Coriander (scientific name: Coriandum sativum) – also known as cilantro, Chinese parsley or dhania – is an herb in the Apiaceae family. Coriander is used extensively in Indian, Chinese and Middle Eastern cooking.
Native to Mediterranean, and Asia Minor (Turkey) regions, coriander is grown abundantly all over Europe, Middle East, China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Turkey. Coriander is available throughout the year.
The plant is known as Cilantro and Coriander is the seeds of the plant. Coriander seeds provide a fragrant flavor which is similar to sage and citrus peel.
The major commercial producers of coriander are India, Bangladesh, Russia, Morocco and Holland.
Coriander is one of the world’s oldest spices whose history goes back to 5,000 BC. It has been used in Asian countries for thousands of years. This herb was also cultivated in ancient Egypt and had been mentioned in the Old Testament. Greeks and Romans used it for cooking, preserving meats and flavor breads. Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates used it for its medicinal properties and aromatic stimulant.
According to US Department of Agriculture (USDA), 2 tablespoons of ground coriander seed contain 30 calories, 1.2 grams of protein, 1.8 grams of fat, and 5.6 grams of carbohydrate (including 4 grams of fiber and 0 grams of sugar). The 2 tablespoon serving also provides 68% of daily vitamin K needs, 10% or iron, 8% of calcium and 4% of vitamin C.
Coriander contains acids such as oleic acid, linoleic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid and ascorbic acid. These acids can effectively reduce blood cholesterol levels and also reduce Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL), also known as ‘bad cholesterol’. Coriander also raises High Density Lipoprotein (HDL), also called ‘good cholesterol’, which works as a line of defense against several harmful health conditions.
Regular consumption of coriander has shown to reduce blood pressure in many hypertensive patients. Calcium ions in coriander interact with a neurotransmitter in the peripheral nervous system, known as acetylcholine. This interaction relaxes blood vessel and reduces the chances of heart attack and strokes.
Coriander’s detoxifying, anti-fungal, antiseptic and antioxidant properties are ideal for fighting skin disorders such as eczema, dryness and fungal infections.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, coriander can prevent heterocyclic amine (HCA) formation in meats during cooking. National Cancer Institute defined HCAs as chemicals formed when meat is cooked in high temperature. High consumption of foods containing HCA is associated with higher risk of cancer.
The anti-cancer effects were also proven in study published in the Journal of Food Science. The researchers cooked meats using five different kinds of spices, including coriander. These meats saw a significant reduction in HCA formation.
Protection against Salmonella
It is important to find a natural way to fight salmonella, one of the most dangerous forms of food poisoning. A joint study by U.S. and Mexican researchers found that dodecenal, a natural compound found in coriander acts as an antibiotic which is twice as powerful as the leading antibiotic drug gentamicin at killing salmonella. Lead researcher, Isao Kubo, a chemist at the University of California, Berkeley, noted, “We were surprised that dodecenal was such a potent antibiotic.” Adding coriander in the diet protects the body from fatal illnesses relating to salmonella.
Coriander is excellent for digestive system. It promotes liver functions and bowel movements. The rich aroma from the essential oils in coriander helps in the proper secretion of enzymes and digestive juices in the stomach, which stimulates digestion. It is also very good for treating anorexia. Studies have shown that regular intake of coriander in the diet reduces dyspepsia or indigestion. Small children who have a higher chance of developing abdominal colic, adding small amounts of coriander in their diet has been shown to solve the problem.
Some of the essential oil compounds found in coriander such as, Borneol and Linalool helps in digestion, bonding of bowels, proper liver functions and reducing diarrhea. Components like Cineole, Borneol, Limonene, Alpha-pinene and beta-phelandrene possess antibacterial effects, which is helpful in treating diarrhea caused by microbial and fungal action.
Coriander has traditionally been referred to as an ‘anti-diabetic’ herb in parts of Europe. It stimulates insulin secretion and lower blood sugar levels. Coriander’s stimulating effect on the endocrine glands increases secretion of insulin from the pancreas which subsequently increases insulin in blood. This process controls proper assimilation and absorption of sugar, thereby reducing blood sugar levels. This property in coriander is extremely helpful for patients with diabetes and other related conditions.
Coriander is a natural stimulant which regulates proper secretion from the endocrine glands. Thereby, it helps regulate proper menstrual cycles and lessens the pain associated with period.
Coriander’s high iron content helps anemia patients. If there is a drop in iron content in the blood, it can cause shortness of breath, fatigue and decrease in cognitive skills. Iron is also beneficial for the function of other organs and bone.
Coriander is rich in calcium which is beneficial to protecting bone health. Other minerals found in coriander mixed with calcium are very important for durability and regrowth of bones. These minerals also help prevent degradation of bones caused by diseases like osteoporosis. Adding small amount of coriander to daily diet can keep bones healthy for a long time. In coriander plants, higher amounts of calcium are found in the center leaves of coriander, so it would be wise to select the centre part of the plant for protecting bone health.
There are some allergic reactions associated with coriander. For some people coriander consumption may result in skin irritation. Excessive consumption of coriander may make some people more susceptible to sunburn, which may eventually lead to skin cancer. Pregnant women should be more cautious about eating coriander. Although, some women have claimed that increases the flow of breast milk, it is better to talk to a doctor before taking coriander.
Health benefits of the leaves of the coriander, known as Cilantro
- Cilantro is very low in calories and contains no cholesterol. The deep-green leaves contain good amounts of antioxidants, essential oils, vitamins, dietary fiber. These natural elements may help reduce LDL or ‘bad cholesterol’ in the blood.
- The leaves and stem tips are rich in many antioxidant polyphenolic flavonoids such as, quercetin, kaempferol, rhamnetin, and epigenin.
- It is a good source of minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium.
- It is rich in important vitamins, folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin A, beta carotene, vitamin C.
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