Alexanders seed in the palm of a hand.
Alexanders seed in the palm of a hand.

Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum)

Alexanders is an aromatic plant that was once a popular leafy vegetable and seasoning before being overshadowed by celery and parsley. Native to the Mediterranean region, this biennial herb has found its way across various parts of Europe, often growing wild along coastal areas. The plant features shiny, yellow-green leaves and clusters of black seeds, and it’s recognizable by its small, yellow-green flowers.

  • Scientific name: Smyrnium olusatrum
  • Family: Apiaceae
  • Genus: Smyrnium
  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Order: Apiales


Historically, Alexanders was highly regarded in Roman cooking and often used as a medicinal herb. It was introduced to Britain by the Romans and quickly became a staple in medieval kitchens and gardens. The leaves, stems, roots, and seeds of Alexanders were all utilized for their culinary and medicinal properties. Over time, as other herbs and spices became more readily available and popular, Alexanders fell out of favor and is now mostly forgotten or used as forage for wild animals.


Alexanders offers several health benefits due to its nutritional composition. It is rich in vitamin C, beneficial for immune system support, and contains various antioxidants, which help in combating oxidative stress. The plant has also been used traditionally as a digestive aid and to treat various ailments such as asthma and arthritis. Its diuretic properties can aid in reducing water retention, and it has been used in traditional remedies for kidney and liver health.


If you’re looking for substitutes for Alexanders in recipes, you can consider several options depending on the part of the plant you need to replace:

  • Leaves: Celery leaves or flat-leaf parsley can substitute for the mild, celery-like taste of Alexanders’ leaves.
  • Roots: Parsnip or celery root can replace Alexanders’ roots in soups and stews for a similar texture and flavor profile.
  • Seeds: Celery seeds or lovage seeds are suitable substitutes for Alexanders seeds, especially in spice blends and seasoning mixes.