What Are the Benefits of Garlic & Parsley?

Although you may use garlic and parsley in the kitchen to add flavor and taste to salads or cooked dishes, you might be unaware that both contain beneficial minerals and vitamins. Both are also part of traditional herbal medicine, where practitioners recommend them to boost health and treat illness. Modern science indicates that garlic and parsley provide several phytonutrients with potentially significant health benefits.

Fresh cloves and bulbs of garlic. (Image: alien185/iStock/Getty Images)

Vitamins and Minerals

Both garlic and parsley provide significant amounts of vitamin C, which you use to produce collagen and keep your connective tissue in good condition. Ten sprigs of fresh parsley contain about 13 milligrams of the vitamin, while three cloves of fresh garlic provide about 3 milligrams. Parsley also contains vitamin K, an important clotting factor, with about 160 micrograms of the vitamin in 10 sprigs. Both herbs also provide calcium, which is important for healthy bones and teeth, with about 15 milligrams in three cloves or 10 sprigs. They both also contain potassium, important for healthy kidneys, with 55 and 36 milligrams in these amounts of parsley and garlic, respectively.

Healthy Garlic

Garlic cloves contain several natural phytonutrients, including one called alliin that converts to alicin when cloves are crushed. Alicin has antibiotic activity, according to experts at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and also may help keep your blood level of low-density lipoprotein, or bad cholesterol, in a healthy range by suppressing an enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase in your liver that helps manufacture cholesterol. Allicin also inhibits aggregation of blood elements called platelets that are involved in clot formation and tends to reduce blood pressure by causing muscle in your artery walls to relax, effects that can benefit your circulatory system and lower your risk of stroke.

Parsley Benefits

The leaves and stems of the parsley plant contain several natural compounds belonging to a group called flavonoids that act as antioxidants, helping remove potentially damaging free radicals from your body. Over time, free radicals can raise your risk of chronic conditions such as cancer and heart disease. Parsley is especially rich in a flavonoid called luteolin, which is both an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound, helping suppress inflammation associated with arthritis and other painful conditions. Laboratory research published in "Molecules" in 2011 found that myristicin, another member of this group found in parsley, inhibits production of several inflammatory compounds by cultured immune cells, but these promising results still need confirmation in studies with human subjects.

Use and Cautions

You can add fresh parsley or garlic to your meals regularly, or consume either herb as a supplement, available at most health-food stores. Aged garlic extract, which lacks pungent odor, is also available in tablets or capsules. You can brew tea from fresh parsley by steeping about one-quarter cup of the herb in an infusion basket suspended in hot water for about 5 minutes, adding sweetener or lemon juice to suit your taste. Both garlic and parsley are generally considered safe and without side effects. Parsley may increase urination and shouldn't be combined with diuretic drugs, while garlic could interact with blood-thinning medications and other drugs. Discuss use of garlic or parsley with your doctor to decide if either might be helpful for you.

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