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Coriander-Cilantro Traditions and Health Benefits

Coriander / Cilantro, Coriandrum sativum L.

Coriander seed and its leaf Cilantro, like many spices and herbs, is a medicine cabinet in itself.  While our summer gardens are flourishing, this is a great time to grow Cilantro plant. Delight in this lovely plant and reap the health benefits of the fresh leaves now, and dried leaves and Coriander seeds throughout the winter.    

Family: Umbelliferae Apiaceae

Name:

Coriandrum is derived from the Latin koros meaning bed-bug, relating to the smell of the leaves being similar to that of the insect.

It is known as dhaniya in the Indian Subcontinent. Cilantro leaf is also known as Chinese parsley.

Coriander seed and Cilantro leaf are of the same plant. Thus it is both an herb and a spice plant.

It is an annual plant that grows 11-33 inches high. The rich green delicate leaves of Cilantro are joined by umbels of dainty white flowers and groups of small round fruits (Coriander seeds) which turn from green to brown as they ripen.

Origin:

It grows wild over Western Asia and Southern Europe. Coriander plant has been cultivated since ancient times. Archeological findings suggest it was cultivated by early Egyptians. It also appears to have been cultivated in Greece since the second millennium B.C.

It has been used as a digestive aid for thousands of years; as early as 5,000 B.C. It is noted in Sanskrit texts, ancient Egyptian papyri, the Old Testament and in the writings of the Greek physician Hippocrates.

The Roman armies brought it to Europe, where it was used to preserve meats. The Chinese found it to counteract  food poisoning. In 1670, it was brought to the British colonies of North America. It was one of the first spices cultivated by early settlers.

Traditional Uses:

In medieval Europe Coriander was considered to be an aphrodisiac, and a witch’s herb used in love magic and love potions.

Egyptians steeped the Coriander seeds with garlic in wine and drank it as an aphrodisiac.

Believing that it contained the secret to happiness, it was offered to the temple gods. The seeds were found in the tombs of both Tutankhamun and Rameses II.

Indigenous to the Holy Land, the Ancient Hebrews compared it to the manna provided Children of Israel. It was one of the bitter herbs eaten at Passover.

In Tudor times in England it was an ingredient of the drink “Hippocras”, offered to guests at weddings and festive occasions to raise their sprits.

In Ancient Chinese medicine it thought to be a tonic to Heart as well, and to ease pain and promote longevity.

In traditional Iranian medicine, it was used to treat anxiety and insomnia.

More Health Benefits:

The essential oils in Coriander aid in digestion, helping the secretion of enzymes and digestive juices.  It also assists the proper functioning of the liver and bonding of bowels, as well as helping to reduce diarrhea.

It is used in both traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for digestive issues, e.g. appetite stimulant, to calm digestive issues such as gas, bloating, stomach ache, and nausea.

The fresh leaves of Cilantro serve well as appetizers to get the digestive system ready to perform, particularly for a large meal.

Eating Cilantro with meals helps to rid the body of heavy metals and fights free-radical damage. It is considered to be a good partner for foods that may contain heavy metals e.g. seafood that may contain mercury, to counter the effect.

Coriander has an antispasmodic effect, relaxing digestive muscles that cause digestive discomfort of IBS, bloated stomach and other digestive discomfort.

It has been used for its antimicrobial properties to protect against food-borne pathogens that may cause food poisoning. It contains high levels of dodecanal, a compound that is twice as powerful as the leading antibiotic treatment for salmonella.

Steeped in hot water it is used to relieve fevers.

Coriander seed and essential oil are effective for lowering blood sugar. Studies have shown it to increase the secretion of insulin and thereby lower blood sugar.  It is so effective that caution must be used.

It has also been shown to improve carbohydrate metabolism.

It helps lower cholesterol, lowering the bad cholesterol (LDL) and increasing the healthy cholesterol (HDL.)

Blood pressure (hypertension) has also been shown to improve from the use of Coriander, thereby reducing the potential for cardiovascular incidents.

For a Urinary Tract Infection soak 1.5 tsp dried coriander seed in 2 cups water, overnight. Strain and drink it to relieve symptoms and speed recovery.

Coriander has been used in Ayurvedic medicine to regulate endocrine function and regulate menstrual cycles, also relieving bloating, cramps and pain.

Studies have shown coriander to reduce chronic inflammation which helps to prevent neurodegenerative disease, e.g. Alzheimer’s Parkinson’s multiple sclerosis, brain tumors and meningitis.

It’s strong antihistamine effects are a benefit to those who suffer from seasonal allergies, and allergies to insects, plants, food, etc. Taken internally it can ward off anaphylaxis, hives, and swelling of the throat and glands.

Skin benefits:

Coriander improves skin irritations, by reducing swelling that is due to rheumatic and arthritic conditions. It also can reduce swelling due to kidney malfunction or anemia, as it induces urination and release of excess water from the body.  The reduced skin inflammation improves comfort and the appearance of the skin.

As a disinfectant, detoxifier, antiseptic, antifungal, and antioxidant it helps to clear eczema, dryness and fungal infections.

Cilantro (leaves) contain anti-cancer properties that are beneficial to the body as a whole and when eaten regularly can serve as a safeguard from skin cancer.

Eye Care:

As a rich source of antioxidants, Coriander is beneficial in helping to prevent vision disorders, e.g. macular degeneration, reduce eye strain and vision degradation. Coriander oil is a fundamental component of eye care products.    

Culinary Uses:

It is a common ingredient in South Asian, Southeast Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern, Caucasian, Central Asian, Mediterranean, Tex-Mex, Latin American, Brazilian, Portuguese, Chinese and African cooking. It is an ingredient in curries, Garam Masala, Spanish guacamole and pico de gallo. It has a lemon, sage caraway type flavor. It is often added to hot stimulating dishes to offer a balanced coolness.

Coriander seeds:

European and possibly Indian coriander seeds are likely available in the market.

European coriander has a smooth and savory flavor with creamy citrus top notes. They are the more flavorful due to a higher concentration of volatile oils.

The Indian seeds are oval as opposed to round and has a more citrus-like aroma than the European seeds. 

Ground seeds may be available, but crushing the whole seeds with a mortar and pestle or a pepper mill will give a fresher and fuller flavor and aroma. Toasting the seeds will enhance their flavor.

Use Coriander to season:

Fish, lamb, turkey, stuffing, lentils and tomato, salads, dressings, meat rubs, soups, salads, etc.

Precautions:

When used as a seasoning side effects are unlikely.

When used medicinally, it can cause increased sensitivity to sun.

If allergic to aniseed, caraway, dill weed, fennel, mugwort, you may be allergic to coriander.

If using coriander to lower blood sugar or blood pressure monitor your levels closely.

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Author, Eve Stahl, is a Health Consultant, Herbalist and Skin Care expert. She specializes in using nature’s plants to enhance the health of people and to protect the health of our planet. To achieve this purpose she has created Garden of Eve Skin Care products for sensitive skin and all skin types. You can visit her company at: www.gardenofeve.com Prospective Affiliates visit: www.gardenofeveskincare.com/affiliate-application

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