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Review Article
 
Chervil: A Multifunctional Miraculous Nutritional Herb



A. Vyas, S.S. Shukla, R. Pandey, V. Jain, V. Joshi and B. Gidwani
 
ABSTRACT

Use of herbs to remedy many ailments is known since ages. Indeed, the use of herbs is not only natural way to remedy diseases but also without harmful side effects. Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) is a delicate annual herb, full of nutritional value. It is a common plant genus of the family Apiaceae. It comprises 12 species, some of which are considered as noxious weeds. The genus grows in meadows and verges on slightly wet porous soils. This plant finds wide use in treatment of various diseases. Also, it is considered safe to use this herb by the people throughout the world. It is also called ‘gourmet's parsley’. The active constituents of chervil are volatile oil, flavonoids and coumarins, other constituents present are methyl chavicol (estragole) and hendecane (undecane). This herb is used in kitchen for due to its nutritional aspect. The entire herb is advantageous, miraculous and nutritious in nature.

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  How to cite this article:

A. Vyas, S.S. Shukla, R. Pandey, V. Jain, V. Joshi and B. Gidwani, 2012. Chervil: A Multifunctional Miraculous Nutritional Herb. Asian Journal of Plant Sciences, 11: 163-171.

DOI: 10.3923/ajps.2012.163.171

URL: https://scialert.net/abstract/?doi=ajps.2012.163.171
 
Received: April 21, 2012; Accepted: June 07, 2012; Published: July 19, 2012

INTRODUCTION

Since, long time ago, plants have been a key resource for curing diseases and healing ailments (Gantait et al., 2010). Now a day’s interest in herbal novel medicines has increased tremendously, the modern clinicians are inclined towards herbal based medicines (Gidwani et al., 2010a). According to WHO, it is estimated that about 80% of the total population relies on herbal medicines to maintain their health (Tiwari et al., 2011). As the herbal medicines are safe to use World Health Organization (WHO, 1998) has emphasized the need to ensure the quality of herbal medicinal plant and their products by using modern controlled technique and applying suitable standards (Jain et al., 2007, 2011; WHO, 1998).

One such herbal plant is chervil which has the potential to be used in novel medicines throughout the world. Anthriscus or chervil is a common plant genus of the family Apiaceae; it comprises 12 species, some of which are considered as noxious weeds.

Anthriscus cerefolium L. Hoffm., commonly known as chervil is a warmth-giving herb belonging to the family Apiaceae (Umbelliferae) (Vaughan et al., 1997). Chervil is a member of the carrot family and its leaves highly resemble carrot tops. There are two main varieties of chervil, one plain and one curly.

Anthriskos (also anthriskon or anthriskion) is the Greek name of this plant; the species name cerefolium appears to mean “leaves like wax” and might refer to the bright green color but is more possibly a spelling mistake for cherifolium (Greek chairephyllon), the name the Romans used for this plant (Greek chairein “to delight in” and phyllon “leaf”, referring to the pleasant aroma of the leaves). The present review highlights the different species of chervil and elaborates in detail the use of garden chervil as medicinal herb in various aspects. This herb is advantageous, nutritious and regarded as miraculous.

TYPES OF CHERVIL

Chervil is classified into four main varieties (Fig. 1). They are as follows:

Garden chervil (Fig. 2)
Root chervil
Wild chervil and
Bur chervil

Out of all these species, garden chervil is most widely used. In the present review, two varieties are discussed and described in detail i.e garden chervil and wild chervil.

Fig. 1: Different species of chervil

Fig. 2: Garden chervil plant

Garden chervil
Synonym:
Garden Chervil, French Herb, French Parsely, Sweet Cicely, Rich Man’s Parsley

Origin and history: Chervil was once called ‘myrrhis’ because the volatile oil extracted from chervil leaves bears a similar aroma to the biblical resinous substance ‘myrrh’. Folklore has it that chervil makes one merry, sharpens the wit, bestows youth upon the aged and symbolizes sincerity. Its flavor and fragrance resemble the myrrh brought by the wise men to the baby Jesus. Because of this and because chervil symbolized new life, it is linked to the Easter celebration in parts of Europe where it is traditional to serve chervil soup on Holy Thursday. The warmth of this herb suggested medicinal uses to many of history’s herbalists (Simonetti and Simonetti, 1991) first-century Roman scholar Pliny and the seventeenth-century herbalist Nicholas Culpeper believed that chervil, as Cuipeper put it, “does much please and warm old and cold stomach.” Table 2 shows the scientific classification of garden chervil.

