I’ve become fairly passionate about debunking overinflated health claims and plain old misinformation lately. Cruising through social media and seeing click bait headlines with misleading or just wrong information really gets my (Nubian) goat. If you follow my facebook business page, you’ll see I often share such articles and dismantle their claims to not only educate, but also to encourage people to do their own research.
That said, the celery juice trend has really gathered some serious steam lately. If you’ve been around social media or the internet lately, perhaps you’ve seen all the #celeryjuicebenefits. The Medical Medium (who has zero training or license in any medical field) proclaims celery juice can save lives and even rebuild your and heal your digestive tract. “Celery is truly the savior when it comes to chronic illness,” he says.
I’ve heard several people (and many hundreds more whom I don’t know personally) rave about celery juice’s benefits to skin, digestion, and overall health, so I decided to dig deeper. I’m also jumping on the celery juice bandwagon myself. I’ve been juicing 12-16 ounces of celery juice for over a week now and have noticed some mild improvements in energy and digestion. (I’ll update when my 30 days is up + I’m getting blood work during this time).
BUT, there isn’t a lot of science out there about celery juice’s benefits. Probably not much incentive to study it extensively yet. So, much of what we hear is just claims or theories.
Here are some of the claims about celery juice’s benefits:
- calms inflammation
- boosts immune system
- starves and expels pathogens, viruses, and unproductive bacteria
- improves methylation and detox
- mineral salts in celery juice deeply hydrate and support neurons, adrenals, and central nervous system
- reduces blood pressure
- lowers blood sugar
- rebuilds hydrochloric acid (HCl) in the stomach
- eases constipation and bloat
- may heal damage from and reverse acid reflux
- fights and prevents disease
- may promote weight loss
- strengthens bones
- and “Just 16 ounces of fresh celery juice every morning on an empty stomach can transform your health and digestion in as little as one week.”
Those are some pretty hefty claims.
Let’s see what the available science says
Celery and its juice are a good source of minerals (especially potassium), phytonutrients, vitamin K, and flavonoids—compounds that have been shown in studies to help support electrolyte balance, function as antioxidants, and help lower blood pressure and inflammation. It’s very low sugar and only has about 40 calories per 12 ounce or so glass.
About detox: supposedly celery juice detoxes and removes bad bacteria, fungi, mold, viruses, and other toxins from the liver, according to the Medical Medium. The liver performs over 500 vital functions including producing bile, storing iron, filtering the blood, and converting poisons (like ammonia) into urea, which are then excreted (this is actually a fact). It’s true that the liver can be attacked by viruses (like hepatitis), but there is no evidence that celery juice would cure or “remove” hepatitis or any other viruses or bacteria. It is a diuretic, so it can ease water retention and make you pee more, which can also relieve bloating. People tend to confuse peeing or pooping a lot with being detoxed because there are fluids coming out and stuff being released, but this does not signify anything is being flushed from your liver.
Of greater concern is that there are toxicants in celery—furanocoumarins & psoralens—which can cause skin issues and may result in liver damage from breakdown intermediates during metabolism. Celery juice is way more concentrated than eating celery, so you’re getting a mega dose of all the phytochemicals, and we just don’t know how all of them affect the body and whether they’re beneficial or dangerous in such doses. For example, these phytochemicals may affect phase 1 and phase 2 detox pathways in the liver, and in some people it can be beneficial. In others it can result in increased backup of toxins in the system and even drug interactions (similar to grapefruit). (source)
This gives me great pause, because I DID notice an increase in headaches (something to which I am not prone) while drinking celery juice. I assumed it was a detox reaction, and while it might be, that is not necessarily a good thing! Headaches could signal an imbalance in the liver detox pathways.
VERDICT: dubious, potentially dangerous
About inflammation: celery and celery juice do actually contain potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant phytochemicals, such as polyacetylene, apigenin, and luteolin. These and other compounds fight free radical damage and lower the inflammatory response which prevents diseases like cancer. (source) So this claim is legit. Interestingly, in mouse studies, apigenin was also shown to reduce the growth of breast cancer. (source)
VERDICT: true, and may also reduce risk of certain cancers
About blood pressure: Celery does contains the phytochemicals phthalide and 3-butylphthalide. These chemicals relax the tissues of the artery walls to increase blood flow to reduce blood pressure. There are actual studies on this: The results from this pilot study suggest that celery seed extract may have clinically relevant blood pressure–lowering effects, indicating that additional clinical research is warranted. (source) The claims do go on to say that, eating or juicing just four stalks of celery a day prompts a decrease in both blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Celery juice is rich in trace minerals, vitamin K, and antioxidants that support the vascular system, so celery (4 stalks daily) or celery juice is effective for a slight reduction in BP.
