What Is It?
Coriander “seed” is actually the common term for the tiny ribbed brown fruit of an annual Herb, Coriandrum sativum. The delicate, bright green leaves are used as a culinary herb–better known as cilantro or Chinese parsley. The seed is also used to flavor various commercial foods, particularly beverages, frozen dairy desserts, candy, and puddings. Its pleasing aromatic oil is a common ingredient in creams, lotions, and perfumes.
Although native to Mediterranean Europe and West Africa, coriander is now cultivated in many countries with temperate climates. The seed was reportedly used by healers in ancient Greece, and later in Rome, Great Britain, India, and China. Its primary use in Traditional medicine is for gastrointestinal complaints. For use in Ayurvedic medicine, the traditional healing practice of India, coriander seed is combined with cardamom seed and caraway. Traditional European healers mixed it with caraway, fennel, or anise seeds.
Although coriander has a long history of folk uses, from stomach-calming teas to muscle-soothing salves, no research has been conducted to prove its effects in humans. However, along with broad anecdotal evidence, laboratory and animal studies suggest that the herb may have some limited value as a mild digestive aid. These benefits are attributed to the action of tiny amounts of an aromatic volatile oil found in coriander seed (and to a lesser degree in the plant’s leaves).
In test tubes, the essential oil has been shown to fight some fungal and bacterial infections, and in animal studies the dried seed has shown Diuretic (“water pill”) properties. Coriander also has nutritional value, as it is rich in vitamins and minerals. Some animal studies indicate that it lowers blood sugar and has other biological effects, although findings are contradictory.
Specifically, coriander seed may help to:
- Calm upset stomach. Although its action is very mild, coriander seed may be helpful in easing gastrointestinal symptoms. Many modern herbalists follow the ancient traditionalists in specifically recommending coriander for indigestion and diarrhea. Coriander is also used as an ingredient in some laxative preparations in order to counteract their harsh effects on the stomach.
- Relieve flatulence. As a “carminative,” coriander seed may gently ease intestinal gassiness and bloating. Used as a tea, coriander has long had a reputation for easing flatulence and relieving the painful cramps that can accompany it.
- Revive appetite. Another therapeutic application for coriander seed is to stimulate a flagging appetite, which it apparently does by enhancing stomach function. Germany’s Commission e, which has summarized the uses of hundreds of herbs, approves coriander as a remedy for loss of appetite.
* fresh herb
* dried herb/tea
–If you have no coriander on hand, you can substitute fennel or anise seeds for most culinary uses.
–Although no standards have been set for coriander preparations in the United States, Germany requires that pharmaceutical grade seeds contain no less than 0.6% volatile oil. Austria requires no less than 0.5% volatile oil.
For stomach upset, appetite loss, or flatulence: Prepare a tea by simmering 1 to 2 teaspoons of crushed or bruised coriander seeds per 8 ounces of water. Drink up to three times a day between meals. Or add 1 teaspoon (15 ml) of coriander liquid Extract to water and drink three times a day between meals.
Guidelines for Use
The easiest way to take coriander seed is to prepare it as a tea.
If you take medication for hypoglycemia, note that coriander increases the hypoglycemic effect of these drugs. If you choose to use coriander, monitor your blood sugar closely.
Possible Side Effects
If you are allergic to foods in the celery family, you may be allergic to coriander. Use it cautiously.
Although rare, coriander may produce mild sun sensitivity in some individuals.
Do not use coriander while you are pregnant or breast-feeding..
David Edelberg, MD