You know those green leaves packed with flavor (and nutrients!) that you commonly consume in guacamole? That’s cilantro. Coriander is a seed spice that’s been cultivated since ancient times and comes from the same plant that gives us beneficial cilantro leaves. Don’t be alarmed if this doesn’t ring a bell. These seeds might not be as well-known unless perhaps you’re a lover of curries and masalas, which include coriander as an integral ingredient.
Coriander is an annual herb also known as cilantro or Chinese parsley. When the leaves are used in their fresh form, we commonly refer to this herb as cilantro. The dried seeds are what we know as coriander, and they’ve been used as a culinary spice and food-poisoning preventative agent for ages. As a spice, it’s either sold whole or ground with a flavor similar to a blend of lemon, sage and caraway. Sounds interesting, right?
These seeds not only offer a unique and intriguing flavor profile, but their consumption has also been shown to blood flow and heart health as well as to calm serious digestive problems like IBS. That’s because coriander contains a multitude of bioactives that lead to a wide array of pharmacological activities, including its ability to act as an antimicrobial, anti-epileptic, antidepressant, antimutagenic, anti-inflammatory and anxiety inhibitor. It’s also been shown to help lower cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar naturally! (1) Read on to see just how amazing this worldly spice truly is.
8 Health Benefits of Coriander Seeds
1. Lower Blood Sugar
Coriander seeds and essential oil both have blood sugar-lowering effects on the human body. The effect is actually so therapeutic and likely that people who suffer from low blood sugar or take blood sugar-lowering medicine are warned to be careful with using coriander products.
If you’re looking to naturally treat diabetes and lower you blood sugar, you should start having more coriander in your daily diet. Multiple animal studies have backed up this notion and show that it can help stimulate the secretion of insulin and lower blood sugar. One study showed that coriander improved carbohydrate metabolism and increased hypoglycemic action. (2) Hopefully there will be more human studies soon, but either way, many people have experienced the antidiabetic effects of this spice for ages.
The essential oil has dual blood glucose-lowering effects in diabetes as well. It works both by enhancing the secretion of insulin from the pancreas and exhibiting insulin-like activity at the cellular level. You can combine two to three drops of coriander essential oil with a carrier oil and put it on the soles of your feet daily. Some people also like to apply this same mixture to the pancreas area at night with a warm compress.
2. Ease Digestive Discomfort
Why does coriander makes such a great digestive aid? Researchers have found that it works like an antispasmodic drug, relaxing contracted digestive muscles that cause the discomfort of IBS and other problematic gut disorders.
A study published in Digestive Diseases and Sciences studied 32 people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a chronic digestive complaint affecting 20 percent of Americans today. The study evaluated the effects of taking a preparation containing coriander versus taking a placebo. After eight weeks, those taking the coriander preparation had significantly lower severity and frequency of abdominal pain and discomfort. They also had less severity and frequency of bloated stomach compared to the placebo group. (3)
3. Decrease Blood Pressure
For people suffering with hypertension, consuming this spice has been shown to reduce blood pressure. Not only does it help positively modulate gut activity, but it also has a diuretic effect on the body, which is very helpful to people suffering from high blood pressure. (4) When you treat high blood pressure, you also decrease your risk of serious and deadly conditions like blood clots and strokes.
4. Fight Food Poisoning
Several studies suggest that coriander is among several herbs that have strong antimicrobial effects against food-borne pathogens. When you use it in your cooking, you actually add an additional layer of protection against the risk of food poisoning.
Coriander actually contains an antibacterial compound that may specifically fight against Salmonella, which is responsible for 1 million food-borne illnesses in the U.S. every year. A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry specifically showed its antibacterial activity against Salmonella choleraesuis. Coriander contains high levels of dodecenal, a natural compound that’s actually twice as powerful of an antibiotic than the leading treatment for salmonella-based illness. By adding this spice into your diet, you can guard yourself against uncomfortable or even fatal food poisoning. (5)
5. Improve Cholesterol Levels
Studies have shown that by incorporating coriander into your diet you can decrease your levels of bad cholesterol. In one animal experiment, a significant decrease in bad cholesterol or LDL and an increase in healthy cholesterol or HDL was shown among subjects who were administered coriander seeds. (6) So you’re looking to lower cholesterol overall and balance LDL to HDL cholesterol, this spice may help do the trick.
6. Help Urinary Tract Infections
Coriander seeds are helpful in relieving symptoms of a urinary tract infection or UTI. Simply soak 1.5 teaspoons of dried coriander seeds overnight in two cups of water. Strain and drink, or just add to your morning smoothie. It helps relieve the discomfort and pain associated with the UTI and helps speed overall healing. (7)
7. Support Healthy Menstrual Function
Coriander seeds actually help support healthy menstrual function by helping regulate proper endocrine gland function and the hormones that regulate menstrual cycles. In addition, coriander can help reduce the bloating, cramps and pain during your cycle. Its use to regulate menstruation is a common practice in Ayurvedic medicine.
8. May Prevent Neurological Inflammation & Disease
Neurodegenerative diseases — including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors and meningitis — are associated with chronic inflammation. A study published in the journal Molecular Neurobiology found that diets high in turmeric, pepper, clove, ginger, garlic, cinnamon and coriander helped target inflammatory pathways and prevent neurodegenerative diseases. Researchers noted that lifestyle factors of individuals with diets rich in these nutrients showed lower incidences of neurological degeneration. (8)
Coriander Nutrition Facts
Coriander is technically an herb and a spice since both its leaves and its seeds are used as seasoning. The fresh leaves are typically referred to as cilantro while the seeds are called coriander.
