Scientific Name(s): Apium graveolens L. var dulce (Mill.) Pers.
Common Name(s): Celery, Celery seed, Celery seed oil
This biennial plant was first cultivated in Europe, but is grown and consumed worldwide. A number of celery varieties exist, many developed to meet commercial demands for particular colors, tastes, and stalk sizes. Celery generally grows between 1 and 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 and later bear the smooth gray seeds. Wet and salty soils, swamps, and marshes are the preferred environments for celery. Celery is blanched to generate the edible white stem during cultivation by burying the stem. Celery seeds have a spicy odor and a spicy, slightly bitter taste. Celery seed oil is obtained by steam distillation of the seed.
Commercial varieties grown in North America are generally called pascal celery. In Europe, the term "celery" is frequently used to refer to a related root vegetable, A. graveolens L. var rapaceum, DC. Wild celery can refer to Vallisneria spiralis L., an aquatic perennial. Essential oil of mountain celery seeds is produced from a related species, Cryptotaenia japonica, and should not be confused with A. graveolens.1, 2, 3
Celery originated as a wild plant that grew in salt marshes around the Mediterranean Sea. About 450 BC, the Greeks used celery to make a type of wine called selinites. It served as an award at early athletic games, much like laurel leaves or olive branches. By the Middle Ages, Europeans were cultivating celery. Since then, the plant has been widely used as food and medicine. Late in the 19th century, various celery tonics and elixirs appeared commercially, generally containing the juice of crushed celery seeds and often with a large amount of alcohol. Celery seed is mainly used as a diuretic for bladder and kidney complaints, as well as for arthritis and rheumatism. The essential oil produces sedative effects. Celery continues to be used as a food flavor and in soaps and gum. A celery seed–flavored soda, Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray, is still available. Celery has become increasingly popular with dieters because of its high fiber content and the mistaken belief that chewing and digesting the stalks uses more calories than celery contains. Herbalists recommend celery for treatment of arthritis, nervousness, and hysteria. In Asian medicine, celery seed is used to treat headaches and as a diuretic, digestive aid, and emmenagogue. Celery has also been prescribed as an antiflatulent, antilactogen, and aphrodisiac.4, 5
The celery leafstalk is high in minerals, including sodium and chlorine, yet is a poor source of vitamins.
The major constituents of celery seed oil are d-limonene (60%), selinene (10%), and a number of related phthalides (3%) that include 3-n-butylphthalide, sedanenolide, and sedanonic anhydride. Other constituent compounds have been identified. The oil of celery seed is sometimes adulterated with celery chaff oil or d-limonene from less expensive sources.
The presence of potentially toxic polyacetylenes, including falcarinol and falcarindiol, in celery has been described. Ultraviolet spectrographic studies have indicated the presence of a compound similar or identical to 8-methoxypsoralen. Infrared spectography has detected another compound with a furocoumarin glucoside, isoquercitrin, and the coumarin glucoside apiumoside has also been identified. Other organic components include isovalerianic aldehyde, propionic aldehyde, and acetaldehyde.2, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
Uses and Pharmacology
Fresh celery flavonoid extracts reduced oxidative stress in rats and mice, as measured in the liver, mitochondria, and spermatozoa.11, 12, 13, 14, 15 In a cellular model of Parkinson disease, a butylphthalide extract of celery seed prevented oxidative damage and mitochondrial dysfunction.16
There are no clinical data regarding use of celery for antioxidant effects.
Celery extract showed vasorelaxant effects on isolated rat aortic rings.17 Celery seed extract exerted hypotensive effects in hypertensive, but not normotensive, rats, possibly due to the n-butylphthalide content.18
A randomized, double-blind study (N = 535) conducted in patients with acute ischemic stroke found n-butylphthalide to be superior to aspirin at 90 days using a modified Rankin scale.19
An ethanolic extract of celery seeds in rats was effective in inhibiting total cholesterol, triglycerides, and low-density lipoproteins, while increasing high-density lipoproteins.20 Hypercholesterolemic rats fed a mixture of plants, including celery leaves, showed improved lipid profiles and a reduction in lesions in the liver.21
There are no clinical data regarding use of celery for dyslipidemia.
In older studies, n-butylphthalide showed sedative and anticonvulsant effects in rodents.2
Clinical trials guiding celery dosage are limited. In one trial, n-butylphthalide 200 and 400 mg daily regimens were used. Higher doses were associated with elevated liver enzymes.19
Carminative use of the seed typically involves 1 to 4 g doses.3
Pregnancy / Lactation
Avoid use. Celery seed is contraindicated in pregnancy, as it may have uterotonic activity and has been used traditionally as an emmenagogue.2, 30 Celery has also been used as an antilactogen by herbalists.13
Celery root–induced bipolar disorder was diagnosed in a 52-year-old woman with major depressive disorder managed for the previous 5 months on venlafaxine 75 mg/day plus St. John's wort 600 mg/day with no side effects. Within 48 hours of initiating a celery root extract 1,000 mg/day for menopausal symptoms, the patient presented with elevated and manic affect, verbose and rapid speech, visual hallucinations, and impaired level of functioning. Total venlafaxine and metabolite levels were elevated (476.8 ng/mL; therapeutic range is 195 to 400 ng/mL). Serotonin syndrome was ruled out. Her affect, hallucinations, and thought processes improved after 24 hours with no further celery root supplementation.36
Case reports are lacking. Antithrombotic effects have been described for celery seed extracts.19 An interaction with warfarin due to low vitamin K content (47 mcg per 100 g of celery) is unlikely.25 Celery seed showed cytochrome P450 inhibitory action, possibly due to the presence of furanocoumarins.31 Potentiation of monoamine oxidase inhibitors is theoretically possible.32
Raised liver enzymes have been noted in phase 3 trials of n-butylphthalide 800 mg/day.19
Celery seed has FDA GRAS status.2 Neurotoxicity in rats due to the seed’s chemical constituent falcarinol has been demonstrated.10 Furocoumarins may be carcinogenic, and their concentration increases 100-fold in celery that is injured or diseased.3
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