Food Job: Folklorist

There’s no question, celery has its merits. Sears, Roebuck & Co. advertised a celery tonic in its 1897 catalog, claiming it was good for the nerves; a forerunner of valium, apparently. And long before celery was made into a patent medicine, the Romans and Greeks said it cured a hangover. They also thought that it chased away ancient-civilization blues and purified the blood at the same time.  Their reasoning may have been that because the wild celery tasted so bitter, it had to make you feel better.

We still feel in our bones that good medicine ought to taste bad, but cultivated celery has achieved the feat of tasting agreeable without sacrificing its mysterious powers.  And now scientists have established a solid basis for the health claims made for it.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that eating two stalks of celery a day lowers blood pressure.  Further investigation reveals that 81 percent of people on a high-potassium diet that includes celery could control their blood pressure while taking only half the usual medication.

Celery is high in potassium, but also high in sodium — there are 35 milligrams in a stalk.  Sodium tends to be bad for hypertension but, surprisingly, one factor doesn’t cancel out the other.  There are about 30 chemicals in celery; one of which is a substance called 3-n-butyl phthalide. Laboratory studies have shown that this significantly reduces the blood pressure by relaxing the muscle tissue in artery walls, thus making a wider channel for the blood to flow through.

It seems the Greeks found the solution to a problem without fully understanding either the problem or its solution.

Note: Would-be medieval magicians used to put celery seeds in their shoes, hoping this would help them fly. It didn’t.

You may find this field of research endlessly fascinating. Indeed this could be your Cinderella moment.

For More Information

Search Google for University courses on Folklore studies.

Read The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales by Bruno Bettelheim.