Also known as: cilantro, rau ram, papaloquelite
Parts used: leaves, seeds
Systems/Organs affected: bladder, stomach, blood
Properties: aromatic, diaphoretic, carminative, diuretic, alterative, pungent, depurative
Coriander is a member of the Umbelliferae (carrot) family. It has slightly divided leaves that branch out on stems and can get over two feet tall. The plant has small white to lavender colored flowers that bloom in late June and make way for brownish colored seeds about the size of peas. The seeds should be gathered before they get too old and the plant reseeds itself or dies off.
Coriander is an herb that dates back thousands of years. It was grown in Egyptian gardens long before the time of Christ and has been found as part of funeral offerings in Egyptian tombs (including King Tut's). Hippocrates spoke of using it in the 5th century and the Chinese didn't acquire it until some time after that. Pliny described it as a 'very stinkinge herb' as it is quite odiferous as it grows throughout the season. The generic Greek term for coriander 'koris' means 'bug' as it tends to repel them until it starts to go to seed, at which point the odor changes to something more citrus like.
Coriander was highly prized by many cultures and was even mentioned a few times in the Bible, being compare to manna. In Exodus 16:31 it reads, "And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna, and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey." It was described as an aphrodisiac in 'Thousand and One Nights' as it can be somewhat narcotic in large amounts. There were also stories that if one mixed it with fennel that it would conjure up the devil and his demons (you can't make up this stuff...). While this is anything but the truth, coriander and fennel don't like each other in the garden and should be planted far from one another. Coriander was also one of the very first herbs to be brought to the New World. Dioscorides claimed it would calm the body and Galen used it as a tonic. Its primary use today however, is as a culinary herb. As it has ancient origins the Hebrews use the herb as part of the Passover spices. The Indians, Chinese and Thai people's all use it in a vast array of curries and as part of the famous garam masala. It is commonly used in breads, cakes, soups, salads, meat dishes, etc.
Coriander does have many medicinal benefits (although to some they would say it has none). It has been added to gripe water and many a laxative combination over the years to help ease the cramping and flatulence that often accompany such formulas. Dr. LeClerc believed it helped to fight fatigue and Madame Maury used it for fevers and rheumatic complaints. Both the leaves and seeds are good for the urinary tract, for upset stomach, gas and indigestion. The oil from the seeds has been used for toothaches, facial cramping, facial neuralgia and shingles associated with facial neuralgia. The oil itself does have some narcotic effects in large amounts. There was an herb distillery that had first hand experience with this when 50 quarts of the oil was spilled in the factory and they sent workers to clean it up. Within 30 minutes they all had started laughing and giggling and then became aggressive and started fighting with each other (and completely forgot what they were doing there). All of the workers had to be sent home for several days to recover from the intoxicating effects of the oil (and the extreme fatigue that followed). Coriander has also been used to flavor gin, vermouth, liqueurs, chilies, etc.
As is customary with my posts I am including some links herein for your perusal. Use them as you see fit. Stay healthy!