Era’s of chervil (from ancient to modern): The herb chervil was utilized by people of ancient civilization, is utilized by the recent and modern people of today and will always be utilized in future coming decades:

Mediterranean Era Chiristian Era Romans European and western Era of today

Table 1: Vernacular names of chervil

Table 2: Scientific classification of chervil (Hill, 1988)

Common vernacular names of chervil: This herb is called by many different names in different countries (Table 1).

Description: Chervil is available mainly in two distinct types, salad chervil and turnip-rooted chervil. Salad chervil is grown in a similar way to parsley (Grieve and Grieve, 1971). Tuberous-rooted chervil is considered as gourmet vegetable. The whole plant smells of anise and tastes a little of pepper and of anise; it blooms during May to August (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3: Chervil flower cluster and unripe fruits

Morphological characters of plant:

Height: Chervil is a hardy annual; grows to a height of 12-24 inches (300-610 mm) (25-70 cm) and a width of 6-12 inches (150-300 mm), (30 cm), mainly 2 ft
Leaves: The lacy, fern like, light green leaves are opposite, compound and bi pinnate; they are sub-divided again into opposite and deeply cut leaf lets. The lower leaves are pointed and the upper leaves are sessile with stem sheaths (McGee and Stuckey, 2002)
Stem: The stems are finely grooved, round, much branched, light green and hairy
Flowers: flowers are white in color, delicate, dainty, arranged in tiny umbels and grow into compound umbels
Root: Chervil has a white, thin and single tapering root
Fruits: fruit are oblong is 0.5-0.75 cm long, segmented and beaked
Seeds: The seeds are long, pointed with a conspicuous furrow from end to end. Leaves of the chervil are nearly always used fresh but can be preserved by deep freezing or by making a pesto-like preparation (Drugge and Dunn, 1995)

Physical characteristics of the plant: Chervil is grown from seed sown in early spring or autumn. It is biennial herb growing to 0.45 by 0.25 m. It is hardy to zone 7 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from May to June and the seeds ripen from June to July. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects. The plant is self-fertile. The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and requires well-drained soil (Clapham et al., 1962). The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist soil.

Cultivation and collection of plant

Geographical distribution: A member of the Apiaceae, chervil is native to the Caucasus but was spread by the Romans through most of Europe, temperate parts of Asia; it is also popular in Germany, England and America (Bown, 1995)
Habitat: Forests, valley sides, grassy places on mountain slopes; near sea level to 4500 m., typically found at an altitude of 0-1,657 meters (0-5,436 feet) (Clapham et al., 1962; Bown, 1995)

Cultivation and production technology (McGee and Stuckey, 2002)

