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Yes/No for cilantro?

Yes/No for Cilantro?

For some people cilantro actually tastes like soap; Julia Child is said to have found cilantro revolting!!

According to Petruzzello (n.d.) there’s a genetic explanation for the existence of ‘cilantro haters’ - they’re said to have a variation in a group of olfactory-receptor genes which facilitates the strong perception of the soapy-flavored aldehydes in cilantro leaves.  Interestingly, there’s said to be less incidence of this genetic trait in Central America and India which may explain its proliferation in those regions.

If you're like me and you love the taste of coriandrum sativum (C. Sativum), the botanical name for what we commonly refer to as coriander & cilantro, it's worth reading about it's benefits...

Before doing a little research, I admit I thought it was a little like the zucchini and courgette situation...i.e., the same thing but different nomenclature in different parts of the world...in Ireland (& in most of the UK) when you're buying cilantro you have to ask for coriander, but in America if you ask for coriander you'll be guided to the spice aisle, and if you ask for cilantro they'll bring you to the produce section.

They're from the same plant - the fruit (i.e., coriander seed) and the leaves of the coriander plant (i.e., cilantro leaves) have culinary, as well as medicinal, purposes.

Coriander is the fruit/seed from the pink and mauve flowers of a delicate plant that resembles parsley (which is one of many other plants within the same Apiaceae family). They're yellowish brown and have a mild, fragrant aroma and aromatic taste similar to a combination of lemon peel and sage (Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d.).  Note, chefs often describe coriander as tasting fruity and a little nutty.

“When ripe coriander seeds are deliciously sweet , with a nutty taste of sage and orange.  When unripe, they have an unpleasant bug-like smell - perhaps the reason the Greeks called it koris, meaning bedbug” (Aggarwal, 2011, p. 104).

Buying & storage tips:
Aggarwal (2011) recommends buying whole coriander seeds (which will stay fresh for approximately one year) in lieu of ground coriander (which should only be bought in small quantities) or the oil as the “oils dissipate fairly quickly once ground” (p. 105).

For the cilantro herb, I highly recommend purchasing a glass herb keeper...I’ve managed to keep my cilantro fresh for up to a week in my fridge in this container.  Note, this version is available from Crate and Barrel, but I’m sure there are many other retailers carrying this option now too.

Actions and medicinal use:  
Orally, coriander is used for gastrointestinal problems, including dyspepsia, nausea, diarrhea, flatulence, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and to stimulate the appetite. Coriander is also used orally for convulsions, insomnia, anxiety, as a bactericide or fungicide, and to stimulate lactation. Coriander is also used to treat diabetes, worms, and joint pain and inflammation (Natural Medicine Database, 2016).

It is worth noting that coriander has also been actively investigated for multiple biological activities including antimicrobial, antioxidant, hypoglycemic, hypolipidemic (Laribi, Kouki, M’Hamdi, Bettaieb, 2015).

  • Antimicrobial properties: A review by Silva and Domingues (2017) stated “coriander seed oil is the world's second most relevant essential oil, exhibiting antimicrobial activity against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, some yeasts, dermatophytes and filamentous fungi” (p. 35).

  • Antifungal properties: Evidence from in vitro research shows that coriander essential oil has antifungal activity against Geotrichum candidum, Aspergillus niger, Candida albicans, Candida glabrata, Candida tropicalis, and Rhodotorula (Natural Medicine Database, 2016).

  • Antioxidant properties: A study by Park et al. (2012) found that coriandrum sativum protects keratinocytes from H2O2-induced oxidative stress through antioxidant effects.

  • Antihyperglycemic and antihyperlipidemic properties: A study by Sreelatha and Inbavalli (2012) highlighted the fact that coriander extracts could protect liver function and exhibited hypoglycemic, hypolipidemic, and antioxidant efficacies in the diabetic rats.

  • In ancient Asia, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners used Coriander seeds to treat all sorts of digestive ills, according to Aggarwal (2011) it is still used in over-the-counter remedies for gas and constipation. “Ayurvedic physicians in India also used it for many purposes, including as a diuretic” (Aggarwal, 2011, p. 102).

