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Phytomedicine. 2001 Sep;8(5):382-8.

The mechanism underlying the laxative properties of parsley extract.

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Department of Biology, Faculty of Arts & Sciences, American University of Beirut, Lebanon.


Parsley has been claimed in folk medicine to possess laxative properties attributed to the presence therein of some volatile oils that are more concentrated in seeds than in stems or leaves. The advocated physiological effect of parsley, does not have, however, any proven scientific background and relies mainly on simple observations and empirical information. This work aims at providing the scientific evidence that would confirm or reject the claimed laxative role of parsley, and at determining its mechanism of action if present. A perfusion technique was used to measure the net fluid absorption from the rat colon. The addition of an aqueous extract of parsley seeds to the perfusion buffer, and the omission of sodium, both reduced significantly net water absorption from the colon, as compared to the control. Parsley, added to a sodium-free buffer did not lead to any further significant change in water absorption as compared to parsley alone inferring that with parsley sodium absorption was already inhibited. Since K+ and Cl- secretion depends on the activity of the NaKCl2 transporter, the latter was inhibited with furosemide which increased significantly net water absorption. When parsley and furosemide were added together, net water absorption was significantly higher than with parsley alone and significantly lower than with furosemide alone. In addition, parsley extract was shown to inhibit the in vitro activity of the Na+-K+ATPase in a colon homogenate and the activity of a partially purified dog kidney ATPase. The results suggest that parsley acts by, inhibiting sodium and consequently water absorption through an inhibition of the Na+-K+ pump, and by stimulating the NaKCl, transporter and increasing electrolyte and water secretion.

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