Soil: Chervil grows well in any good garden soil with high fertility. However, moist, humus-rich soils with good drainage are most suitable. It can be successfully grown in soils with a pH of 6.5, especially turnip-rooted chervil which has a wider adaptability and grows in all parts of the chervil-growing world where the soil is fertile and with sufficient moisture
Climate: Chervil is a hardy plant and thrives in much cooler climates provided with warm location but as a cold weather crop, chervil is susceptible to frost and should be planted in a sheltered area. In temperate climates, it can also be grown as a summer season crop. Under such conditions, it prefers partial shade. The plants are not robust and soon wither and die
Propagation: Chervil can be propagated only through seeds. For this purpose, the seeds must be bedded in damp sand for a few weeks before being sown, otherwise their germination is slow. In temperate region the seeds are usually sown in March-April, whereas in tropical or subtropical parts they are sown during October by drill or scattered in well-prepared land and mixed with well-decomposed farmyard manure. The recommended seed rate is roughly 3 kg ha-1 which is sown in rows. Seeds should be grown in the spring in shallow drills 30 cm apart. When the seedlings are about 7-8 cm high, the plants should be thinned to 8-10 cm apart. The seedlings are too fragile to be transplanted. In the South, the seeds are usually sown in the autumn but they may not germinate until spring. In the North, the seeds may be sown in the autumn to germinate in the spring; or the plant may be started indoors in later winter and transplanted to open ground later on. Seed vernalization induces rapid bolting and flowering under long days; without vernalization, bolting is very slow under all conditions. Vernalization also decreases yield. But higher yields are obtained when vernalized seeds were germinated at 20°C (Fejes et al., 2000)
Manure and fertilizers: Chervil prefers to be grown organically with the application of well-decomposed farmyard manure or leaf mould at about 8-10 tons h-1
Weeding and irrigation: Hand weeding in the initial stages is recommended. But later, when the weed population is heavy, weed killers like influtalin and ethafluralin (1.1 kg ha-1), sethoxydim (4.5 kg ha-1), linuron (1 kg ha-1), chlorobromuron (4.5 kg ha-1) and thiobencarb (6-8 kg ha-1) are used to control weeds. Since, chervil is an herbaceous crop, it requires frequent irrigation. It grows poorly in hot, dry conditions. Regular watering is very essential. Chervil should be protected from summer sun, wherever it is grown as a summer season crop (NRCS, 2000)
Intercultural operations: Soil should be earthed up to loosen it and to enhance aeration for better growth. The flowers should be picked as soon as they appear as it helps to make stalks to shoot rapidly
Intercropping: Inter cropping is widely followed in tropical areas. Addition of organic manures during intercropping is advantageous as it increases the physical properties of soil and water holding capacity (Amanullah et al., 2007). Chervil and radishes planted together produce hotter radishes, since chervil prefers light shade. Chervil can be intercropped with Rauvolfia serpentina or Mentha arvensis or Salvia sclarea
Pests and diseases: Among pests, aphids occasionally cause damage and are generally controlled by spraying Malathion (0.5%) two or three times during the infestation. Few botanical insecticides such as rotenone control aphids, thrips and some soft-bodied sucking insects. Rotenone as liquid concentrate is sprayed along with Trichoderma spp. to control diseases like root rot.
Pyrethrum is a botanical obtained from the dried flower of Chrysanthemum cinerariifolium and is used as an insect control agent. It provides a rapid knockdown of a wide range of insects. Pyrethrum is very expensive and has a very short residual effect. Therefore, it is usually used in combination with other insecticides such as rotenone and with an activator or synergist such as piperonyl cyclonene or piperonyl butoxide
Among the diseases, powdery mildew can be noticed at the flowering and early seedling stages. It can be controlled by spraying wettable sulphur (0.2%) two or three times at weekly intervals. Chervil may be infected with the virus for Anthriscus yellows and also reported to exhibit mottling, leaf necrosis, dwarfing and malformation due to viral infections (Thompson and Kelly, 1957)
Harvesting (Bremness, 1988): Harvesting of chervil should be properly timed and it mainly depends on the purpose of harvesting, whether it is for salads or vegetables or for obtaining the seeds. If the chervil is being harvested for salad or vegetable, the flowers should be removed well before harvesting to obtain maximum shoots. The leaves can generally be cut six to eight weeks after sowing. After the required leaves have been harvested, the plant should be cut down to the ground to allow more growth to occur. After picking, the leaves and stems can be dried on wire racks in a cool, ventilated, shady place. Once the leaves are dried, they become brittle (either whole or crumbled) and can be stored in an airtight container. Fresh chervil may be chopped and frozen with water in ice cube trays
Yield: An herbage yield of about 2.5-3.0 tons h-1 can be obtained in case of leaf crops and 500-700 kg of seeds per hectare can be obtained. The application of water may produce considerable difference in the average yield of chervil (Akinbile and Yusoff, 2011)
Harvest and preservation (Hylton, 1974): Chervil is usually ready to harvest within about 6 to 8 weeks after sowing. Harvest the green leaves, fresh as needed, before the plant has flowered and when young and tender. Use fresh from garden, avoiding cooking unless added at the very last minute
Chervil does not dry well as it loses much of its flavor. For preservation, freezing works the best. To freeze, blanch stems in boiling water for one minute, then chill in ice water. Drain and dry, then chop the leaves and spread them out on a cookie sheet and place in freezer. Transfer to glass jar or freezer bag and place back in freezer
Alternatively, pour fresh chervil with a little water and freeze in an ice cube tray. Remove cubes when frozen and place in glass jar or freezer bag. Adding the leaves to white wine vinegar is also a great way to preserve and use chervil. To harvest the seeds for future plantings, gather them before they drop when their color changes from light to dark brown

