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Chervil or garden chervil { past and present medicinal uses}

Updated on April 12, 2014

Anthriscus cerefolium flowers

Uploaded by topjabot
Uploaded by topjabot | Source


Chervil, sometimes referred to as the garden Chervil belongs to the Order of Plants known as the Apiales and placed in the family Apiaceae {formerly the Umbelliferae}. it was formerly referred to as Beaked parsley and French Parsley. As these latter names suggest this plant is related to the garden Parsley.

This family of plants holds within it some of our most well known herbs such as the Parsley, Fennel. Celery, Angelica and Carrot However, it also holds some of our most poisonous plants, such as Hemlock and Fools parsley. Consequently correct indentification is essential harvesting members of this family for culinary or medicinal purposes.

To help in this respect we start the review of this species with a description of the subject under review.

Illustration of Chervil.

Flors Von Deutschland 1855 {uploaded by Topjabot}
Flors Von Deutschland 1855 {uploaded by Topjabot} | Source

Description of Chervil

The root of this species is fusiform about the thickness of a man's little finger, it is reddish on the outside and white within. it is somewhat branched and very fibrous towards the extremities.Arising from the root system are the stems which are cylindrical, glabrous, striated, and branched rising to the height of around two feet { 60 cm }

The foliage is very similar to that produced by the Cow parsley and Fools parsley { see my hubs on these two subjects} the whole leaf being of a triangular outline and ferny appearance. The leaves are divided three times {tripinnate} which are sometimes somewhat curly. They are arranged alternately along the stem. The leaflets are ovate-cordate with deep segments of a delicate pale green colour. As with all members of this family of plants there is a sheaf where the leaf stalk meets the stem.

The flowers are in umbels { have spokes like an umbrella}, which are located in a lateral position at the summit of the branches,composed of 3-4 pubescent rays. The umbellicules {small individual umbels that make up the whole flower head }, are small each having thinlinear bract-like leaves. The calyx is an indistinct rim. The petals are white, unequal heart shaped and spreading and slightly inflexed at the point. the anthers are roundish . The small umbels are each 2.5 -4.5 cm Across. { about an inch to an inch and three quarters}.

The fruit {seed capsule} is about half an inch {1 cm } long of an oblong-ovoid shape with a slender ridged beak. The seeds are oblong, smooth, deeply furrowed in front, they are nearly black when ripe.

The plant is annual by nature and flowers in June and July. The garden Chervil was sometimes placed in the genus Chaerophyllum.

Sheaf where the leaf stalk meets the stem

Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike  3.0 unported license.
Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 unported license. | Source

Medicinal and historical information

To illustrate the point of correct identification being of paramount importance, I quote from the British Flora Medica 1885--" The common rough Chervil Anthriscus vulgaris bears a resemblance to this species, and was gathered in mistake by the Dutch soldiers, who were in England in 1715, and some of them were poisoned by it. The different structure of the fruit {seed capsule} is a sufficient distinctive mark,when they can be found, being oval,conical and covered with bristles. If the fruit is not perfected the uniform petals, the many rayed umbels and the stems swollen beneath the joints are distinguishing characters."

In the wild the plants are found at waste places, waysides,roadsides and on rubbish heaps.

This plant was once much used as a salad and as a potherb. it was regarded as a pleasant addition to soups etc,and said to be very nutritive and wholesome,a very slight boiling was required. It has an agreeable aromatic smell and a moderately penetrating taste. The aromatic properties are very fugitive being specially dissipated by boiling.However, the greater part of its values are extracted by infusion either in alcohol or water.

Chervil is gently aperient {laxative} diuretic and lactiferous {produces a milky fluid}. Ehrhart, {Ehrhart Pflanzenhist,tom,v page218}, states that it is serviceable in obstructions of the mesenteric glands. Geoffroy, { Geoffroy.Tract. Mat. Med. page 295} extolls it for removing obstructions of the viscera {intestines} for preventing the formation of calcui in the kidneys and bladder, for promoting menses and for the cure of cutaneous {affecting the skin} diseases. He also asserts that it favours the absorption of extravasated blood, both external and internal.

Haller { Halleri Hist.Plant. Hetr n page 747} also employed it in visceral onstructions. Neither,according to Lang {Lange.Brunsv. 252}is it less approved of in asthma, consumption and slow fevers, the juice being given alone, or mixed with goat's milk or gruel. Others state that the herb should be boiled in wine and strained, of which a pint should be drunk every morning, or that the juice should be evaporated to an extract, and an ounce taken during the day.

By Riverius { prax.Med. 1 ii cap 6,de hyd rope} it was used in dropsy ,and by Plenck { Plenck.Mat. Chir. page 300} in Scrofula {tuberculosis of the lympthatic glands, in old herbals it is also referred to as the King's Evil, swollen glands in the neck}. Lastly Geoffroy considered it hurtful in coughs and spitting of blood, which he found to increase, and even to be brought on by continued use.

The external application of Chervil, either in poultices or the juice itself was thought to have been beneficial in many complaints. In the form of a cataplasm, in combination with fresh alder leaves or linseed meal, it dissipates the milk and tumefactions in the breast of puerperal women { the period after child birth as the body reverts to its normal size}. It should be applied to the bare part as warm as can be borne without giving pain, and repeated twice daily.

