Also known as Apium graveolens.
Celery, Apium graveolens L., is an annual or biennial member of the family Apiaceae, native to Europe, and grows in wild habitats in saline soils near coastal regions and marshlands. Widely grown as a vegetable, cultivated celery is less fragrant than the wild variety. Celery is propagated from seed in spring and harvested from midsummer to autumn. Celery seed (actually a fruit) possesses a warm, aromatic, pungent flavour.
The chemistry of celery seed and its essential oil have been extensively studied. The essential oil contains deltalimonene, selinene, various sesquiterpene alcohols, and the characteristic flavour principles of celery; phthalides, primarily 3-n-butylphthalide, and sedanenolide. The seed also contains a fixed oil with ubiquitous fatty acids, including petroselinic, oleic, linoleic, myristic, palmitic, and stearic acids.
Records show that celery has been cultivated for at least 3,000 years and is one of the oldest vegetables ever used in recorded history. The ancient Egyptians were known to gather wild celery from marshy seaside areas for food, and it was known in China in the 5th century BC. The ancient Greeks on the Isthmus of Corinth around 450 B.C. regularly crowned their winning athletes with crowns of celery stems and leaves. Throughout history, celery has been used as a food, and the whole plant – stems, seeds and root - were used medicinally.
Today, the seeds are used for treating rheumatic conditions and gout. They help the kidneys dispose of urates and other unwanted waste products, as well as working to reduce acidity in the body as a whole. They are useful for arthritis, helping to detoxify the body and improve the circulation of blood to the muscles and joints.
Celery seeds have a mildly diuretic and significantly antiseptic action. They are an effective treatment for cystitis, helping to disinfect the bladder and urinary tubules. They are also beneficial for chest problems such as asthma and bronchitis, and, when used in combination with other herbs, help to reduce blood pressure. Celery seed is also useful in treating flatulence, poor digestion, liver congestion and jaundice, and with nervous system disorders such as neuralgia and sciatica.
Various other pharmacological activities attributed to the seed or essential oil include antispasmodic, mild sedative, and anti-inflammatory activity, among others.
Some individuals may suffer contact dermatitis or allergies from handling or ingesting celery. The psoralens in the stems or seeds can cause photodermatitis. Those allergic to birch pollen may experience hypersensitivity to celery ingestion (birch-celery syndrome).