Fig. 4: Macronutrient profile of chervil (total 99%)

Fig. 5: Nutritional benefits of chervil

Nutritional analysis of chervil: The herb is a great source for minerals and many vitamins. In 100 g of dried chervil, there are about 230 calories, of which 6% is total fat, dietary fiber is 11.3 g, protein is 23.2 g and of course, it has no cholesterol. Chervil is 99% nutritious (Fig. 4). The plant contains major constituent as flavonoids and only minor amounts of essential oil (0.3% in the fresh herb, 0.9% in the seeds); it also contains methyl chavicol (estragole) and hendecane (undecane).

Rich supplement: Chervil is rich in vitamins and minerals. It is an all-rounder as it has all the essential health supplements in it. This herb serves as a good source for health supplement pills and syrups for gaining energy. This single herb is packed with many nutrients (Fig. 5).

Uses: Herbs, a major part of traditional medicine, has been used in medical practice since antiquity and are considered to be one of the most common element of ayurvedic, homeopathic and naturopathic medicine (Gidwani et al., 2010b).

Table 3: Uses of the herb chervil

Table 4: Medicinal properties of chervil

Exposure of human skin leads to a large number of problems like acne, pigmentation and sunburn (Kapoor and Saraf, 2011) the remedy to all these is the use of herbal medicines. Like various herbs chervil too is also abundant of therapeutic constituents and has been used for several medicinal purposes throughout history by herbalists. It has many health and medicinal benefits (Table 3).

Medicinal properties (Table 4): The leaves have a mild digestive action and an infusion of fresh leaves can settle the stomach. It is used as a spring tonic that lifts the spirits (Stuart, 1979).

Neutralizer for blood: Chervil, when taken along with herbal tea improves blood circulation and cuts down the cellulitis. It is also used to treat hemorrhoids and varicose veins. It is a rich source of iron and zinc and fights against anemia. The fluid retention symptom during menstruation period can be washed out with the help of chervil. With its unique blood-thinning and anti-hypertensive properties, it calms down the symptoms of high blood pressure. It was medicinally used as a blood purifier. (Grieve and Grieve, 1971).

In skin disorder: Chervil leaves are also very beneficial for suppurative and inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis characterized by redness, swelling, itching and scaling) (Amit et al., 2007), psoriasis, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and acne (an inflammatory disease of sebaceous gland) (Hans, 1988). All these effects are slightly similar with the therapeutic activity of Tinospora cordifolia (Ahirwar and Gidwani, 2011):

The medicinal properties of chervil make it a favored ingredient in lotions and cleansers
Due to its effectiveness in skin treatments, this herb is also used in creams for hemorrhoids and varicose veins (Griffiths and Royal Horticultural Society, 1994)
Chervil juice taken at periodic intervals can improve and heal the skin from injuries and scars
The herb is helpful even for liver problems
The medicinal benefits and uses of the chervil leaves include using them in a poultice to remedy for aching joints
It is also known to reduce cellulite (Splittstoesser, 1984)
Chervil leaves is used as eyewash since ages, chervil cream helps in treating the irritation of eyes and other ophthalmological conditions.

