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