Combined with hemlock it was considered to be useful in gouty affections of the joints. { Lange,Brunsv dom page 252}. Applied as a poultice to the abdomen it was said to produce a great flow of urine where before there had been retention. { simon Pauli, in Geoff.Tract.Mat.Med page 269}.

Chomel's liniment { Chomel,L'Hist Plant Usuells tom ii page 185} states, take of the juice of Chervil and Olive oil in equal parts, forms a good application to relieve the pain of piles. he also recommends, with the same view, the stem of this plant boiled in milk. The patient sitting over a vessel containing a well-heated decoction. A cataplasm mixed with gruel may be employed for the same purpose,and also for dispersing boils and the like

Cataplasm of Chervil----

This is an old recipe taken from a herbal published 1880.

Take of fresh Chervil leaves, bruised, three ounces. And water one pint. Boil for an hour, strain off the liquid, bruise the leaves into a pulp, and then add half an ounce of Olive oil or of lard.

Decoction of Chervil-----

Take of fresh Chervil leaves two ounces and water one pint. Boil for a quarter of an hour and strain. Dose is recommended at a quarter pint ,mixed with an equal portion of milk, three times a day.

The above information is for historical interest only and not meant as a guide to self medication.

The leaf of Chervil


Modern day uses

Chervil is little used in modern day medicine, and is regarded more of a culinary herb. The foliage produces an aroma somewhat akin to annis having a slight peppery taste.Chervil grows well in pots and other containers. they were once commonly grown indoors for use in winter.

The parts used for culinary and medicinal use are the leaves, the flowers and roots all of which are considered to be edible. The leaves contain a high of calcium and therefore is an excellent source of this mineral. Chervil is sometimes prescribed by herbalists for loss of or poor memory and against depression. It is recommended that the plant is harvested just before it flowers and the fresh plant is said to posses diuretic, stimulant and digestive properties. The fresh plant can also be applied in the form of a poultice. The juice of the fresh herb is used to treat arthritis and persistent skin problems. The foliage of Chervil are crushed and used as a poultice. and is utilized to ease painful joints.

For the Forager--- The young leaves of this herb can be used in salads, soups and stews along with certain sauces. They compliment the taste of chives in a warm potato salad. When used in cooking the leaves of this herb should be added in the final stage to obtain flavour and fragrance.

The leaves are a good garnish for pork and other meat dishes. They may also be employed as an ingredient in the preparation of stuffing {as are the flowers} the root of Chervil are best cooked. They then can be served hot or cold as a vegetable. When used in cooking always use fresh plant parts for much of the goodness diminishes when dried or during prolonged .Chopped leaves of Chervil can also be added to chicken,fish, cottage cheese,and egg dishes. The leaves also add a nice flavour to white wine vinegar.

If you are trying a herb for the first time just try a little to test your body tolerance.

Chervil and the Garden

Chervil delights to grow in rich loamy soils, especially when growing in that medium in a semi-shaded aspect. In certain conditions the plant can grow to twice its normal size. If they grow in the full sun the heat will cause them to bolt {run to seed}. This plant can not endure high levels of humidity, but it has a certain degree of frost resistance. It is said to be an excellent companion plant for carrots, radishes,coriander and dill.They are also resistant to ants and slugs.

The seeds should be sown outdoors a couple of weeks before the last frost occurs in your locality. They also need to be sown where they will grow,they do not like being transplanted,always sow fresh seed. the seeds should be lightly covered by soil and germination should be expected within a couple of weeks. Keep the soil damp until they have germinated. Try to sow in such a manner that there is a space of one foot {30 cm } between the individual plants or thin them out to the required distance.

Although, as previously mentioned they are resistant to ants and slugs they do get attacked by and weevils. If the weather is hot and clammy leaf spots can develop. if using for culinary purposes you are as well sowing successive seeds to ensure a plentiful supply. For such purposes the foliage may be picked when the plants are about 10 inches {25 cm } high. The advantage of Chervil is that it responds to being cut and will produce new leaves relatively quickly to replace those that are harvested. if the leaves are wet they can be frozen for winter usage.


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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      aviannovice ,

      hello Deb, I agree with you chervil is a great herb for cooking. Thank you for your visit and your kind comment. Best wishes to you.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Chervil is a wonderful herb to use in cooking. Thanks for the great article, once again.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Mel Carriere,

      Hi, Glad to have added a bit more to your knowledge of plants and their uses. Thank you for your kind comment it is appreciated. Best wishes to you.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      6 years ago from San Diego California

      I always enjoy learning about new plants, but alas life is too short to learn everything. Great hub!

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      hello Devika Thank you for pointing out the spelling mistake. Appreciated, as are your kind comments. Best wishes to you.


      hello my friend, thank you so much for your kind and encouraging comments and for your vote up, interesting etc, much appreciated. Best wishes to you.

    • prasetio30 profile image


      6 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Very informative hub. Actually, I had never heard about Chervil before. So, I learn something new from this hub. Thanks for sharing with us. Voted up (useful, beautiful, interesting, and awesome)


    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      6 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Hi D.A.L. Chervil is a great plant and so interestingly added here. As I understand you meant to say leaves instead said lkeaves. Please recheck. ''The advantage of Chervil is that it responds to being cut and will produce new lkeaves.''


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