Parsley and menstruation connect through compounds in the plant’s oils, which are thought to help start a delayed period. Much of the evidence is anecdotal and doses are not yet standardized, but people have taken the herb for centuries for this and additional medicinal purposes. Women who want to try this remedy can use it in several ways, depending on their preferences, but they should be aware of the potential side effects, such as kidney problems and headaches.
About the Plant
Parsley is a common herb people have grown for both medicinal and culinary uses for more than 2,000 years. A member of the carrot family, it is also used as a popular garnish. Botanists recognize more than 30 distinct types, but individuals are most familiar with Petroselinum crispum, which has curly leaves, and Petroselinum crispum neapolitanum or “Italian” parsley, which has flat leaves. It is known for its characteristic spicy-bitter flavor.
Use for Menstruation
Herbalists frequently recommend parsley as an emmenagogue, which is a substance that can induce menstruation. They assert that it can encourage the shedding of the endometrium, which is the inner lining of the uterus, and that it allows the cervix to relax or dilate, allowing menstrual discharge to pass out of the body through the vaginal canal. It might be effective for general period regulation, or for treating the delay caused by stress, fibroids or hormonal disorders.
How It Works
Medical professionals think that parsley might encourage menstruation because the oils in the plant contain two compounds, apiol and myristicin. These substances are both uterine stimulants that can induce mild contractions and dilate the cervix. The amount contained in each parsley plant and species varies, however, and concentrations are different among the roots, leaves and fruit, which contain 0.1%, 0.3% and 2 - 7%, respectively.
How to Use It
Women who want to use parsley to jump-start their periods can ingest the plant as food with their regular diet, or they may steep the leaves to make tea. Less commonly, people go to an herbalist, health food store or general pharmacy and get caplets or tablets to take. Some people like this option because it allows them to be more precise about dosing without the need to measure anything. Even less often, women insert it into the vagina as a suppository, but many herbalists lean away from this practice because of the possibility of encouraging the growth of harmful bacteria. In general, experts do not recommend using the essential oil straight, because there is some concern about possible toxicity.
Currently, the amount of evidence available regarding safe and effective dosing with parsley and menstruation is small, so there is not an accepted recommendation for how much to take. It has been administered at 6 grams a day, but even this amount does not have the research behind it to support widespread use. Although medical professionals acknowledge that the plant can work as an emmenagogue at higher doses, the amount someone needs to take to induce her cycle will be different from woman to woman based on age, weight and other factors, and a standardized dose generally is the starting point for these types of adjustments.
There are reports of women who have started their periods just hours after consuming a medicinal dose. Depending on the amount taken and the cause for the delay in menstruation, however, it can take additional time, usually a day or two, for the herb to work. Sometimes, this makes it difficult to tell whether the plant truly was effective or if the body simply finally resolved its cycle problems on its own.
Warnings and Considerations
Although the effects of this herb on the reproductive system are considered mild, the fact that apiol and myristicin can stimulate contractions of the uterus means that pregnant women should avoid medicinal doses. It might cause a miscarriage — in fact, apiol once was used in birth control, and people have used the herb as an abortifacient to induce an abortion. It also has been used to intensify contractions as a way to help labor.
Women who use parsley to start menstruation might need to increase their intake of water, because the compounds in the plant have a diuretic effect. The chemicals can worsen kidney problems, so those who have renal conditions should not take it. Even though it has been used to stimulate appetite and treat digestive issues like flatulence and constipation, in some people, stomach upset occurs. Other reported side effects include fluid retention — which is already a problem for many women during their periods — headache, increased blood pressure, giddiness, hearing problems, loss of balance, and convulsions.
Most people are able to get this plant from a grocery store or grow it from clearly labeled seed, but in many parts of the world, it grows wild and can be harvested successfully. Individuals who want to do this should be aware that it bears a strong resemblance to Aethusa cynapium, also called small hemlock, and Conium maculatum, sometimes known as poison hemlock. The leaves of the first plant are shiny underneath, contrasting the edible version’s dull appearance, and poison hemlock usually is bigger.