General Non-Fiction posted March 12, 2014 Chapters:  ...8 9 -10- 

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The versatile cilantro

A chapter in the book Herbs & Spices


by Sylvia Page

Chapter 1:
Chapter 2: Uses of Ceylon Cinnamon
Chapter 3: Cinnamon Processing
Chapter 4: Cloves
Chapter 6: Cardamom
Chapter 7: Black Pepper
Chapter 8: The World's Hottest Chill
Chapter 9: Allspi
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Apiales
Family: Apiaceae
Genus: Coriandrum
Species: C. sativum
Binomial name: Coriandrum sativum L.
Coriander (cilantro) leaves, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 95 kJ (23 kcal)
Carbohydrates 3.67 g
- Sugars 0.87
- Dietary fiber 2.8 g
Fat 0.52 g
Protein 2.13 g
Water 92.21 g
Vitamin A equiv. 337 μg (42%)
- beta-carotene 3930 μg (36%)
- lutein and zeaxanthin 865 μg
Thiamine (vit. B1) 0.067 mg (6%)
Riboflavin (vit. B2) 0.162 mg (14%)
Niacin (vit. B3) 1.114 mg (7%)
Pantothenic acid (B5) 0.57 mg (11%)
Vitamin B6 0.149 mg (11%)
Folate (vit. B9) 62 μg (16%)
Vitamin C 27 mg (33%)
Vitamin E 2.5 mg (17%)
Vitamin K 310 μg (295%)
Calcium 67 mg (7%)
Iron 1.77 mg (14%)
Magnesium 26 mg (7%)
Manganese 0.426 mg (20%)
Phosphorus 48 mg (7%)
Potassium 521 mg (11%)
Sodium 46 mg (3%)
Zinc 0.5 mg (5%)
Coriander (Coriandrum sativum), is also known as Chinese parsley, cilantro, or dhania in Indian cuisine. 

It belongs to the family Apiaceae. It is an annual herb. Coriander is native to many regions of southern Europe, North Africa and south-western Asia.

The plant grows to 50 cm (20 ins.) tall. The variable shaped leaves are soft and mostly lobed at the base of the plant, becoming slenderer and feather like on the upper flowering stems.

The small very pale pink or white flowers are borne in small umbels. The asymmetrical flowers’ petals which point outwards from the centre of the umbel are longer (5–6 mm or 0.20–0.24 in) than those that point toward it (only 1–3 mm or 0.039–0.118 in long). The globular fruit is a dry schizocarp 3–5 mm (0.12–0.20 in) in diameter.

Although it is sometimes used alone, these seeds are often used as a spice ingredient with other spices.    


Coriander was first confirmed in English during the late fourteenth century.  Coriander was derived from the old French word coriandre, for the spice, which arises from the Latin word coriandrum,  and from the Ancient Greek word, κορίαννον koriannon.  The most primitive verified form of the word is the Mycenaean Greek ko-ri-ja-da-na  (written in Linear B syllabic script, reconstructed as koriadnon), akin to the name of Minos's daughter Ariadne, which later developed to koriannon or koriandron.

The Spanish call it Cilantro, deriving from the word coriandrum and is the way coriander leaves is referred to commonly in North America. It is extensively used in Mexican cuisine.

Coriander was found growing wild over a wide area of the Near East and southern Europe. In the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B level of the Nahal Hemel Cave in Israel, fifteen desiccated mericarps were found, which might have been the oldest archaeological find of coriander.

Also recovered from the tomb of Tutankhamen, was about half a litre of coriander mericarps. By this discovery, it was interpreted by Zohary and Hopf, as being proof that coriander was grown by the early Egyptians, since coriander is not known to grow wild in Egypt 

Since at least the second millennium BC, it is believed that coriander has been cultivated in Greece. There is evidence from one of the Linear B tablets recovered from the Mycenaean Pylos which refers to coriander as being cultivated for the production of perfumes. 

It also seems that it was used in two forms: the seeds as a spice and the leaves as an herb for its flavour. 

Archaeological evidence from the same period points to cultivation of the species at that time, by the large quantities of coriander that were recovered from an Early Bronze Age layer at Sitagroi in Macedonia.  

Coriander was carried to the British colonies in North America in 1670, and was one of the first spices to be cultivated by the early settlers.


All parts of the coriander plants are edible. The dried seeds and the fresh leaves are the parts most customarily used in culinary preparations.

Coriander in all its forms are used around the world in various forms of South Asian, Indian, Southeast Asian, Central Asian,  Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Caucasian,  Scandinavian, Latin American, Tex-Mex,  Portuguese, African, and Chinese cuisine.

