Potent Anti-inflammatory Herbs: Celery Seed Extract
Anti-inflammatory Herbs Guide
Who would have thought that this common household staple, celery, was once a very bitter plant. During the 18th century, the plant was “converted” by Italian gardeners to a less bitter variety which is now mass produced. Of course celery bitters continue to exist, though rare, until today.
Other than for food, this “love it or hate it” plant, in particular its seeds, has been used in Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years to aid our body’s detoxification process; thereby was treated as a liver, kidney and spleen tonic.
Relating to this, celery seed has long been recommended as one of the important anti-inflammatory herbs for gout and arthritis.
According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP), one third of all Americans (about 70 million people) suffer from some form of arthritis; a figure which has now reached an epidemic proportion.
Celery seed naturally contains 2 to 3% volatile oils (including limonene, β-selinene and phthalide) and flavonoids (apigenin and apiin).
The phthalide and β-selinene are the main components responsible for the typical celery flavor and aroma.
Unaware to many, ground celery seed is one of the typical (though not the main) spices contained in curry powders or other spice mix; it is also a much valued ingredient of novel perfume.
However, the star of this anti-inflammatory herb is the phthalide component. And the three that have therapeutic properties are (from the highest in content):
The other minor phthalides are also important but it is unlikely that all have the same level of physiological activity.
Of Spiky Crystals & Stagnant Water
As you know, the whole celery plant is nutritious; the seeds however are the most used as medicinal herb. So how does this anti-inflammatory herb cool the heat of inflammation?
The action itself helps detoxify your kidneys, bladders and liver. It’s the excess uric acid, stagnating and crystallizing in your joints (especially your toes) that “poke” your pain nerves.
These are not the only places favored by the floating crystals; they may also get stuck in your kidneys, livers or other tissues often causing inflammation and tissue damage. Uric acid can also contribute to the formation of kidney stones.
Another cause of inflammation is excess water in your system. Please don’t take this “watery” issue lightly. When excess fluid builds up in different parts of your body, different health issues crop up.
If it fills up the air spaces in your lungs, you’ll be gasping for air; if it overloads your heart (usually in the pericardium―a double-layered sac surrounding the heart) this can result in congestive heart failure.
But before you get hit by a dysfunctional heart, you’ll be downed first with pericarditis (inflammation of the pericardium). Naturally, chest pain is one of the symptoms.
Now the good news … this is where the diuretic properties of this anti-inflammatory herb continue to work its magic.
By helping the body rid excess or stagnated fluid surrounding the heart, for example, it reduces strain on the heart, so in a way, it helps support a healthy heart (and not to mention a set of blood pressure figures that put a smile on your face.)
As an anti-inflammatory herb cum anti-uric acid, celery seed phthalides may also have xanthine oxidase-inhibiting properties (xanthine oxidase is an enzyme involved in the production of uric acid) to keep uric acid level down.
Celery Seeds, the COX Regulator!
The active components in celery seed, in particular the three phthalides mentioned above, are said to calm the action of COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes.
Imbalanced production of these enzymes can cause an over-production of the pro-inflammatory prostaglandins that play an important role in the inflammation process.
Noteworthy of mention is the anti-inflammatory role played by the other so-called “inactive” or minor components in celery seed … they too play a part in regulating the COX enzymes. (link)
According to Dr. James Duke, (more about Dr. Duke in a moment), celery seed contains 25 anti-inflammatory compounds!
Although celery seeds have been prescribed for use by humans as an anti-inflammatory herb for ages, but to date most studies done to prove its efficacy are on rats and in test tubes! Here, I’ll highlight those few promising human studies and testimonials.
Testimonials & Human Studies
One of the most “famous” celery seed testimonials is by Dr. James Duke, an ethnobotanist and author of “The Green Pharmacy” and "The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook."
He had been taking allopurinol (a medication that inhibits xanthine oxidase) faithfully for eighteen years just to avoid the dreadful pain caused by the crystals.
But ever since he started taking the celery seed extract, allopurinol was no more needed. He’s once again a happy man; he’s gout-free. If you think that this is just a coincidence, think again.
“Even three years into my experiment, my success could just be coincidence,” said Dr. Duke. “Celery is a good example of phytochemical medicine in action.”
This anti-inflammatory herb seed extract (2x450 mg, 6:1 extract) seems to be as effective, if not better, in keeping his (and the rats’) uric acid level under control.
Another study, there are four as far as I know, is conducted by lead researcher, Brian Daunter, Ph.D. at the University of Queensland, Australia. These studies are small but nevertheless, well organized.
The first study was done on eight arthritis sufferers. Arthritic patients took celery seed extract for 6 weeks, and about half reported less pain as rated by a special questionnaire. When they stopped taking the celery seed, the pain returned.
