Coriander, also known as cilantro, is one of the world’s most popular herbs, but it’s also polarising. In this guide, we’ll look at some surprising facts and health benefits of fresh coriander herb and seed, shedding some light on why this herb is both weird and wonderful.
Benefits of Coriander
We’ve discussed some of the health benefits of other herbs in the past, including the antibacterial properties of thyme and the anti-inflammatory effects of marjoram. Coriander is another herb that can provide a host of health benefits, including:
It Can Help Prevent Chronic Disease
A diet rich in leafy greens is thought to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases. They contain compounds that can prevent oxidative damage, which in turn can improve overall health and wellbeing.
Herbs like coriander are a great way to get your fix of these compounds without eating a bowl full of greens. You only need to eat a small amount to reap these benefits, and that small amount will also give you a number of vitamins and minerals, albeit not in the high concentration offered by herbs like parsley.
It Can Reduce Inflammation
Coriander reduces inflammation in the body, which is one of the reasons it helps protect against chronic disease. Inflammation can also lead to digestive conditions like IBS, and a diet rich in plant-based foods like herbs can help reduce that inflammation and ease those symptoms.
Coriander also seems to have more of an immediate and notable impact on gut health, reducing discomfort, gas, and other common complaints.
It’s a Good Source of Vitamin K
Coriander won’t provide you with adequate amounts of many different vitamins and minerals, but a handful of the herb sprinkled on top of a taco or a curry could provide you with up to 50% of your daily recommended allowance of vitamin K. This vitamin is found in leafy greens and in vegetables like sprouts and asparagus, making coriander an ideal replacement for anyone who doesn’t consume as many vegetables as they should but likes to indulge in the occasional Mexican or Indian feast.
Vitamin K helps form blood clots, which in turn can prevent excessive bleeding both internally and externally. A deficiency could lead to heavy menstrual cycles, excessive bleeding from cuts and gums, easy bruising, and more.
It May Help to Detox, Literally
We’re not big fans of the word detox here on Shelgo Tea, as it has been overused and incorrectly used for years (as discussed in our guide to the dangers of weight-loss teas). But some herbs and other natural substances out there really can draw toxins out of your body, and coriander is one of them—or rather, it might be one of them.
Studies have shown coriander to be effective in protecting against damage from lead poisoning and other heavy metals. (1) However, this doesn’t mean that it will cure heavy metal poisoning or that it will draw any other “toxins” out of your body. In fact, as these studies were performed on mice and have not been backed by human trials, it might have no effect at all, but if nothing else it warrants further research.
Can Coriander Help with Anxiety?
There have been claims that coriander can help reduce anxiety, but the idea that a taco could negate the need for a dose of diazepam is fantastical and simply not rooted in truth. These claims are based on a study that suggested coriander could be as effective as diazepam, but it’s the only worthwhile study on this subject and it’s far from conclusive, as it was conducted on rodents and not humans.
If small doses of coriander had such a significant impact on mental health, it’s safe to say that we’d probably know about it by now. The average curry fan would be able to tell you that. But that doesn’t mean that we should dismiss this notion altogether. There could be something to it, but if there is, it seems likely that huge doses would be needed and that it wouldn’t come close to providing the same benefits offered by prescription drugs and by herbal remedies like passionflower.
Coriander versus Cilantro
In our previous guide to camomile, we discussed why that tea is also known as chamomile, noting that one spelling is borrowed from French and the other from Greek. It’s a similar story with coriander. In British English the word coriander is used and comes from the French Coriandre. In the United States, it’s referred to by its Spanish name, cilantro. It’s the same herb—it’s just the name that’s different.
Coriander (or cilantro, if you prefer) is common in Mexican cuisine, so it seems likely that Mexican immigrants introduced the herb and its name to the US before the French/British variation had a chance to take hold.
What’s interesting, however, is that Americans still use coriander when referring to the seeds, opting only to use cilantro when referencing the herb itself.
Coriander Tastes Like Soap to Some People
Coriander is one of the world’s favourite herbs. It’s common in Indian and Mexican cuisine, two of the most popular cuisines in the world, and it has also been the biggest selling herb here in the UK for a number of years. You could be forgiven for thinking that everyone loved it, but that isn’t the case—to some, coriander tastes like soap or dirt.
For years, many theorised that these non-coriander-loving people simply hadn’t been exposed to the herb enough when they were younger, and for the most part it was passed off as a result of preference and nothing more. But a few years ago, a study found that an olfactory receptor gene was responsible. (2) In other words, some people are born with a severe dislike for coriander and simply don’t taste the same flavours that the average person does.
Prevalence of this gene is highest in those of East Asian, Caucasian, and African descent (between 14% and 21%), and lowest in those of hispanic descent. (3)
You Can Make Tea from Coriander
You can make great-tasting teas from most herbs and spices, from the warming and soothing ginger, to the sharp and tangy nettle. Coriander is no exception, and while you’re probably more used to enjoying its unique flavour when toasted in a dhal or added to a curry, some left-over coriander seeds can also be made into a light, refreshing, and healthy tea.
We recommend experimenting with other herbs, spices, and even seeds (fennel seeds work really well) to create a more balanced and enjoyable cup of tea, but you can also drink tea made just from coriander. Simply grind/crush a teaspoon of the seeds, steep them in hot water for 5 minutes, add a little sugar or honey to sweeten, and then drink.