- 15 calories
- 2.8 grams carbohydrates
- 0.6 gram protein
- 0.9 gram fat
- 2.1 grams fiber
- 0.8 milligram iron (4.6 percent DV)
- 16 milligrams magnesium (4 percent DV)
- 35 milligrams calcium (3.5 percent DV)
- 20 milligrams phosphorus (2 percent DV)
- 1 milligram vitamin C (1.7 percent DV)
Coriander vs. Cilantro
Health Benefits of Fresh Cilantro Leaves:
- Rids the body of heavy metals, working as a heavy metal detox
- Protects against oxidative stress and fights free radical damage
- Lowers anxiety and improves sleep
- Soothes skin irritations
Health Benefits of Coriander Seeds:
- Support healthy menstrual function
- Offer protection against neurological inflammation and disease
- Might protect against colon cancer (11)
Health Benefits of Both:
- Treat and improve UTIs
- Lower blood sugar levels
- Lower blood pressure
- Protect against cardiovascular disease
- Help lower bad cholesterol
- Help calm digestive troubles
History of Coriander
Coriander has been used as a digestive aid for thousands of years, with evidence of its use dating as far back as 5,000 B.C. It’s mentioned in Sanskrit texts, ancient Egyptian papyri, the Old Testament and the writings of the Greek physician Hippocrates. The Roman armies brought it to Europe, where it was used to preserve meats, and the Chinese believed it counteracted food poisoning.
Coriander grows wild over a wide area of Western Asia and Southern Europe, and archaeological findings point toward cultivation by ancient Egyptians. It also appears to have been cultivated in Greece since at least the second millennium B.C. In 1670, it was first brought to the British colonies of North America and was one of the first spices cultivated by early settlers.
In the past and still present day, some countries refer to cilantro as coriander, so any references to “fresh coriander” or “coriander leaves” are what we in the U.S. typically refer to as cilantro. (12)
How to Find, Cook & Grow Coriander
All parts of the coriander plant are edible, but the fresh leaves (cilantro) and the dried seeds are the parts most traditionally used in cooking. It’s common in South Asian, Southeast Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern, Caucasian, Central Asian, Mediterranean, Tex-Mex, Latin American, Brazilian, Portuguese, Chinese and African cooking. It’s easily and readily available at your local grocery store year-round as well.
When purchasing this spice for culinary purposes, look for the dried seeds in whole or ground form. You will most likely find the European or possibly Indian type. European coriander has a smooth and savory flavor with creamy citrus top notes. The European seeds are typically more flavorful due to a higher concentration of volatile oils. The Indian version is oval instead of round and has more citrusy top notes than the European variety. Both are pretty interchangeable in cooking.
It can easily be bought in powdered form, but I strongly recommend buying whole seeds and grinding them yourself. The result is a fresher and more intense flavor. You can also toast whole seeds to enhance their flavor.
In general, this spice goes really well with fish, lamb and turkey. It’s also delicious when included among stuffings, lentils and tomatoes. You can mix the seeds with peppercorns in your pepper mill for a more interesting spice than pepper alone. Of course, you can also keep it in its own pepper mill so there will always be freshly ground coriander seeds easily on hand. Coarsely ground coriander is great as a rub on meats and fish before cooking. Whole or ground seeds can also be used in marinades, pickled dishes, salad dressings and casseroles. It’s also really tasty in homemade granola.
Looking to harvest coriander at home? The plants need full sun or light shade in southern zones. The plant grows best in moist, well-drained soil. Space your plants about six to eight inches apart. From the time of sowing seed, cilantro leaves can begin to be harvested in about three to four weeks. The seeds can be harvested in about 45 days. (13)
For stronger medicinal purposes, it can also be purchased as a supplement, tincture, tea or essential oil.
Coriander makes any and every dish it’s added to more interesting. For example, my Curried Carrot Soup Recipe wouldn’t be the same without its inclusion.
You probably already know how tasty and nutritious protein-packed hummus dip is, but have you ever tried a recipe that includes this spice? This Avocado Hummus with Coriander and Lemon made my 29 Healthy Hummus Recipe Ideas list for good reason.
Looking for a new and healthy homemade dressing recipe? You won’t regret trying my Orange Tahini Dressing Recipe — it includes both coriander and cilantro!
In small food amounts, coriander is not likely to cause you any unwanted side effects and is known for reducing flatulence. When used medicinally, it can cause increased sensitivity to the sun.
Due to its ability to naturally lower blood sugar levels, monitor your blood sugar levels closely if you have diabetes and take this spice. It can also decrease blood pressure levels so be careful with your intake if you tend to have low blood pressure or take medication to lower it.
Final Thoughts on Coriander
Coriander is a spice that really deserves more attention in the kitchen. The makers and lovers of curries and masalas haven’t been missing out on this flavorful spice because it’s a key ingredient in those complex and tasty dishes. But it’s time that the exotic flavor made its way into your daily life, whether it’s in your morning granola, afternoon hummus or evening salad dressing.
It won’t let your taste buds down while it boosts your health in so many incredible ways, from lowering blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure to protecting you against food poisoning and digestive problems. Make sure to include coriander in your spice lineup, and start sprinkling it here and there on a regular basis!
Read Next: 12 Cilantro Benefits, Nutrition & Recipes
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