The plants’ foliage is referred to variously as fresh coriander, or cilantro, coriander leaves and Chinese parsley.

The leaves with its citrus overtones have a dissimilar taste to that of the seeds. The flavours are offensive to some people and likened to the stink bug, with similar groups of chemicals involved (aldehydes).

The diverse opinions of the taste of coriander leaves is most likely genetic, with some having no real reaction to the aromatic chemical that most people find pleasant. While some are concurrently sensitive to certain unsaturated aldehydes they find offending. However, many people avoid the leaves, after experiencing an unpleasant rank smell or soapy taste.

The Indians use fresh coriander leaves as an element in various Indian cuisines. Coriander leaves are also used in Mexican cooking, predominantly in guacamole and salsa and for garnishing. It is also used in Thai and Chinese dishes and in salads in Russia and other Commonwealth and Independent States.

Indian dishes are often garnished with chopped coriander leaves. 

Heat weakens the flavour of coriander leaves, and in view of this it is frequently used in its raw form or introduced to the dish before serving. The aroma of the leaves is lost when dried or frozen and spoils quickly when removed from the plant.


In the preparation of food, coriander may refer specially to the seeds (as a spice), than to the plant. Once crushed, owing to the pinene and terpenes linalool compounds found in the seeds, it has a flavour that is similar to lemony citrus and defined as orange-flavoured spicy, nutty and warm,

It is interesting to note that the nutrition value of the fresh leaves and stems is different from the coriander seed, the significance of vitamin content being lesser than the quantities displayed in the guide above for the plant, with some being entirely absent. However, the seeds do provide substantial quantities of iron, magnesium, calcium, and manganese. 

The fruit diameter of the type C. s. vulgare is 3–5 mm (0.12–0.20 in), while the var. microcarpum fruits are of a diameter of 1.5–3 mm (0.059–0.118 in). Larger fruit types are mainly grown in tropical and subtropical countries, e.g. India, Morocco, and Australia, with low volatile oil content (0.1-0.4%).

These are extensively used in the spice trade for blending purposes and for grinding into powder form. The smaller fruit types are produced mostly in temperate zones and generally the volatile oil content is around 0.4-1.8%.  This is highly valued as raw material in the essential oil preparation.  

Coriander is found, as whole dried seeds and in the ground form. In order to enhance the aroma, the seeds can be heated or roasted briefly in a dry pan before grinding.  Flavour is quickly lost in the storage of ground coriander seed and is best if it is ground fresh.

Coriander seed is an important spice component in garam masala and in the preparation of Indian curries. The ground spice in liberal quantities with cumin acts as a thickener.

Roasted coriander fruit is called dhana dal, are eaten as a snack. They are the main ingredient of the two dishes: sambhar and rasam of south India.

Coriander seeds are first roasted, boiled in water and given to patients as an indigenous medicine for colds. It is also used as an inhalation to clear congestion of the sinuses.

Outside of Asia, coriander seed is used widely, in the process for pickling vegetables. In South Africa and Germany, the seeds are used in the preparation of sausages. In Central Europe and Russia, as an alternative to caraway, coriander is a special ingredient in making rye bread.

Though coriander seeds were an important ingredient and spice in earlier centuries, more than now, they are used in European cuisine even today.

The Zuni people have adapted it into their cuisine, mixing the powdered seeds ground with chili and using it as a condiment with meat, and eating the leaves as a salad.

Coriander seeds are even used in brewing of beer, essentially the Belgian wheat beers. In order to add a citrusy appeal, orange peel and coriander seeds are used in combination.


The flavour of coriander roots is deeper and more powerful than its leaves. They are used in a multiplicity of Asian culinary preparations more frequently in Thai cuisine, which includes soups and a variety of curry pastes.

Similar plants

  • Eryngium foetidum is of a similar, but more intense, taste. It is identified as culantro, and is found in Mexico, South America and the Caribbean.
  • Persicaria odorata is called commonly as Vietnamese coriander, or rau rÄ?m. The leaves give out a similar aroma and flavours to coriander. It is identified as a member of the Polygonaceae, or the buckwheat family.
  • Papaloquelite is one of the common names for Porophyllum ruderale subsp. macrocephalum, a member of the Compositae or Asteraceae, of the sunflower family. This species is grows wild from Texas to Argentina.

Medicinal uses

The fresh green coriander leaves are a blessing of Nature. Being enriched with minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, essential fatty acids, coriander boosts your health naturally.

The herb is used a wide range of culinary preparations and is immensely popular throughout the globe.

