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Petroselinum - Trachyspermum

(Umbellifer or Carrot family)


Petroselinum crispum Fuss
[syns Apium crispum Mill., Apium petroselinum L., Carum petroselinum Benth. & Hook.f., Petroselinum crispum Nyman ex A.W.Hill, Petroselinum sativum Hoffm.]

The majority of female workers who prepared parsley in a canning factory developed vesicular inflammation and purple discolouration of the skin and hands and forearms followed by purulent folliculitis and carbuncles (Hübschmann & Čupík 1941). Occupational dermatitis from parsley and celery (Apium) was found in 10% of 182 persons in a rural population (Luppi and Bucci 1970). A positive patch test to parsley was observed in a sandwich-maker who had dermatitis (Hjorth and Weismann 1972). Oil of parsley used in perfumery is said to cause dermatitis (Greenberg and Lester 1954). Evidence that the plant can evoke phytophotodermatitis is scanty (Klaber 1942). 5-methoxypsoralen is derived from the plant (Nielsen 1970).

Innocenti et al. (1976), referring to Petroselinum sativum, found that the furocoumarin content of the plant increased in the summer hot weather.


120 species are found in temperate Eurasia, tropical and southern Africa. A few species are cultivated.

Seventeen species which were investigated yielded eight linear furanocoumarins (Nielsen 1970, 1971). These compounds appear to be of a type which is not known to evoke phytophotodermatitis.

Peucedanum galbanum Benth. & Hook.f.
[syn. Bubon galbanum L.]
Blister Bush

In South Africa, this plant can cause severe blistering of the skin as many who ascend Table Mountain and accidentally brush against the plants will know (Howes 1974). The plant produces dermatitis and blisters 40-50 hours after contact with the bare skin; the vesicant effects vary with the weather (Greshoff 1913, Marloth 1913-1932, Wicht 1918 cited by Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962).

Peucedanum officinale L.
[syn. Selinum officinale Vest]
Brimstonewort, Chucklusa, Hog's Fennel, Sulphur Root, Sulphurweed, Sulphurwort, Gebräuchlicher Haarstrang

This species, which is used in veterinary medicine, yields furanocoumarins (Dean 1963).

[Further information available but not yet included in database]

Peucedanum officinale L. subsp. paniculatum R.Frey
[syn. Peucedanum paniculatum Loisel.]
Finochja, Peucédan en Panicule

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Peucedanum oreoselinum Moench
[syns Angelica oreoselinum M.Hiroe, Athamanta oreoselinum L., Selinum oreoselinum Crantz]
Mountain Parsley

The plant is said to evoke phytophotodermatitis (Pathak et al. 1962).

Peucedanum ostruthium W.D.J.Koch
[syns Angelica officinalis Bernh., Imperatoria ostruthium L., Selinum ostruthium Wallr.]

This species which is used in herbal medicine is reported to evoke phytophotodermatitis (Kuske 1938, 1940, cited by Pathak et al. 1962).

Peucedanum tenuifolium

This species apparently blisters the skin (Wicht 1918, cited by Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962).

[syn. Cymopterus]

Five species are native to the south-western United States. One of the species is cultivated.

Phellopterus littoralis

This species yields a furanocoumarin (Nielsen 1971).


150 species are found in Eurasia, one species in Pacific North America, a few species in South America. P. magna is cultivated.

Pimpinella heyneana, P. magna and P. saxifraga yield 5-methoxypsoralen (Nielsen 1970).

Pimpinella anisum L.
Anise, Aniseed

The condiment, aniseed, was taxed by Edward I (1239-1307) for revenue to repair London Bridge. The oil from the plant is slightly irritant and may inflame the skin (Piffard 1881).