Heals the gut & rebuilds HCL: Gut health and healing leaky gut are always topical. We know that glutamine and zinc carnosine are great for healing the gut (I like this formula), but what about celery juice? There isn’t significant clinical research on the benefits of celery juice in human digestion currently. It is cooling and anti-inflammatory and does act as a natural laxative (I can attest to this, as it makes me poop, sometimes a lot), and those factors support gut health. We also need copious amounts of stomach acid (HCl) to help us digest and kill pathogens that hitchhike in on food or challenge the good bacteria in the gut. As we age, HCl declines, and most people don’t have enough of it to properly digest (hence the heartburn epidemic). Some sites claim that the mineral salts in celery juice “rebuild” the HCL in the gut, restoring the levels to help you digest better. I’ve also seen claims that celery juice rebuilds the stomach lining. No evidence of either, though it can help reduce bloating.
VERDICT: dubious. May reduce intestinal inflammation and bloating, but no evidence that celery juice restores HCl or “rebuilds” the gut.
For acne and skin conditions: Acne is an inflammatory skin condition, and celery juice is anti-inflammatory, so there’s that. Acne is also a congestive issue that can be worsened by constipation (toxins reabsorbed into the system), and celery juice may promote better pooping. Hydration is key to good skin, and we know celery juice is great for that. But acne is a complicated issue that may have hormonal or even food triggers. So it depends on the cause of your acne, but I’d bet the hydration and shot of nutrients celery juice provides would promote healthier skin overall. Celery juice is high in vitamin C, which is needed to make collagen for skin regeneration. In terms of eczema and psoriasis (also both inflammatory and autoimmune conditions), celery seeds have been used in the treatment of psoriasis. (source)
How to Use Celery Juice
Are you convinced yet? If you want to do celery juice “the right way,” you’ll need to drink 12-16 ounces first thing in the AM on an empty stomach so you’ll enjoy the digestive benefits throughout the day. I drink it after I have my tea, but whatever. It works best on an empty stomach.
I have a juicer, and typically 3/4 – 1 bunch of celery makes ~16 oz of juice. If you use a blender, you’ll need to blend the celery then strain it.
Don’t mix it with anything else to get the full benefit, they say. I occasionally juice it with 1/2 a lemon or some parsley though. Lemon is also great to stimulate HCl production, and parsley is very cleansing.
Adding celery juice to your morning routine is a great way to get minerals, antioxidants, vitamins, and extra hydration into your diet. You’re robbing yourself of the fiber, but you do get a more concentrated kick of nutrients celery provides. I do think it provides minerals and salts in which most of us are deficient (the Medical Medium calls them mineral salts that haven’t yet been discovered by science). It probably does hydrate and nourish cells better than water. In fact, I’d wager many people see such great benefits because we’re chronically dehydrated and deficient in minerals. Celery juice probably remedies both issues, and it reduces bloating via its diuretic powers.
Most of the positives I’ve heard are clearer skin and better digestion. If it’s working for you, great. (I wonder about placebo effect a little here). We tend to become attached to single magic bullet cures (remember the soy cure-all craze?) when we should support our health with a number of magic bullets.
Overall, the celery juice claims are overinflated, but I wouldn’t discourage anyone from trying it. I would recommend it for inflammatory conditions such as autoimmune, skin, -itis conditions, pain, high blood pressure, or even migraines. I’d also give it a shot for bloating and improved digestion. Best way to know if it’s working for you? Monitor how you feel, and get blood work (cell counts and CRP inflammatory markers) after 8 weeks or so.
UPDATE ON MY RESULTS: I drank celery juice pretty much daily for a month, then I tapered off. I wasn’t able to get blood work after that month (other than checking my thyroid hormones, which came back normal), but I’d like to try for that in the future so I have some hard data to go on. Overall it didn’t do much for me. But what I did notice is it made me feel more hydrated. I live in a very dry area and am prone to becoming dehydrated because of the climate. There was a noticeable improvement in feeling more hydrated.
It did occasionally make me bloated and gassy, and I didn’t notice many improvements in digestion, energy, or anything else. I did notice an uptick in headaches, though, which is curious. I also noticed a laxative effect. The celery juice poops are real.
My feeling about celery juice is it may have a more noticeable healing effect in those with chronic health problems because it does contain beneficial minerals and salts in which most Americans are deficient. I don’t have any significant health problems, but I was curious about celery juice’s effect on digestion. I did not notice improvements in digestion per se other than its laxative effect, which can signal that it is in fact boosting bile flow. Hoping I can pick it back up again and test my blood afterwards.
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Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. In addition to her coaching practice, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and kick nagging digestive issues for good. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.