Valued in the kitchen as a flavoursome and versatile vegetable, but practically unheard of as a natural remedy, a hype from the USA is now turning good old celery into a shooting star. Does it really deserve the limelight?
Celery, a member of the umbelliferae family, has in fact been used as a medicinal plant since ancient times. Tradition has it that the ancient Egyptians as well as the Romans and Greeks recognised its properties. Over the centuries, knowledge of the beneficial effects of the celery plant was lost, and until only recently the vegetable was used mainly for cooking. Now, however, the celery hype is gradually spilling over from the USA to Europe, triggered by a self-proclaimed food guru who believes that celery has almost magical powers. From an objective point of view, celery is of course not a cure-all, and yet there is a kernel of truth behind the current fascination with the vegetable. Health benefits can be derived not from celery stalks but also from celery root, commonly called celeriac. Although their areas of application in the kitchen vary considerably (celeriac is often used for soup bases, celery stalks in salad), the nutrients offered by the two parts of the plant are more similar than their divergent appearance would suggest.
Both celeriac and celery stalks contain the terpenes limonene and selinene (components of the natural essential oils), which are primarily responsible for the aromatic taste. And they also have many health-promoting properties, acting as an expectorant, a cholagogue (stimulating the flow of bile from the gall bladder) and a diuretic. While growing, celery stores essential oils to drive away bacteria and fungi – which is also the effect they have in our bodies. The oils inhibit harmful bacteria and fungi in the stomach and intestines and disinfect the mucous membranes in the mouth and throat. When excreted via the kidneys, bladder and ureter, the so-called terpenes also disinfect the mucous membranes there, thus alleviating inflammation of the urinary tract and preventing bacteria from attacking the bladder, especially in women.
The diuretic effect in particular deserves closer attention. Celery, especially in the form of juice, promotes the discharge of excess water from the body, making it ideal for fasting cures, as toxins are flushed out with the urine. Thorough flushing of the body is also extremely helpful for those suffering from gout and rheumatism, allowing the triggering substances (e.g. uric acid) to be better excreted. Furthermore, celery is also rich in natural calcium, which, together with phosphorus, is the most important building block for bones and teeth. 99 percent of the total calcium in our body is found in these hard tissues. The rest is dissolved in blood and other tissues, where calcium fulfils vital tasks. It is crucial for blood clotting, for the stimulation of nerve and muscle cells, and for the normal functioning of digestive enzymes.
In terms of nutrients, celery can therefore easily compete with all other vegetables. Whether as a stalk, root or juice, regular consumption of celery is worthwhile both in culinary terms and for the promotion of good health.