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Parsley is well known for decorating a plate, freshening your breath and getting stuck in your teeth. But did you know that it is also a cancer crusader? Research shows this tiny green may stop the growth of breast cancer tumors associated with synthetic hormone replacement therapy.
The use of synthetic progestins as part of hormone replacement therapy has been clearly linked to an increase in breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women.
In a study published in Cancer Prevention Research scientists exposed rats to apigenin, a common flavonoid found in parsley, other plants, fruits and nuts. The rats on apigenin developed fewer tumors and experienced significant delays in tumor formation compared to those that were not exposed to apigenin.
The finding is significant for the six to ten million women in the U.S. who use synthetic hormone replacement therapies. The authors noted that certain hormones used in synthetic HRT accelerate breast tumor development. The study exposed rats to one of the chemical progestins used in the most common HRTs prescribed in the United States -- medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA). MPA progestin is known to be the same synthetic hormone that accelerates breast tumor development.
According to the researchers, when tumor cells develop in the breast in response to MPA progestin, they encourage new blood vessels to form within tumors. The blood vessels then supply needed nutrients for the tumors to grow and multiply.
But they found that apigenin blocked new blood vessel formation, thereby delaying, and sometimes stopping, the development of the tumors, and reducing the overall number of tumors.
Apigenin is most prevalent in parsley and its cousin, celery. It can also be found in:
- Chinese cabbage
- bell peppers
The researchers could not recommend a specific dosage for humans but suggested keeping a minimum level of apigenin in the bloodstream to delay the onset of breast cancer that progresses in response to progestins such as MPA in synthetic HRT. They advised eating a little parsley and some fruit every day to ensure the minimal amount in the blood stream.
Besides being rich in apigenin, parsley is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K. It's also a good source of iron and folate.
Parsley is the most popular herb in the world. Before it became accepted as a food, it was used medicinally and the ancient Greeks considered it sacred. In folk medicine parsley is used as a diuretic.
To boost the amount of parsley in your diet, try making a simple tabouli with parsley, bulgar, chopped scallions, mint, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Or substitute parsley for basil in your favorite pesto recipe.
What's your favorite way to use parsley?