Coriander (‘dhaniya’) is one of the earliest plants to have been cultivated. We have probably used it for more than seven thousand years, for its medicinal and culinary properties. Coriander seeds were found in the tomb of Tutankhamun – one of the famous Egyptian pharaohs.
Coriander is also known as Cilantro, or Chinese parsley, or Mexican parsley. It resembles parsley, but has flatter and lighter-coloured leaves. It has a spicy, exotic, fresh flavour, and is an important part of many traditional cuisines – including Indian, Southeast Asian, Latin American, Mexican, African and Middle Eastern. There are many uses for cilantro in cooking—as a seasoning, or in salads, salsas, appetizers, main dishes—and even in desserts.
All parts of the coriander plant are edible. The seeds and leaves are most commonly used in cooking. The leaves contain proteins, carbohydrates, water, and of course fibre. Rich in phytonutrients and flavonoids (which help prevent cancer and other diseases), it also contains minerals, vitamins and essential oils (borneol, coriandrol, linalool, terpinene, camphor, pinene).
As per the “The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants”, medicinal uses of cilantro include treatment for internal and external inflammation, indigestion, nausea, mental stress, intestinal gas, cramps and bloating. Cilantro may help stimulate circulation, encourage digestive assimilation, and relieve constipation.
In addition to being a common spice, coriander seeds are one of the traditional bitter herbs used at Passover (a Jewish festival celebrated around mid-April). Mixed with cumin and vinegar, it has been used to preserve meat.
Tip of the week
When wrapped with a damp cloth, or a perforated plastic bag, fresh cilantro leaves can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Coriander juices are easy to prepare. Simply boil dry coriander seeds in water, and then strain out the seeds. Drink the water after it cools.
When coriander juice is mixed with turmeric powder, it may be able to reduce acne, blackheads, and dry skin. For skin issues like acne and dry skin, this mixture may be applied once a day, after the affected area has been washed. It can also be used topically as a compress or poultice, to soothe rashes, itchiness and inflammation.
Nature’s Wonder Food of the week : Coriander
The fibre content of coriander seeds improves digestion. A one-fourth cup of cilantro has just one calorie, and provides 16 per cent of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin K – as well as significant amounts of thiamine, zinc, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, iron, magnesium, folate, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese – and Vitamins A, C, E, K and B6.
Although it has a long history as a digestive aid, recent studies have supported its use as a stomach soother – for both adults, and babies with colic.
Coriander contains powerful antioxidants, that combat free radicals, and help reverse the damage they do to blood vessels.
Coriander contains Chlorogenic acid, which helps reduce blood sugar levels, by promoting the release of insulin from the pancreas – so that glucose can be used by the cells.
Additional uses include eating dry seeds to treat diarrhoea. A natural component of coriander, called Dodecenal, has been shown to be very effective at killing Salmonella.
Excessive use of coriander can have a narcotic effect. There have been very rare reports of allergic reactions to coriander.