In a case of dermatitis from denture cream and gum-drops, Oil of Anise 1.1% produced a positive patch test reaction, negative in the same vehicle in controls (Loveman 1938). Since Oil of Anise contains about 90% anethole, the patient was patch tested with anethole; a positive reaction was observed, negative in controls. Positive patch test reactions were also observed from Oil of Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Mill.), which contains about 60% anethole and with Oil of Coriander (Coriandrum sativum L.) which does not contain anethole. Loveman (1938) suggested that the patient showed multiple specific sensitivity to Coriandrum sativum from eating dill pickles (Anethum graveolens L.) which are flavoured with Oil of Coriander. In the patient who was tested, Oil of Caraway (Carum carvi L.) produced a negative reaction. A volatile component of Oil of Anise appeared to be responsible for the dermatitis. Anethole was reported by Hjorth (1967) to be the sensitiser in a case of toothpaste sensitivity but no clinical detail was provided. Aniseed was listed as an agent of cheilitis and stomatitis (Zakon et al. 1947). Oil of Aniseed and anethole appear to be both irritant and sensitising (Greenberg and Lester 1954). Hypersensitivity to Oil of Aniseed was observed in candy workers (Schwartz 1934).


Pimpinella major Huds.
[syn. Pimpinella saxifraga L. var. major L.]
Greater Burnet Saxifrage, Hollowstem Burnet Saxifrage

According to Flück & Jaspersen-Schib (1976), an infusion of the root may be used as an application for wound healing - see also Pimpinella saxifraga below.

The roots of Pimpinella major have been reported to contain pimpinellin and sphondin (Nielsen 1971); the phototoxicity of these furocoumarins has been documented.

Pimpinella saxifraga L.
Burnet Saxifrage, Solidstem Burnet Saxifrage

Preparations of the root are recognised for their vulnerary activity in folk medicine (Flück & Jaspersen-Schib 1976), being used as a poultice or in a bath for treating wounds (Stuart 1979).

The roots of Pimpinella saxifraga have been reported to contain bergapten, pimpinellin, and sphondin (Nielsen 1971); the phototoxicity of these furocoumarins is well documented.

Pinda concanense P.K.Mukh. & Constance
[syn. Heracleum concanense Dalzell]
Konkan Pinda

Heracleum concanense yields 5-methoxypsoralen from the fruits (Nielsen 1970).

The genus Pinda P.K.Mukh. & Constance is monotypic. The plant is found in the Western Ghats, a mountain range in India (Mabberley 2008).


30 species are found from the Mediterranean region to central Asia.

Six species yield linear furanocoumarins (Nielsen 1971).

Prangos pabularia

The leaves and blossoms of this plant which grows wild in central Asia were observed to produce a pruritic papular dermatitis followed by hyperpigmentation which persisted for three to six months; patch tests to alcoholic extracts of the leaves and flowers produced positive reactions; to the seeds and stems, negative reactions (Bocharov et al. 1963).

Sanicula europaea

This species which has been used to lubricate chapped hands in herbal medicine has been reported to cause dermatitis (Engel and Horn 1972).

Seseli spp.
Hog Celery

Four species yield linear furanocoumarins (Nielsen 1971).

Seseli libanotis Koch
[syns Athamanta libanotis L., Libanotis intermedia Rupr., Libanotis libanotis H.Karst., Libanotis montana Crantz, Libanotis sibirica C.A.Mey., Libanotis vulgaris DC.]
Moon Carrot

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Sium erectum

This species is said to have irritant properties (Pammel 1911).

Sium latifolium
Water Parsnip

From Australia, Hurst (1942) states that the plant is reported to produce skin irritation in the United States.

Sphenosciadium capitellatum A.Gray
[syn. Selinum capitellatum Benth. & Hook.f.]
Woollyhead Parsnip

Nielsen (1971) records six linear furanocoumarins from this species.


Various forms of this plant from which a plaster is made have produced dermatitis of the hands and face (Prosser White 1934).

Thapsia asclepium L.
[syns Elaeoselinum asclepium Bertol., Laserpitium asclepium Calest.]