Contraindications:  Commission E, which guides physicians and other health professionals in Germany in the medicinal use of natural remedies, declared that coriander is safe and effective for the treatment of digestive complaints, loss of appetite, bloating, flatulence and cramp-like stomach upsets (Aggarwal, 2011, p. 103).  The Natural Standards Database (2016) references moderate interactions with antidiabetic, antihypertensive, CNS depressant, and photosensitizing medications and caution should be taken if/when those medications are part of the picture...i.e., as always review each case individually before making recommendations.

Culinary tips & notes:

  • Coriander seeds can be used to thicken sauces and gravies as the papery husks absorb moisture (Aggarwal, 2011).

  • Unlike other plants where the seeds and leaves have a similar aroma and flavor, coriander seeds (the spice) and cilantro (the leaves, i.e., herb) are very different.

  • Coriander seeds are available whole or ground and are commonly used in Indian cuisine, and pickling mixtures. Note, for the brightest, strongest flavor, heat the seeds in a little olive oil (over low heat) until they begin to ‘pop’ and jump!

  • Cilantro leaves are synonymous with lots of delicious cuisines, including Latin American and Asian (mostly Indian & Chinese) cuisine. It’s especially commonly found in Mexican cuisine, e.g., sprinkled on tacos, added to salsas, and it’s a key ingredient in good guacamole, chilis etc.

  • Coriander is said to pair well with all spices, but particularly well with allspice, cardamom, clove, coconut, cumin, fennel seed, garlic, ginger, sun-dried tomato, and turmeric (Aggarwal, 2011, p. 105).

  • Search 'coriander' on my blog for some recipe suggestions

Recipes to try:

 

References:

Abascal, K. & Yarnell, E. (2012).  Cilantro - Culinary herb or miracle medicinal plant?  Alternative and Complementary Therapies, 18(5), http://doi.org/10.1089/act.2012.18507

Aggarwal, B. B. (2011).  Healing spices: How to use 50 everyday and exotic spices to boost health and beat disease.  New York, NY: Sterling.

Almanac (n.d.).  Growing coriander and cilantro.  Retrieved from: https://www.almanac.com/plant/coriander-and-cilantro

Encylopaedia Britannica (n.d.).  Coriander. Retrieved from: https://www.britannica.com/plant/coriander

Laribi, B., Kouki, K., M’Hamdi, M., Bettaieb, T. (2015).  Coriander (Coriandrum sativum L.) and its bioactive constituents.  Fitoterapia, 103, 9-26.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fitote.2015.03.012

King, J. (1854).  Coriandrum sativum.  Coriander. The American Eclectic Dispensatory.  Retrieved from: https://www.henriettes-herb.com/eclectic/king1854/coriandrum.html

Natural Medicine Database (2016).  Coriander. Retrieved from: https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=117

Mandal, S. & Mandal, M. (2015).  Coriander (Coriandrum sativum L.) essential oil: Chemistry and biological activity.  Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, 5(6), 421-428.

Park, G. et al. (2012).  Coriandrum sativum L. protects human keratinocytes from oxidative stress by regulating oxidative defense systems.  Skin Pharmacology Physiology, 25(2), 93-99.  Doi: 10.1159/000335257

Petruzzello, M. (n.d.). Why does cilantro taste like soap to some people?  Demystified/Food, Science, Health & Medicine. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from: https://www.britannica.com/story/why-does-cilantro-taste-like-soap-to-some-people

Silva, F. & Domingues, F. C. (2017).  Antimicrobial activity of coriander oil and its effectiveness as food preservative.  Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 57(1), 35-47.  https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2013.847818

Sreelatha, S., Inbavalli, R. (2012).  Antioxidant, antihyperglycemic, and antihyperlipidemic effects of Coriandrum sativum leaf and stem in alloxan-induced diabetic rats.  Journal of Food Science, 77(7), 119-1123.  doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2012.02755.x