Coriander is excellent for the digestive system
The green leaves consist of plant fibres and is excellent roughage. It purifies poisons from the digestive system and offers considerable relief to gastrointestinal problems. Consuming the leaves soaked in warm water prevents flatulence. It improves digestion by enhancing secretion of digestive juices and enzymes. 

The essential oils like borneol and linalool contained in coriander eliminate microbial and fungal infection inside the stomach. Coriander enhances bonding of bowel and thereby aids in curing diarrhoea.
Coriander is full of health friendly antioxidants and is loaded with phytonutrients- elemol, carvone, camphor, keampferol, borneol, quercetin, and epigenin. These antioxidants protect the body from free radical damage which could be of skin, liver, stomach, colon, heart and kidneys.

It’s conducive for the heart
Coriander contains plenty of beneficial fatty acids like palmitic acid, linoleic acid, oleic acid, etc. Vitamin C or ascorbic acid brings down cholesterol levels and controls risk of stroke and heart attack. 

Calcium also aids in relaxation of blood vessels and improves blood circulation. It considerably manages high blood pressure or hypertension.
Coriander has anti-histamine properties
The oil of coriander is used to treat a wide range of allergies which could be triggered by food or allergens. It also offers protections against hay fever, hives, swelling of glands, etc. The anti-histamine property of coriander is very much effective.

Coriander enhances bone health
Coriander is enriched with calcium, magnesium, and various other types of essential minerals which are needed for improving bone health. It increases bone density, makes bones strong and encourages re-growth. Eating coriander regularly offers natural protection against osteoporosis. 

Vitamin K is another ingredient present in coriander which is essential for promoting integrity in bones
Coriander can protect as well as cure anaemia
The green leaves are strong sources of iron. If you are suffering from low haemoglobin levels, fatigue, tiredness and experiencing decline in cognitive abilities, then start having coriander every day. All in all, it can cure symptoms of anaemia.

Vitamin A present in coriander is healthy for eyes
Vitamin A protects inflammation and age related eye disorders of eyes like macular degeneration. It also reduces eye stress and strain. Furthermore, the leaves also contain beta carotene, phosphorus and essential oil which act as a shield for the eyes against a wide range of eye disorders. 

The antimicrobial properties of coriander protect eyes from conjunctivitis.
Coriander, like many spices, contains antioxidants, which can delay or prevent the spoilage of food seasoned with this spice. A study found both the leaves and seed to contain antioxidants, but the leaves were found to have a stronger effect.

Chemicals derived from coriander leaves were found to have antibacterial activity against Salmonella choleraesuis, and this activity was found to be caused in part by these chemicals acting as non-ionic surfactants.

Coriander has been used as a folk medicine for the relief of anxiety and insomnia in Iran. Coriander seeds are used in traditional Indian medicine as a diuretic by boiling equal amounts of coriander seeds and cumin seeds, then cooling and consuming the resulting liquid. In holistic and traditional medicine, it is used as a carminative and as a digestive aid.

Coriander has been documented as a traditional treatment for type 2 diabetes. A study on mice found coriander extract had both insulin-releasing and insulin-like activity.  

Including coriander in diet gradually helps to maintain healthy insulin levels. It lowers blood sugar and thereby helps in the management of diabetes.

Coriander seeds were found in a study on rats to have a significant hypolipidaemic effect, resulting in lowering of levels of total cholesterol and triglycerides, and increasing levels of high-density lipoprotein. This effect appeared to be caused by increasing synthesis of bile by the liver and increasing the breakdown of cholesterol into other compounds.

Coriander leaf was found to prevent deposition of lead in mice, due to a presumptive chelation of lead by substances in the plant.

Coriander can be allergic to some people.
The essential oil produced from Coriandrum sativum has been shown to exhibit antimicrobial effects.

Other Natural Wonders of Coriander

  • Coriander aids in the regulation of menstrual cycles and decreases cramps.
  • It is known to have anticonvulsant, anti-carcinogenic, and antispasmodic properties
  • Helps against skin soreness (eczema) and dryness, etc.
  • It is also said that mouth ulcers can be kept away by chewing coriander  
  • The liver functions better 
The easiest way is, to chop some fresh leaves and use them as a condiment, seasoning or garnish for various dishes to receive the natural health benefits of coriander.

It should not be confused with culantro (Eryngium foetidum L.) also known as "culantro" or "Mexican coriander", which is a close relative to coriander (Coriandrum sativum L.) but has a distinctly different appearance, a much more potent volatile leaf oil  and a stronger smell.

Chinese parsley may also refer to the unrelated herb Heliotropium curassavicum.



Courtesy of Bing pictures
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