The celery juice phenomenon is often attributed to Anthony William, who considers himself the originator of the Global Celery Juice Movement.1 The movement has received both social media and major media attention in The New York Times2 and LA Times3 among others.
You can easily grow your own organic celery at home when you keep it cool, give it an unfailing supply of water and plant it in good soil.4 It’s important to choose organically grown celery as it’s one of the more contaminated vegetables available at the grocery store.
Choose Organic Celery for Your Table
Each year the Environmental Working Group (EWG),5 a nonprofit organization aimed at protecting health and the environment, publishes a guide to pesticides in produce. This document is called “The Dirty Dozen;” celery usually makes an appearance on the list.
In 2012, it was No. 2 on the list and the one most likely to contain multiple pesticides, with 96% of the samples testing positive and nearly 90% retaining more than one pesticide.6 By 2019, celery had dropped to number 11, having been overtaken by strawberries, spinach and kale.7
Before testing the fruits and vegetables, the produce was washed and peeled as consumers may be expected to at home.8 The Shopper’s Guide, which the EWG has published since 2004, ranks contamination in 47 fruits and vegetables based on more than 40,900 samples.9 Carla Burns, EWG Research Analyst, commented:10
“The main route of pesticide exposure for most Americans who do not live or work on or near farms is through their diet. Studies have shown that eating fruits and vegetables free of pesticides benefits health, and this is especially important for pregnant women and children.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics11 emphasizes children’s exposure should be limited. Pesticide exposure is linked with poor mental development, pervasive developmental disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Their data also suggest an association with physical birth defects, fetal death and neurodevelopmental effects.
The EWG evaluated the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s tests, which found 225 different pesticides on fruits and vegetables.12 Dr. Philip Landrigan is director of the Global Public Health Initiative at Boston College and one of the writers of the 1993 National Academy of Sciences study, “Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children.”13
He underscores the implications of pesticide exposure and stresses that when possible, steps should be taken to lower a child’s exposure while continuing to offer a diet full of fresh produce.14
The dangers of pesticide exposure continue into adulthood. The Pesticide Action Network reports long-term toxicity at low doses has been associated with Parkinson’s disease, depression, anxiety, asthma and certain cancers.15
Celery Juice Trending: Rising Cost Is a Perfect Storm
Michael Karsch is the CEO of a New York chain of juice bars, Juice Press,16,17 and he tracks juice trends. In 2018 he noticed a rise in celery juice interest and decided to offer a 12-ounce, one ingredient drink for $7. Karsch spoke to The New York Times about the shortage and his take on the future, saying:18
“Within a few days, it was our third best selling beverage, which is astonishing for a one-ingredient offering. I have been historically unimpressed by celery. It’s not vibrant. It’s got a ton of water and a ton of a fiber … Three months ago where we couldn’t provide enough celery juice for about 4 days … Five years ago it was organic almonds, there was kale maybe 7 years ago. Usually what happens is it corrects.”
Vandana Sheth,19 spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, finds these trends are often driven by social media and may be enticing because she believes many people are looking for a quick fix for their health.
She noted moving back and forth between different trending eating plans may be dangerous, and said:20 “I’m seeing a lot more of a disordered way of eating in my practice. It’s not sustainable long-term.”
Sammy Duda,21 senior vice president of Duda Farm Fresh Foods, one of the largest celery growers in the world, spoke to The New York Times about his family’s familiarity with the supply and demand issue when celebrities endorse a specific type of vegetable juice. Out of 10 items listed on their products page, three of those are packaged celery and one is fresh celery.22
The cost not only is affected by demand from the juice trend, but also by the weather. The New York Times23 reports a warm, dry fall in Palm Beach, Florida, where some of the crop is grown, and a cold, wet winter on the west coast where other fields are located, have affected growth and harvest.
The crop on Duda Farm was also impacted by a soil-borne disease, which together added up to a shorter than normal supply in an environment with a greater than normal demand.
