Apium is a classification of flowering plant. It includes about 20 different species of plant, some of which are edible. The best known of these is Apium graveolens, commonly called celery. There are three basic types of Apium graveolens: celery, leaf celery, and celeriac. They are grown both for food and for use in medicines.
Apium graveolens is grown all over the US and in South America, Europe, and Africa. The plant grows wild in some wetland areas. It is technically a biennial plant, but in agricultural settings it is usually harvested before it reaches its second year.
The most common variety of Apium graveolens is celery. It is available for sale in most grocery stores. The outer part of the stalk is removed before sale because it is too tough to eat. The part of the plant commonly found is stores is actually the heart of the stalk.
This bushy plant comes in multiple colors, including green, reddish, and golden varieties. The stems can grow to reach two or three feet (about 0.6 to 0.9 m). If left to mature into a second year, Apium graveolens blooms small yellowish flowers.
Another variety of Apium graveolens is called leaf celery, but may also be called French celery or Chinese celery depending on its place of origin. Its thin, round stalks grow to about a foot (about 0.3 m) high and sprout fragrant leaves. These leaves have a strong flavor and become stringy with age. The plant was a common food item in ancient Europe and Asia.
The third variety of the plant is called celeriac. It is the least common of apium varieties. This plant is grown for its root, which tastes like a stronger version of celery. It is used in soups and stews.
Celery seed has been used as a medicinal treatment since the Middle Ages. The seeds are tiny and brownish with a strong smell. Historically they have been used to treat digestive problems, diseases of the spleen or liver, and cold and flu symptoms. They can be taken in their natural form or processed into capsules, tablets, or extracts.
In the modern world, celery seed is used to help the body release excess water. This helps to treat water retention as well as gout and arthritis. More research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of celery seed for these conditions.
Women who are pregnant should not take celery seed. It should also be avoided by people with kidney inflammation. Some people may be allergic to celery seed. It is always a good idea to consult a doctor before using any herb to treat a medical problem.