Fig. 6: Chervil leaf

Pharmacological importance:

Stimulant: Temporarily arouses physiological activity (Simonetti and Simonetti, 1991)
Expectorant: Facilitates the secretion of mucus from the respiratory system (Hill, 1988)
Digestive: Chervil contains good amount of fiber and promotes digestion
Diuretic: Increases urine discharge, its diuretic properties make it a good herb to have during menstruation (Hylton, 1974)
Antioxidant: Antioxidants protects the human body against the damage caused by ROS (Reactive Oxygen Species) (Ashawat et al., 2007). These combat free radicals and increase antioxidant which helps in boosting the metabolism and improving immunity (Griffiths and Royal Horticultural Society, 1994)
Anti inflammatory: Its anti-inflammatory properties make it effective for treating common cold and flu.

Fig. 7: Chervil garnishing salad

Culinary uses (Simonetti and Simonetti, 1991): It adds fragrance to cream-based soups, butter sauces, scrambled eggs or omelet’s. Its best added at the end of the cooking process to keep its flavor. The herb is best used fresh as it does not dry well like most leafy herbs (Fig. 6).

As flavoring agent: Chervil’s flavor is lost very easily, either by drying the herb, or from too much heat, so it should be added at the end of cooking or sprinkled on in its fresh, raw state. Chervil’s flavor is preserved by keeping it in white wine vinegar. Its delicate leaves make it an attractive herb to use for garnishes (Fig. 7). [http://www.mulberrycreek.com/] Dried chervil is basically tasteless and musty and at best tastes sweet and grassy with a touch of liquorice. Chervil is an effective seasoning to foods. Both the leaves and the stems are used for cooking and whole sprigs make a delicate and decorative garnish. Blanched sprigs of chervil are occasionally used in soup (Alden et al., 2009; FAO, 2010).

Edible uses:

Edible parts: Leaves; Root (Fejes et al., 2000) (Fig. 6)
Edible uses: Condiment

Edible leaves are used raw in salads or as flavoring in cooked foods such as soups and stews. The leaves are an essential ingredient of ‘bouquet garni’. The leaves should always be used fresh because the delicate flavor does not withstand drying or prolonged cooking (Gleason and Cronquist, 1991)

In cosmetic:

An infusion of fresh leaf is used as a skin cleanser and lotion to clear skin (DeGuzman and Siemonsma, 1999)
Chervil steeped in brandy was once used as a face splash in the evening to tone the skin
The juice of the stems and leaves has been rubbed on blemishes (Kljuykov, 2004)

In crafts and horticulture: Flowers are used in dried arrangements and tussie mussies; both flowers and leaves used in potpourris. Chervil is sometimes used as a trap crop by gardeners to protect vegetable plants from slugs (Spalik, 1997; Philbrick and Gregg, 1967).

Other uses: Plant extract from centuries, serves to be the best remedy against various disorders (Alam et al., 2012). Chervil extract is used in menstrual cramps. Also used for healing eczema, edema, abscesses, gout stones and scrofula. Europeans use this Chervil herb to lower blood pressure. Pregnant women bathed in an infusion of chervil; its lotion is used as a skin cleanser; and medicinally as a blood purifier. It is also beneficial for treatment of kidney disorders, bladder disorders and cystitis. It can be used in diet to lower blood pressure. Chervil is said to be of value in treating poor memory and mental depression (NRCS, 2000). The growing plant is said to repel slugs, hence used as repellent.

Toxicity (Drugge and Dunn, 1995): Chervil has also been implicated in "strimmer dermatitis", or phytophotodermatitis, due to spray from weed trimmers and other forms of contact.

WILD CHERVIL

Synonym: Wild chervil, cow parsley.

