What Is It?
Despite appearances, the green ribbed celery (Apium graveolens) stalk offers more than a mild-flavored crunch. Seeds collected from the white flowers that bloom in summer are steam-distilled to produce special tonics. These so-called “celery cures” were wildly popular in the late 19th century for treating bladder and kidney ills. Animal research indicates that celery extracts do encourage the kidneys and bladder to pump out more urine; this is called a diuretic effect. But whether this happens in any consistent way in humans needs confirmation.
People suffering from gout, a joint condition caused by high uric acid levels in the blood, may find some relief with celery extract. Components in the plant appear to keep uric acids below critical levels, which may stave off painful gout attacks.
Over the years, arthritis and other rheumatic pains have been treated with celery extract to lessen inflammation. Celery in other forms, including a juice, have also been used to treat rheumatism and other ailments. Even eating the fiber-rich stalks–about four a day–may also offer some healing benefits. Recently, some dieters have started to drink celery-flavored sodas in the hopes that this will help them shed weight. There is no evidence that it will, however.
There are no known drug or nutrient interactions associated with celery or its extracts.
• Don’t take celery medicinally (although eating the vegetable is fine) if you’re pregnant or have a kidney disorder.
• Allergic reactions to celery are rare but can be serious if they occur. Signs of such a reaction may include hives, swelling, breathing trouble, and potentially fatal shock. Some people have a skin reaction after handling the actual plant and then being exposed to sunlight.
• Avoid consuming large amounts of the seed oil made from celery; reports indicate that it may cause central nervous system problems.
David Edelberg, MD