Learning Herbalism – Week 2 – Cilantro (Coriander)

This week, I’ve picked cilantro. This is what (as an american), I grew up knowing the herb as… little did I know until I started researching than another spice I’ve cooked with is the same plan… coriander. They are one in the same. So, here we go.

Delicious garnish or tastes like gym socks?
The age old question!

Coriander (Coriandrum sativum), also known as cilantro or Chinese parsley, is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae. All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the parts most traditionally used in cooking. Most people perceive the taste of coriander as a tart, lemon/lime flavor. It is native to regions spanning from southern Europe and northern Africa to southwestern Asia. Mature plants are generally around 20-24″ tall. Archaeological evidince indicates this plant was cultivated as early as the bronze age. It was brought to North America in the 1600s and is one of the earliest herbs thought to be cultivated by our early settlers.

Culinary Uses

All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the parts most traditionally used in cooking. Coriander is used in cuisines throughout the world.

Coriander is commonly found both as whole dried seeds and in ground form. Roasting or heating the seeds in a dry pan heightens the flavour, aroma, and pungency. Ground coriander seed loses flavour quickly in storage and is best ground fresh. Coriander seed is a spice in garam masala and Indian curries which often employ the ground fruits in generous amounts together with cumin, acting as a thickener in a mixture called dhana jeera.[20]

Coriander leaves-Cocunut chutney
Roasted coriander seeds, called dhana dal, are eaten as a snack. They are the main ingredient of the two south Indian dishes sambhar and rasam.

Outside of Asia, coriander seed is used widely in the process for pickling vegetables. In Germany and South Africa (see boerewors), the seeds are used while making sausages. In Russia and Central Europe, coriander seed is an occasional ingredient in rye bread (e.g. Borodinsky bread), as an alternative to caraway.

Onion Coriander Paratha
The Zuni people of North America have adapted it into their cuisine, mixing the powdered seeds ground with chile and using it as a condiment with meat, and eating leaves as a salad.[21]

Coriander seeds are used in brewing certain styles of beer, particularly some Belgian wheat beers. The coriander seeds are used with orange peel to add a citrus character.

The nutritional profile of coriander seeds is different from the fresh stems or leaves. Leaves are particularly rich in vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K, with moderate content of dietary minerals. Although seeds generally have lower content of vitamins, they do provide significant amounts of dietary fiber, calcium, selenium, iron, magnesium and manganese.[24]


Cilantros potential health benefits include anticancer effects and improvements in skin health. There is also evidence of UV protection for theskin, anti-fungal, potential antibiotic properties, and heavy metal detoxification due to it’s ability to bond chemicals together.

Anticancer effects
Heterocyclic amine (HCA) is formed when meat cooks, particularly at high temperatures. Consumption of HCA is associated with higher risk of cancer. A study reported in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicated potential for some spices including coriander to reduce the formation of HCA. Additionally, a study published in the Journal of Food Science looked at the use of five Asian spices, including Coriandrum sativum (C. sativum), or coriander, in cooking meats. In the meats cooked with those spices, the formation of HCAs was significantly lower.

Dietary carotenoids as antioxidants are beneficial for numerous conditions, including cancers and eye disease. A study published in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition showed that basil and coriander contain the high levels of the carotenoids beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin, all known for their antioxidant properties.

A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2015 examined the ability of coriander leaf, or cilantro, extracts to protect skin against damage caused by Ultra Violet (UV) B radiation.

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