Incorrectly citing Berhard Smith (1905) as the source of his information, Pammel (1911) listed Elaeselinum asclepium [sic] as being irritant. In fact, Berhard Smith (1905) made no mention of this plant in his work. See also Thapsia foetida L. below.

Thapsia foetida L.
[syn. Elaeoselinum foetidum Boiss.]

Incorrectly citing Berhard Smith (1905) as the source of his information, Pammel (1911) listed Elaeselinum foetidum [sic] as being irritant. In fact, Berhard Smith (1905) simply included Thapsia foetida in a list of plants reputed to be poisonous, providing no detail as to the nature of the toxicity.

Thapsia garganica L.
Spanish Turpeth Root

Theophrastus (370-285? B.C.) noted that druggists and herb-diggers recommended standing to windward when cutting this plant, "for that one's body will swell up if one stands the other way." The juice irritates and causes swelling of the hands and face of workmen employed in making an extract of the plant. Its acrid principle is a resin which causes severe itching vesication and ulceration with scarring when applied to the skin (Dispensatory 1884, cited by White 1887). An alcoholic solution of the resin is strongly rubefacient (Courchet 1882). Irritation by medicinal applications was noted by various authors cited by Piffard (1881), by Sabouraud (1900), and by Lacassagne & Joly (1927).

In NW Morocco the plant is known locally as addaryas; Merzouki et al. (2000) record that oil from the plant is applied externally with friction for swellings and wrinkles.

Thapsia villosa L.

In a list of poisonous plants, citing earlier literature as the source of his information, Pammel (1911) described this species as irritant.

Torilis japonica DC.
[syns Caucalis japonica Houtt., Chaerophyllum hispidum Thunb. ex Miq., Tordylium anthriscus L., etc.]
Erect Hedgeparsley, Japanese Hedge Parsley, Upright Hedge Parsley

The plant is known to cause a skin rash in "susceptible" persons when wet (von Reis Altschul 1973).

Trachyspermum ammi Sprague ex Turrill
[syns Ammi copticum L., Carum copticum C.B.Clarke, Daucus copticus Pers., Ptychotis ajowan DC., Trachyspermum copticum Link, Sison ammi L.]
Ajowan, Omam, Bishop's Weed

Ajowan oil, a perfumery raw material, is obtained by steam distillation from the seeds. It was at one time official in pharmacopoeias (as Oleum Ajowan). The oil is rich in thymol, which constitutes 45-55% of the oil (Todd 1967), and was at one time used commercially as a source of this substance (Arctander 1960). Ajowan seeds are an important food spice in Indian cuisine.

Various aromatherapy publications include ajowan oil in listings of phenolic essential oils not to be used on the skin. Nevertheless, Guba (2000) admits to using ajowan oil in concentrations up to 10% in massage oils.

Although ajowan oil appears not to have been the subject of dermatologic investigation, thymol has occasionally been reported to elicit allergic contact dermatitis. At least two cases (Fisher 1989, Lorenzi et al. 1995) have followed from the use of thymol-containing solutions for the treatment of chronic paronychia. A further case was associated with the use of a thymol-containing toothpaste (Beinhauer 1940, Sainio & Kanerva 1995). Larsen (1977) observed positive patch test reactions to thymol in a study of 20 patients with perfume dermatitis. However, two contact dermatitis patients patch tested by Reichert-Pénétrat et al. (2001) in France did not react to thymol; and none of 1200 patients investigated by Santucci et al. (1987) in Italy reacted to thymol. Patch testing has normally been performed with thymol 1% in petrolatum as originally recommended by Rostenberg & Sulzberger (1939).


An ointment containing thymol was formerly used in Western medicine as a local application in burns, eczema, psoriasis, tinea, lichen, and other cutaneous affections and as a parasiticide (Felter & Lloyd 1898). Myers & Thienes (1925) reported that thymol destroyed a pathogenic yeast-like organism responsible for an occupational dermatosis in persons packing fruit for the canning industry, known as "fruit poisoning".

Richard J. Schmidt

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