Plant description: Wild chervil, Anthriscus sylvestris (L.) Hoffm. Figure 8 is a weed belonging to the parsley family (Apiaceae). Its three to four foot heights, fern-like leaves and white flowers arranged in a compound umbel pattern are quite pronounced during late May to early July and are commonly found along roadsides and in meadows in central Vermont. Over the past five years, this weed has spread rapidly. It propagates by both seed and by lateral budding at the top of the root. It competes aggressively with forage crops for light, water and nutrients and often kills off the surrounding vegetation by shading it. It is particularly damaging to forage crops, wild chervil is not poisonous to livestock. The stems are very slow to dry and reduce crop quality due to molding.

Fig. 8: Wild chervil

This weed serves as a host for the parsnip yellow fleck virus that infects carrots, celery and parsnips. It also belongs to carrot family.

Morphological characters: The plants produce hollow flower stems, up to 6 feet tall. The stems are branched and covered in soft hair, particularly near the base. The leaves are arranged alternately on the flower stems and are nearly hairless. Each leaf is divided into smaller leaflets, which in turn are also divided. The base of each leaf stalk surrounds the stem. Flowers are produced at the top of the stems in a flat-topped mass called a compound umbel, starting around late May to early June. Individual flower stems grow from the same point forming umbellets, many of which form an umbel. Each flower is white and has five notched petals that are larger toward the outside of the umbellet. wild chervil is the first of the parsley family to flower in Vermont and wild carrot flowers later in the season (Hore, 1979)
Biology, habitat and life cycle: Wild chervil is native to Europe where it is a very common along roadsides and pastures. It was probably introduced in North America in wild flower seed mixes that were designed to imitate the plants commonly found in British meadows and hedgerows. It prefers rich, moist soils. It is found along roadsides, edges of woods and in waste places (Howard, 1987)
Wild chervil can be either a biennial or short-lived perennial that spreads by seed and root budding. As a biennial, it forms a rosette in the first year, flowers the second year producing seed and then dies. This weed is a heavy seed producer and spreads rapidly. Birds, water and human activity are responsible for seed movement
Control: Wild chervil is very difficult to control because of its extremely deep taproot and its resistance to herbicides. Pulling of flower stalks without removal of the entire rosette and taproot encourages the crown to re-sprout in the following year. The taproot is frequently up to 6 feet deep, making hand pulling almost impossible
An effective control for seedling plants is to dig up the plant, including the roots, before flowering. There has been limited research evaluating herbicides for wild chervil control. A study in Nova Scotia in 1997 found dicamba (Banvil) to provide good control applied when plants were in the vegetative stage (Kaur and Saraf, 2012)

Active constituent of wild chervil: Wild chervil contains bioflavonoid as major active constituent.

CONCLUSION

Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) herb is vibrant green and can be stored without preservatives or even dried. Because it is delicate, it is used as a garnish. Used in mixture of some other herbs, it adds distinct taste. Chervil is used in most of herbal extracts and nearly one-third of botanical herb is actually chervil. Chervil is an edible herb that is widely used in kitchens around the world. It is a very popular herb with various culinary and medicinal uses. In ancient times, the plant was believed to symbolize revitalization and a new life. This plant can be consumed in large quantities without any potential danger to health. As a result, high nutrition can be gained from it. The entire herb has nutritional value of approx 100% for health benefits. As such the entire herb is edible in nature but the leaves and roots are widely used. Chervil is good source of vitamins and minerals and possesses broad pharmacological activities. In Earth religions, Chervil is considered an Herb of Immortality and is used as an elixir or incense to get in touch with one's soul or the souls of those departed (as a guide to the new spirit to reach peace and serenity). Is also considered an aid to magic and is added to amulets. It is deemed especially important for those worshipping the Goddess and those who study the mysteries of the Cauldron of Cerridwen. It is regarded as miraculous herb.

RECOMMENDATION

Chervil is regarded as the good Herb or “Herbs for the Home”. This single herb is entirely useful in various conditions. But, according to the review done, it is not cultivated in India and its pharmacological activities are not much explored. Only on the basis of traditional beliefs of ancient times, it is considered as magic miraculous herb. So in the coming future, this plant can be further explored for its activities to be proved and also attempts should be made to cultivate this magic, miraculous and nutritional herb in India, which will be beneficial to the society.

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