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Healing Herbs and Spices of India, Part I: Coriander and Cilantro

Shoba is located in Bangalore and describes herself as creative, adventurous, a movie lover, a novel reader, and a badminton player. She dreams of one day writing her own children's book.
Published: September 7, 2022
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Coriander leaves, used as an herb, are popularly known as cilantro, or Chinese parsley. (Image: Qfamily via Flickr CC BY 2.0)

Indian herbs hold an important place in medical history due to their numerous health benefits. Coriander and cilantro, a spice and herb from the same plant, are commonly used in Ayurveda, India’s oldest medical science. Ayurveda uses Indian herbs to treat imbalances in an individual’s three types of energy: Vata (the mind), Pitta (the consciousness), and Kapha (the body).

In the language Sanskrit, the meaning of Ayurveda is “Science of Life.” The roots of Ayurveda date back to early civilization 5000 years ago and have thus derived the name “Mother of all healing.” 

The practice is complementary to allopathy and other natural healing processes, and has been widely adopted in the west as part of holistic healing. The leading Indian herbs used in Ayurvedic treatments are coriander, curry leaves, Ceylon cinnamon, white lotus, basil, chia seeds, and saffron. Today, we will look at coriander and cilantro.

What are coriander and cilantro?

Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) is an annual herb with edible leaves, stems, roots and seeds. In cooking, coriander usually refers to the powdered spice made from coriander seeds. The coriander leaves, used as the herb, are commonly known as either “cilantro,” or “Chinese parsley.” Coriander roots are often used to flavor Asian dishes. The plant is widely cultivated in India, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Africa for its culinary and medicinal uses.

Chinese Parsley has become a familiar name in every household worldwide. (Image: pdpics via pixabay)

A long and culturally diverse history

According to scriptural references, researchers believe that coriander has been around for some 5000 years, with the description of a seed similar to the coriander seed appearing in the Old Testament. The early Romans used coriander in preparing bread.

Introduced to the Americas by European settlers, it gained its common name due to its similarity in flavor to a popular herb used in Latin America – culantro. In the mid-seventeenth century, the French prepared a drink with the herb. 

Culinary uses 

Today, Chinese parsley has become a familiar name in kitchens around the world. Adorning Indian, Chinese, and Latin American cuisines, cilantro is added not only for a bright, green garnish on soups, salads, and salsas, but also for its distinct flavor. The leaves are used raw and fresh, while dried coriander seeds are often ground into a powder. 

The floral aroma and lemony flavor of coriander seed are valued in pastries (particularly Scandinavian pastries), curries, sausages, English comfits, and in sweetened and flavored liqueurs. 

To make coriander spice:

  • Prepare the powdered spice by frying one cup of coriander seeds in a pan without oil for about a minute.
  • After 5 minutes, make a fine powder by grinding it in the mixer. 
  • Store it in a tightly sealed container.
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Coriander and cilantro are commonly used in Indian and other spicy foods. Not only do they add a unique flavor, they also aid in digestion. (Image: Thomas Nahar via Pexels)

Health benefits of coriander and cilantro

Coriander Seeds for Arthritis: Coriander seeds contain linoleic acid and cineole, which possess anti-inflammatory properties necessary to combat arthritis and rheumatoid. 

Coriander Seeds for Skin Ailments: Owing to its anti-inflammatory property, coriander seeds also help treat dermatitis (skin rashes), dry and aging skin, and other skin irritations and damage. Reduced inflammation helps the skin naturally appear younger, brilliant, and much healthier. Its anti-fungal properties make coriander seeds a natural choice for treating pimples and acne.

Recipe for treating pimples and acne:

  • First, take half a cup of dried coriander seeds and grind until it is a fine powder. 
  • Take six teaspoons of powdered coriander seeds in a bowl. Store the remaining powder in a tightly-sealed container.
  • Add four teaspoons of honey and mix it well.
  • For a quicker result, add a pinch of turmeric powder to the mixture and let it set for 10 minutes.
  • Apply the paste to the pimples and the affected areas and leave it on the face for 15 – 20 minutes. 
  • Use it twice a week for a better outcome. 
  • Regular application will give the face a glowing complexion of natural radiance.

Coriander for infections: Coriander is one of the best natural medicines for treating infections in the body. Dodecenal – an aldehyde that gives the plant a unique flavor that some 15 percent of humans interpret as soapy – found in coriander seeds helps fight bacteria-causing infections. Regular intake of the spice boosts the body’s immunity and also fights against food poisoning.

Coriander controls blood sugar level:  Using coriander seeds in our daily diet increases insulin in the body and decreases blood sugar. Under the guidance of a trained physician, diabetic patients can reduce and reverse their symptoms. 

Coriander as an antioxidant: Various toxins accumulate in the human body, including free radicals and oxidants that cause damage to the cells. Coriander seeds have antioxidants that help prevent cell damage and ward off cancerous growth. 

Coriander for detox and weightloss: Just living in today’s world, it’s hard to avoid accumulating heavy metals in the body, which can impact our physical and mental health. Chelation agents in cilantro bind with these harmful metals so that they can be flushed from the body. The herb is also anxiolytic, meaning it eases anxiety, stress, and depression.

Coriander detox water is very easy to prepare at home. Fresh, green cilantro or coriander spice will work equally well to remove toxins. Drinking detox water regularly also helps with weight loss. 

How to prepare detox water: 

  • Boil one cup of water.
  • Add five fresh, green Cilantro or ½ teaspoon powdered coriander spice to the boiling water.
  • Let the water continue to boil for one minute.
  • Strain the liquid into a cup, and add a splash of lemon juice.
  • Enjoy your detox each morning on an empty stomach before eating.

Coriander has many core benefits and helps improve the function of many bodily organs. For enduring health and a vibrant appearance, be sure to include coriander in your diet regularly!