The use of celery dates back centuries and was first identified in the Mediterranean and used as an aphrodisiac by the Greeks and Romans. They thought celery was somehow magical and was associated with the underworld divinities. It was often buried with the deceased and used as a prize for the winners of the Greek and Roman games. The Egyptians also valued celery. It is said that it was buried with King Tut to assist in his journey to the next life.
Celery has long been used for its medicinal properties. The leaves of celery are a source of vitamin A, B and C. The plant itself has a rich supply of potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and calcium as well as other trace minerals. Celery seed oil has even been used as a mosquito repellent.
Although celery has been used to treat digestive issues, fluid retention, urinary tract infections, gout, headache, rheumatism and a host of other ailments, in the last few decades it has been studied for it ability to lower blood pressure.
We know that high blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke and heart attack. More than half of all white adults age 65 to 74 in the United States and almost three quarters of Black Americans in this age group have high blood pressure.
What, exactly is high blood pressure? “It is a common condition in which the force of the blood against your artery walls is high enough that it may eventually cause health problems such as heart disease. Blood pressure is determined by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure. High blood pressure cn go on for years without any symptoms. Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases your risk of serious health problems including stroke and heart attack.” (Mayo Clinic definition)
Blood pressure measures the pressure of blood in your arteries and is scored using two figures. The upper number is the systolic blood pressure in your arteries when the heart contracts. The lower number is the diastolic blood pressure that is the resting blood pressure between heartbeats. Long term uncontrolled high blood pressure damages your arteries and puts a strain on your heart.
High blood pressure (over 140/90) usually develops over time and is often a hereditary condition but can be related to sedentary life style as well as obesity. It is imperative that it be controlled. Check with your health care practitioner for further information.
In the 1990s a University of Chicago Medical Center researcher, Dr. Quang T. Le, was encouraged to study the impact of celery on blood pressure after his father who had suffered from high blood pressure reported that he had eaten a quarter pound (4 oz.) of celery a day and found that his blood pressure was significantly lowered.
Dr. Le along with Dr. William Elliott began to investigate and was able to replicate the blood pressure lowering effects of celery. They found that even small amounts of celery extract (the amount equal to four stalks) were able to lower blood pressure in rats by 12 to 14 percent. They also found a seven percent reduction in cholesterol in the rats.
In their study Drs Le and Elliott identified an active compound in celery called 3-n-butylpthalide (often referred to as 3-n-b) or phthalides.
This study was replicated in 1997 at the University of Singapore with similar results.
Celery contains high levels of the flavonoid apigenin. In 2006 researchers from the University of Porto reported in the American Journal of Pathology that this substance oxidative stress in the cells and acts as an anti-inflammatory. If oxidative stress happens in the arteries, they become less flexible and unable to relax which increases the blood pressure.
Celery is readily available in your local supermarket and is relatively cheap. I buy the organic version that is a bit more expensive. You can also purchase celery seeds in the spice aisle. (Do not eat celery seed from garden seed packets! They contain toxic pesticides and fungicides.)
Celery has many applications from sliced raw with dips to soups and casseroles. I put it sliced in salads and use the seeds in dips, rice, vegetables and baked potatoes. If you have never used the seeds, you might want to start out slowly. They have a fairly strong flavor that takes some getting used to.
Being a female in my mid sixties I have been interested in ways to avoid taking pharmaceuticals. As a college student I worked as a pharmacy assistant in a large clinic in a big city. So many patients would come in asking for drugs to “cure” various ailments both real and imagined. Some of the physicians were quick to prescribe the latest pharmaceutical (hawked by the drug company representatives).
Some of the doctors were hesitant to load their patients up on chemicals. We had a small assortment of placebo “drugs” that were occasionally prescribed to patients who wanted a “pill” to make them feel better. (This practice is not allowed today) They would often come in and say they felt a lot better. One doctor in particular would say, “The body can often heal itself if given the right foods like fresh fruits and vegetables.” He adhered to this himself and lived well into his nineties and maintained his good health.
For all these years I have continued the philosophy that many maladies can be handled without the used of pharmaceuticals. While there are numerous remarkable drugs available that have cured or kept many alive, there are often alternatives for chronic conditions and minor maladies.
I have mild hypertension for which I take a calcium channel blocker. Recently I noticed that my blood pressure was beginning to rise. After some research I decided to try a celery seed extract supplement (in addition to my medication). I have been taking 150 mg twice a day for eight months and my blood pressure remains a consistent 110/70. Twice during the past 8 months I have discontinued the celery seed extract for a few days and my blood pressure jumped to 130/80. I cannot prove without a doubt that the celery seed extract maintains my blood pressure but I am sure that it does. This is what we call “anecdotal evidence”. It means that I report what I have observed and it is not a scientific study.
However, many research studies are initiated from reported “anecdotal evidence”. Case in point is the University of Chicago Medical Center study started when a father reported to his researcher son that celery lowered his blood pressure.
In the field of natural healing and treatment as well as all fields there are many examples of this. Researchers will see that certain things appear to be true based on reports or other non-scientific evidence. They will then design a study to prove or disprove something that appears to be fact or not.