Home My Blog Herb Profiles Botanical Names Glossary Treatments Recipes Other stuff HERB SHOP Books & Equipment Useful Links

Apium graveolens (L)


Synonyms and Common names: Apii fructus, celery fruit, celery seed, smallage

Chinese = Qincai or Han-ch’in, French = Ache, German = Sellerie, Spanish = Apio, Italian = Sedano

Order: Umbelliferae/Apiaceae

Description: Apium is a strong-smelling, slender, erect biennial herb, up to 60cm tall, indigenous to Europe, the US, Asia and Africa in coastal areas, and extensively cultivated in the temperate regions of Europe and North America. It has shiny pinnate leaves and large toothed leaflets, the upper trifoliate and unstalked.  The flowers are white, in four to twelve simple umbels in a compound umbel which is often opposite a leaf; there are no upper or lower bracts. The petals are small and entire with a small inflected point, and the fruits are very small and slightly compressed laterally. The flowering period is from June to August. There are several cultivated varieties which emphasise the size of the ribbed stem, and all varieties have medicinal properties.

Parts used: dried ripe fruit, aerial parts

Collection: The seed is collected when ripe in September, the herb at any time during the growing season.

Constituents: 1.5-3% volatile oil (containing the terpenes limonene and b-selinene, and phthalides); coumarins (seselin, osthenol, apigravin, celerin, umbelliferone); furanocoumarins (including bergapten), flavonoids (apigenin, apiin), phenolic compounds, choline, ascorbate, fixed oil, fatty acids and unidentified alkaloids.

Actions: mild diuretic, mild spasmolytic, carminative, anti-inflammatory, antirheumatic, sedative, hypotensive, urinary antiseptic, reputed aphrodisiac.

Indications: rheumatism, arthritis, gout, inflammation of the urinary tract. Specifically indicated in rheumatoid arthritis.

Therapeutics and Pharmacology: Apium is known as a mild diuretic and urinary antiseptic and has been used in the treatment of urinary calculi. It has a calming effect on the gut, and can be used in the relief of flatulence and griping pains. However, whilst it can reduce visceral spasm, it conversely stimulates the smooth muscle of the womb and can bring on delayed menstruation. After childbirth it helps the uterus readjust and encourages the flow of breast milk. The phthalides are the constituents responsible for the antispasmodic, sedative and diuretic actions. Apium has a direct action on the kidneys, increasing the elimination of water and speeding up the clearance of accumulated toxins from the joints and so is of benefit in any oedematous condition that accompanies arthritis. It  is often administered with Taraxacum radix to increase the efficiency of elimination by both the kidneys and the liver. Apium is also hypoglycaemic, and as such is helpful in diabetes; this action seems to involve a direct action on the pancreas and its production of insulin. Clinical studies in China have demonstrated a hypotensive action for the tincture, and this is accompanied by increased urine output. The flavonoid apigenin has exhibited significant anti-platelet activity in vitro.

The volatile oil in Apium has been shown to have antifungal activity, and it is active against many bacteria including Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus albus, Shigella dysenteriae, Salmonella typhi, Streptococcus faecalis, Streptococcus pyogenes and Pseudomonas solanacearum. No activity was observed against Escherichia coli or Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Combinations: Apium combines well with Menyanthes and/or Guaiacum in rheumatic disease. The therapeutic action of Apium is potentiated by Taraxacum.

Caution: Apium should be avoided in pregnancy because it is a uterine stimulant. The volatile oil in quantity is toxic to the kidneys and so should not be used in kidney disorders. Allergic reactions are rare.

Preparation and Dosage: (thrice daily)

GSL Schedule 1

Dried fruits: 0.5-3g or by 1:5 decoction

Tincture: 1:5 in 90% alcohol, 2-8ml

Liquid Extract: 1:1 in 90% alcohol, 0.5-2ml

Additional Comments: In Germany, celery preparations are used to treat loss of appetite loss and exhaustion, and also in the prophylaxis of nervous exhaustion.



Bartram, T. 1995 Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, 1st edn.,Grace Publishers, Bournemouth.

Bradley, P.R. (ed.) 1992 British Herbal Compendium, Volume 1, BHMA, Bournemouth.

Bremness, L. 1994 Herbs, Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Handbook, London.

BHMA 1983 British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, BHMA, Bournemouth.

Chevallier, A. 1996 The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants, Dorling Kindersley, London.

Hoffmann, D. 1990 The New Holistic Herbal, Second Edition, Element, Shaftesbury.

Hyperhealth 1996 Natural Health and Nutrition Databank, v.96.1 CD-ROM, ©In-Tele-Health, available from Healthworks, Leeds. ISBN 0-646-30942-0

Lust, J. 1990 The Herb Book, Bantam, London.

Newall, C.A., Anderson, L.A., & Phillipson, J.D. 1996 Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-care Professionals, The Pharmaceutical Press, London.

Ody, P. 1993 The Herb Society's Complete Medicinal Herbal, Dorling Kindersley, London.

Press, B. & Gibbons, B. 1993 Wild Flowers of Britain and Europe: Photographic Field Guide, New Holland Publishers, London.

Wren, R.C. 1988 Potter's New Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations, C.W.Daniel, Saffron Walden.


Back to top

Previous herb Back to Index Next herb



Contact: [email protected] Please complete the 'Subject' heading or your email will be assumed to be spam and automatically deleted. Before you contact me, I'd be grateful if you would please check to see if this website has the answer to your question (search box at the top of the homepage) - I have time to answer only a few of the many emails that arrive in my inbox every day. See also the statement below:

For your safety I am prohibited from giving specific medical advice to individuals over the internet or telephone so please do not waste your time or mine by emailing or calling me with detailed information about your health problems - I can only undertake face-to-face consultations for what should be obvious reasons. Diagnoses cannot be made remotely, and I am unable to offer any advice or treatment until I am completely satisfied that I know what I'm dealing with!  The herb profiles and treatment suggestions on this website will help enable you to choose which herbs might be appropriate for minor ailments. For more serious or chronic conditions you should seek professional advice. This is particularly important if you are taking medication from your doctor or pharmacist, as some herbs can interact adversely with other drugs. If you would like to have a consultation with a medical herbalist then you should click here  then scroll to 'Professional Organisations' at the bottom of the page to find a qualified practitioner in your area.

Christine Haughton, MA MNIMH MCPP FRSPH

Wold Farm, West Heslerton, Malton, North Yorkshire YO17 8RY, UK

Last updated 27th November 2014     ©Purple Sage Botanicals