Family: Apiaceae (Umbelliferae), Apium graveolens L.

Source: Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. 1984. Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate Zone. Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT.

Celery, Apium graveolens L., is a biennial plant native to North America, South America, and Eurasia. Although extensively cultivated as a vegetable, the dried ripe fruit are produced as a spice in the People's Republic of China, France, India, Italy, Pakistan, the United States, and Great Britain (11.1-75, 11.1-76).

The reported life zone of celery is 5 to 27 degrees centigrade with an annual precipitation of 0.3 to 4.6 meters and a soil pH of 4.2 to 8.3 (4.1-31). The plants thrive in deep sandy or loamy soils but require irrigation because of their shallow root systems. Plants are seeded or transplanted, and the compound white umbels, cross-pollinated by insects, are developed in the second year. Harvested plants are allowed to dry and are then threshed to remove seeds.

An essential oil is obtained from seeds or seed chaff by a process of crushing and steam distillation. The essential oil of celery seed includes d-limonene, selinene, sesquiterpene alcohols, sedanolide, and sedanonic anhydride (14.1-9). A fixed oil includes the fatty acids petroselinic, oleic, linoleic, myristic, palmitic, palmitoleic, stearic, and myristoleic (1.2-6). Oil of celery seed is sometimes adulterated with celery chaff oil or di-limonene and other terpenes from less expensive essential oils.

The brown, characteristically aromatic, pungent seed is used in salads, soups, stews, vegetable dishes, meat dishes, and celery salt (a mixture of table salt and ground celery seed). The essential oil and oleoresin of celery seed are used as a flavoring or fragrance in liqueurs, perfumes, and cosmetics, such as soaps, creams, and lotions. The odor is produced by the anhydrides, sedanoid, and sedanomic (11.1-136). As a vegetable, celery is cultivated for the green and blanched leaf stalks (Apium graveolens L. var. dulce [Mill.] Pers.), or, to a limited extent, the edible thickened roots and crowns (Apium graveolens L. var. rapaceum [Mill.] Gaud.-Beaup).

As a medicinal plant, celery has been used as an aphrodisiac, anthelmintic, antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic, emmenagogue, laxative, sedative, stimulant, and tonic. The plant is used against asthma, bronchitis, and rheumatism. Large amounts of the volatile oil can produce sedation and irritation that may be responsible for attributed antispasmodic properties. Celery is known to cause photodermatitis and contact dermatitis (8.2-79, 11.1-96). Celery has also shown hypoglycemic activity (7.1-21, 11.1-96). Myristicin found in the seed is chemically related to known carcinogens (7.8-12). Wild celery usually refers to Vallisneria spiralis L., an aquatic perennial plant of the Hydrocharitaceae family (14.1-3).

Celery seed is generally recognized as safe for human consumption as a spice, natural seasoning, and plant extract/essential oil (21 CFR sections 182.10,182.20 [1982]).

[Note: References listed above in parentheses can be found in full in the original reference].

Aromatic and Medicinal Plants Index

Last modified 6-Dec-1997