In another study, researchers used the McGrill Pain Index to evaluate fourteen diagnosed arthritic patients. After 12 weeks of twice-daily treatment with a celery seed extract (2x680 mg, 10:1 extract), the usual pain level of the patients was reduced on average 52%, while the present pain level was reduced by 45%.
In 1991-1992, the results from another two studies, also conducted at the same university, but in collaboration with Indian researchers, have reached an interesting conclusion about this anti-inflammatory herb …
A celery extract, standardized to contain 85% total phthalides including 3nB, was given to diagnosed arthritis patients.
The first of these studies involves fifteen people ages of 33 and 80. They were given 34mg of this celery extract twice daily (2x38 mg, “85% 3nB” 40:1 extract) for six weeks. 98% of the volunteers reported a degree of pain relief; some even reported a complete absence of pain!
In the second later study, seventy patients received a larger dose of 75mg twice daily for three weeks (2x75 mg, “85% 3nB” 40:1 extract).
The results fared even better than the first. No negative side effects (except for the diuretic effect); and no changes in the sodium and potassium imbalance were reported.
Dosage & Quality Issue
Allow me to clarify a few findings … the standardization ratios (6:1, 10:1, 20:1 and 40:1) mentioned earlier are not published in the studies; but are close from the information that I’ve gathered.
Since phthalide is the main active component in celery seed, standardization of the seeds to this component is the norm.
Still remember the three star phthalides that make celery seed a potent anti-inflammatory herb in its own right?
They are 3nB, sedanolide and sedanenolide.
The process of extracting the active components will depend on the duration of distillation.
“For celery seed, the limonene concentration decreases with duration of distillation, while the concentration of β-selinene and the phthalides increases.” (link, pdf)
The higher the phthalide 3nB of an extract, for example the “85% 3nB” celery seed extract, the lesser the content of the other two phthalides, in particular sedanenolide.
Ok, these are the standardization ratio that I've come up with:
• A 40:1 extract contains approximately 85% total phthalides;
My Two Cents
The first of the last two studies above has shown that with just 58 mg of phthalides a day, gout and arthritis sufferers can experience some degree of pain relief. (This is how I get the number … 2 x 34mg x 85%.)
If celery seed extract is your one and only anti-inflammatory herb remedy, then perhaps it’d be better for you to take the one with a higher dosage, i.e. 128mg phthalides (3nB).
But bearing in mind that the other phthalides (and other seed components) too have anti-inflammatory roles to play, you might want to pick one that provides the best of both worlds, i.e. a 20:1 extract, and at least 150mg of standardized phthalides per serving.
This will give you approximately 64 mg of phthalide (not only 3nB but including other phthalides) content.
In my opinion, an anti-inflammatory herb supplement often works best if it includes a synergy of other effective ingredients; and not just a single herb.
The reason is simple … celery seed extract might not work for you. Another important reason … product synergy. A potent anti-inflammatory herb and nutrient “formula” is what I’ll be aiming for.
Ineffective OTC Anti-inflammatory Herbs!
This is the result from a study entitled “Over the counter (OTC) oral remedies for arthritis and rheumatism: how effective are they?” conducted by Whitehouse et el at the University of Queensland.
“The three NSAIDs available OTC were efficacious but gastrotoxic. Of the 37 herbal formulations examined, seven were as effective as ibuprofen in the anti-arthritic assay without causing gastric bleeding.
Five of the 10 animal-sourced products tested were also effective without evident toxicity. Within a certain class of product, e.g. celery seed extracts or dried mussel preparations, efficacies ranged from almost zero to highly effective.” (link, pdf)
What causes these large discrepancies in the results? Many reasons … the most common one that gives rise to a market filled with low quality, impure and ineffective supplements is none other than “greed” itself.
So how do you know if the supplement is pure and of high quality? Take this as your guideline and everything will be ok.
Synthetic 3nB Lurking
I thought this might interest you. From the L-3-n-butylphthalide, a pure component from celery seeds come its synthetic cousin, DL-3-n-butylphthalide.
Although approved by the State Food and Drug Administration of China for clinical use in stroke patients in 2002, anything synthetic has no place here.
This synthetic “anti-inflammatory herb” (I don’t think it should be classified as a herb anymore) is made to imitate the active component of the natural celery seed extract (Apium graveolens).
Other health claims about 3nB (in particular) that I did not include here but you may have read from somewhere else are most likely synthetic 3nB studies.
Eat it fresh and raw! 4 to 6 ribs or stalks of celery will provide you with approximately 64 mg of phthalides.
Celery is also rich in potassium and is one hell of an alkalizing food.
Take it on top of your daily anti-inflammatory herb supplement.
Or if you prefer, juice it. An excellent anti-gout snack, don’t you think so?
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