Phytonutrients Promote Health Benefits
Although there’s been a push to promote celery as a cure for many different health conditions, scientific evidence supports a more limited number. One cup of raw celery contains 40% of your daily value of vitamin K.24 In addition to this it contains 11% of your daily value of molybdenum,25 a trace mineral your body uses for the detoxification of heavy metals.
Some of the larger threats from heavy metal are associated with cadmium, mercury, arsenic and lead.26 Long-term exposure may result in neurological damage, skin cancers, kidney damage and bone fractures.
Toxicity will depend on several factors including the route of exposure and duration.27 You can read more about how molybdenum functions in heavy metal detoxification in my past article, “The Three Pillars of Heavy Metal Detoxification.”
Celery also contains measurable amounts of folate, potassium and vitamin B2. Celery stalks are a great source of antioxidants, phytosterols, flavanols and flavones, many of which provide anti-inflammatory benefits.28 But, one of the more advantageous compounds found in celery may be apigenin, gaining interest for its potential to fight cancer.29
Apigenin is a flavonoid found in several fruits and vegetables and some Chinese medicinal herbs. It has strong anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral properties and is now being reported as subduing different forms of cancer. This has been found in vitro and in vivo by initiating apoptosis and autophagy, as well as stimulating an immune response.30
Apigenin is associated with stimulating the growth of nerve cells. One animal study demonstrated learning and memory improvements when apigenin was injected or taken orally.31 Studies have also linked apigenin with activating AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) in human skin cells.
The results suggest that “one of the mechanisms by which apigenin exerts its chemoprotective action may be through activation of AMPK and induction of autophagy in human keratinocytes.”32 In another published study, scientists looked at the anticarcinogenic properties on the regulation of oxidative stress and DNA damage. They wrote:33
“One of the most well-recognized mechanisms of apigenin is the capability to promote cell cycle arrest and induction of apoptosis through the p53-related pathway. A further role of apigenin in chemoprevention is the induction of autophagy in several human cancer cell lines.”
Large Amounts May Interfere With Kidney Function
Although not high in oxalates, celery has between 11 and 20 mg for every 3 1/2 ounces of the vegetable. Oxalates are found in plant and animal foods with some of the more concentrated sources including spinach, almonds and beet greens.34 Oxalates are related to kidney stone formation and calcium absorption.
Your gut bacteria play a role in how available oxalate will be for absorption. A combination of oxalate and nonoxalate-containing foods will also impact how much soluble oxalate gets absorbed from the digestive tract.35
Calcium oxalate kidney stones are among the more common types of stones. However, it’s not high amounts of calcium that cause the stones but, rather, oxalate.36 Oxalates are compounds that protect plants from predators.37 The oxalic acid binds with calcium to make it less bioavailable and insoluble, increasing the risk of kidney stones.
Oxalates are broken down by gut bacteria, but when your microbiota are compromised the compounds enter the bloodstream and get stored in the kidneys. While 11 to 20 mg of oxalate in one 3 1/2-ounce serving of celery is minor, drinking 16 ounces of celery juice each day may not be.
One 16-ounce glass of celery juice requires one large bunch of celery,38 which often contains 10 stalks39 and weighs about 16 ounces or more.40 Drinking this much celery juice is roughly equivalent to 90 mg of oxalates every day. In addition to other foods, including chocolate, berries, nuts, legumes and grains,41 this may increase your risk for kidney stones.
Soothing Chamomile Tea — An Option With Similar Benefits
Herbal teas are a rich source of polyphenols and flavonoids with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. One of the most soothing is chamomile tea, belonging to the Asteraceae family42 containing a large number of herbs, shrubs and trees.43
In addition to being used as a tea, chamomile has been praised for many health benefits, including those in the volatile oils found in the flowers. One of the major constituents in the flower is apigenin, primarily found as a glycoside.44
Adults can use the volatile oils from the flower in a bath, as a cream for flaky skin, as an inhalant or tincture to relieve menstrual cramps and to improve sleep. For more information about the benefits of chamomile and how to make a tincture at home, see my past article, “What Are the Benefits of Chamomile?”