Coriander has a long history of being used as a flavourant and medicinal herb. Although many herbs and herbal remedies have a long history, the documented use of coriander would be one of the oldest, dating back to 5000 BC.
The herb originated from the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions and is biologically known as coriandrum sativum while also refereed to as Dhania, Chinese parsley and Hu Sui.
The name coriander is derived from the Greek word koris, meaning bug, possibly named so because of its offensive smell when unripe. Coriander seeds were traditionally used across Egypt, Asia, Greece and Rome, spicing bread and preserving meat. Coriander was also used by Hippocrates and other physicians for its medicinal properties, to treat for gastrointestinal complaints in particular, and also as an aromatic stimulant.
Coriander belongs to the Umbelliferae family of herbs, and it bears resemblance to its relative, Italian flat leaf parsley. Fresh coriander leaves are often referred to as cilantro and used in cooking but when administered medicinally, the seeds and leaves are used fresh and dried and also worked into liquid and oil.
What is coriander used for?
Diarrhoea and indigestion. Anecdotal evidence, laboratory and animal studies suggest that coriander seeds may be helpful in easing gastrointestinal symptoms – the seeds are also applied in some laxative preparations. These abdominal easing benefits of the herb can be attributed to the action of volatile oil.
Coriander eases flatulence and related cramps, particularly when it is consumed in the form of a tea.
Control blood sugar and lower cholesterol. Animal research studies have confirmed these healing effects and have found anti-microbial properties in the volatile oils from coriander leaves.
Eliminate odours. The oil counteracts unpleasant odours and is also used in perfumes, liqueurs and gin.
Mouth hygiene. Coriander seeds are ground into a paste for application to skin and mouth ulcers and prior to the invention of toothpaste, were chewed as a breath freshener.
How does coriander work?
The essential oil of coriander stimulates the secretion of gastric juices brining about a calmative effect but by and large, the healing properties of coriander may be attributed to its phytonutrient content. The herb has also qualified as a good source of dietary fibre and of iron, magnesium and manganese.
Tea: Simmer one to two teaspoons of ground coriander seeds in one cup of water and drink three times a day between meals to relieve diarrhoea and flatulence or to improve appetite. Alternatively, add one teaspoon of coriander liquid extract to water and drink three times a day between meals.
Coriander seeds can be considered safe to use and have no known side effects, however, the herb should be avoided during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. If you have allergies to foods in the celery family, it would also be advisable to avoid this herb.
Coriander may increase the effects of hypoglycaemic medication. Should you wish to use coriander medicinally, it would be wise to monitor your blood sugar closely.
- (updated by Birgit Ottermann, Health24, August 2010)