Coriander is an annual plant with pretty leaves, lacy flowers and a distinctive, pungent aroma. The herb originated in the eastern Mediterranean and western Asia, but it has been cultivated around the world for centuries. Records of coriander’s use date back 2000–3000 years, and it features in the Bible as one of the bitter Passover herbs. Both the fresh leaves and stalks are edible, as are the dried seeds. Coriander features prominently in cuisines worldwide, especially in Mexico, Thailand, India, Malaysia and Vietnam. As a medicinal herb, coriander is used mainly to treat digestive complaints, but it has a range of other health benefits too. In the US, coriander is called cilantro; in Asia it is called Chinese parsley; and in South Africa it is common in Malay cuisine as dhanya.
In the main, the ripe seeds and the essential oil of the plant are used in herbal preparations, but the leaves are also said to contain healing properties.
The seeds’ essential oil contains the chemical compounds linalool, coumarins, phenylpropanoids and triterpenes. The leaves contain vitamins A, C and K, small amounts of folate, potassium, manganese and choline, and various antioxidants.
Little scientific research has been done on coriander, and its use on modern health therapy is based on its role in traditional medicine, its nutrient content and phytochemical studies. Coriander has been approved by the German Commission E for internal use in a range of digestive discomforts and to restore appetite. The seeds, also called fruits, are used as to ease flatulence and bloating and in laxative preparations. There is research to support that coriander has antibacterial properties, which is possibly why the herb is recommended as a breath sweetener.
Coriander is recommended:
- As an antispasmodic to treat colic, flatulence, digestive complaints and bloating.
- Taken as a tea, it is a breath sweetener.
- To ease tension and anxiety attacks.
- As a lotion (made from the seeds), to apply topically to treat rheumatic pain, painful joints and menstrual discomfort.
Flora Force Products containing coriander
Domestic & culinary uses
Both the fresh leaves and stalks are edible and can be used to make tea, while the dried seeds are an important ingredient of curry powders and spice mixtures. For maximum flavour, the leaves are best added to dishes just before serving. To use the seeds, lightly roast them then grind just before use.
Sow coriander seed directly where it is to grow, in a sunny space in richly composted soil. Coriander likes neither frost nor extreme heat, so plant it in summer in temperate zones and in the cooler season in subtropical zones. When spacing the young seedlings, thin to 45 cm apart. Keep the seedlings well watered and they’ll be ready to harvest in 30–45 days. Wait until the plants are mature and then snip the stems from the base of the plant to make sure you get the tastiest coriander leaves. Be sure to leave a few stems and leaves on the growing coriander so the plant will keep producing and you can enjoy it all summer long. Plant seeds every three weeks for a continuous supply. Leave the seeds to ripen on the plant and harvest them when they turn light brown.
- Evelyn Simak