By: By Moira Khouri NC, MH, HHP, CCP
Faculty Member of GCNM
Coriander is in the Apiaceae family (formerly umbelliferous), and is an herb that has been cultivated over thousands of years throughout the ancient world. Common names include Cilantro, Chinese parsley and Japanese Parsley. Coriander is native to Southern Europe and the Middle East. It is mentioned in the Bible, and was a favorite of the ancient Greeks, Romans and Hebrews. It is called Yan Shi in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the leaves are also called Wuh Seui or Yuen Sui and the seeds are also called Heung Seui and Hu Sui in China. The plant is called Dhanyaka in Sanscrit, the language of the ancient Ayurvedic Tradition of India, and Kuzhbare in modern Arabic. Its many medicinal uses have been documented by the Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks, Chinese and Indian healing traditions.
The name is thought to derive from the Greek koros for insect or bug, probably due to the appearance of the small light brown seeds. The Ebers Papyrus from 1550 BC references Coriander, and Hippocrates writes of it in 400 BC. Coriander was introduced to Britain by the Roman legions that carried the seeds with them. Pliny The Elder, the Roman who authored Naturalis Historia circa 77-79 AD praised Egyptian Coriander as the best and an antidote for the poison of the snake amphisbaena, and for healing sores, burns, carbuncles, sore ears, fluxes of the eye, cholera and intestinal parasites. It is believed to have been grown in the hanging gardens of Babylon. Charlemagne had it grown on the imperials farms in central Europe and it was used for love potions in the middle ages. It is even mentioned in the One Thousand and One Nights as an aphrodisiac.
Properties, Actions and Uses
In the Ayurvedic tradition, Coriander has a bitter, pungent taste with an astringent quality, and a cooling energy. It is tridoshic, being beneficial for balancing Pitta dosha (fire & water), Kapha dosha (water & earth), and Vata dosha (air & ether). The essential oil consists of the linalol called coriandrol (60 to 70%), geraniol, borneol and terpenes.
Coriander works on the digestive, respiratory and urinary systems. It is strengthening for the urinary tract and enhances digestion without aggravating Pitta. It strengthens liver function as a detoxifying herb. Coriander is antimicrobial and antibacterial, alterative, diaphoretic, carminative, diuretic, and stimulant, with a detoxifying and chelating effect, helping to remove heavy metals such as mercury and lead. Coriander seeds appear in herbal tea remedies for stomach ailments. The leaves known as Cilantro are juiced and taken internally for allergies, hay fever, and applied externally for itch, inflammation and skin rashes.
Cilantro may be prepared as a puree (like a raw Pesto sauce) by blending the Cilantro leaves, olive oil, ground almonds, fresh lemon juice and garlic in a blender. Take at three teaspoons a day to stimulate and cleanse the digestive system. It makes an aromatic addition to salads and is good added fresh to hot spicy dishes such as in Peruvian, Mexican, Asian, North African and Indian cooking and is one of the basic ingredients in Indian curry dishes. The ground seed balances the sweet and pungent spices in blends. This herb grows well in the temperate zones of the world. It is best used as finely ground dried seeds or fresh leaves, as the aromatic properties are reduced by drying. The leaves and stems may be chopped and frozen in ice cube trays or small containers for future use.
Coriander contains Vitamin C, and small amounts of Vitamin E, Calcium, Iron and Niacin (B3).
The Yoga of Herbs, by Dr. David Frawley and Dr. Vasant Lad
Planetary Herbology, by Michael Tierra, CA, ND
An Ancient Egyptian Herbal, by Lise Manniche
The Spice and Herb Bible, 2nd Edition, by Ian Hemphill