Not many people are aware of the many awesome health benefits of cilantro or its history of use. In the USA cilantro and coriander describe two parts of the same plant, Coriandrum sativum that belong to the Apiaceae family. In the beginning, the herb was grown in what is now present day Greece. Utilized by the ancient Egyptians and Romans, makes cilantro of the oldest known herbs in history. As an added FYI, most people don’t know that cilantro is both a herb and a spice.
Cilantro is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. In fact, just a small amount of cilantro provides the full daily value of vitamin A and K. It is also rich in vitamin C, potassium, magnesium and manganese. Studies prove cilantro to have antiseptic, antifungal, antioxidant, disinfectant and antibacterial properties. Cilantro also aids in cleansing the body of toxic metals by supporting the body’s own natural detoxification processes. Compounds found in cilantro leaf attach to toxic metals and release them naturally from affected. These benefits are had by consuming the raw leaves or ingesting concentrated extracts.
Awesome Health Benefits of Cilantro
Adding cilantro to recipes doesn’t just enhance the flavor, but can also provide some awesome health benefits as well.
- May prevent cardiovascular damage
- Anti-diabetic activity
- Strong antioxidant
- Benefits digestive system
- Anti-inflammatory benefits
- Rich in phytonutrients
- Good source of dietary fiber
- Good source of calcium
- Lowers levels of LDL (“bad” cholesterol)
- Increases levels of HDL (“good” cholesterol)
- Reduces feeling of nausea
- Heavy metal cleanser
- Improves quality of sleep
- May lower blood sugar
- Decreases oxidative stress
- Antifungal properties
- Antibacterial properties
- Antimicrobial properties
- Contains nine antibiotic compounds
- Promotes healthy liver function
- Stimulates endocrine glands
Beware that using cilantro for health may have certain side effects, such as, allergic skin reactions, skin irritation, photosensitivity and inflammation. Always consult a knowledgeable healthcare practitioner before using this herb to treat any health concern.
How to Grow Your Own Cilantro
In addition to the awesome health benefits of cilantro given above, if you’re interested in growing cilantro at home, below are some helpful tips.
- A cool-season vegetable, cilantro reaches its full potential when you sow it either in the spring or fall.
- Cilantro is able to withstand a high frost, and can grow in temperatures of 14 to 23 degrees Fahrenheit (-10 to -5 degrees Celsius), although the plant dies once the ground freezes. Cilantro can also be grown in warm temperatures during the high summer.
- According to Grow It Organically, the trick to growing the best cilantro is to fool the plant into thinking that it’s perpetual spring or fall. To do this, make sure to give the plant a regular and steady supply of water and mulch the soil to maintain a cool surface. Cilantro takes a longer time to “bolt” (sending up a flower stalk), if you provide an optimal environment for it to grow.
- Healthy soil is also important if you want to grow your own cilantro. Ideally, loose and sandy loam would work best for this herb. Feel free to add aged manure or high-quality compost to the soil bed as well, since this can speed up the growth of the plant and yield better herbs.
- It takes six to 12 weeks for a cilantro plant to grow. Grow It Organically suggests planting small patches of the herb every two to three weeks throughout the growing season, if you want a steady supply of cilantro. Note that certain factors such as age, heat and dryness, can result in bolting. While the plant is still edible even if it has bolted, the leaves become finer and harder to harvest.
How to Buy Cilantro
If you haven’t used cilantro in any of your recipes yet, now is a good time to begin.
Buy the freshest cilantro leaves you can find (if you’re not growing your own), either from an organic farmer or at a local farmer’s market. Cilantro that is organically grown has an intense and refreshing flavor and contains with many vitamins and antioxidants, without the added risk of pesticides and chemicals.
Look for cilantro that is fresh and has vibrant green leaves, without any indication of spoilage or yellow discoloration. Also look for firm stems. After you get your cilantro home, wash it first in purified water and remove roots and/or old or bruised leaves. To store your cilantro, place it inside a zip pouch or wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel in your refrigerator. Try to use your cilantro as soon as possible since it is capable of losing its flavor and nutrients if kept for too long.
To prepare cilantro for recipes, start with clean chopping board and a sharp knife. You will need only the cilantro leaves for your recipes, so separate them from the stems with your knife, remembering to cut the plant gently. If you use a dull knife or over-chop, it can bruise the herb causing its unique flavor to spill onto the chopping board.
How to Keep Cilantro at Your Fingertips
To preserve fresh cilantro and to have it available at any time, you can prepare a cilantro oil.
The first step is to quickly blanch a bunch of fresh cilantro (be sure it is properly washed) by dipping it in boiling water, and then patting dry. Add all of the cilantro (including the stems) to a high-powered blender (I recommend using a Vitamix) and top with organic olive oil or ghee.
Blend until smooth. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze overnight. In the morning, remove the cilantro from the trays, and store in zip type bags in the freezer. Whenever you need a boost of flavor from fresh cilantro, it’s literally at your fingertips!
Recipes Using Cilantro
Research and Resources
- Park G, Kim HG, Kim YO, Park SH, Kim SY, Oh MS. Coriandrum sativum L. protects human keratinocytes from oxidative stress by regulating oxidative defense systems. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2012;25(2):93-9. doi: 10.1159/000335257. Epub 2012 Feb 1.
- Patel DK, Desai SN, Gandhi HP, Devkar RV, Ramachandran AV. Cardio protective effect of Coriandrum sativum L. on isoproterenol induced myocardial necrosis in rats. Food Chem Toxicol. 2012 Sep;50(9):3120-5. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2012.06.033.
- Mahendra P, Bisht S. Anti-anxiety activity of Coriandrum sativum assessed using different experimental anxiety models. Indian J Pharmacol. 2011 Sep;43(5):574-7. doi: 10.4103/0253-7613.84975.
- Aissaoui A, Zizi S, Israili ZH, Lyoussi B. Hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic effects of Coriandrum sativum L. in Meriones shawi rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Sep 1;137(1):652-61. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2011.06.019. Epub 2011 Jun 28.
- Rakhshandeh H, Sadeghnia HR, Ghorbani A. Sleep-prolonging effect of Coriandrum sativum hydro-alcoholic extract in mice. Nat Prod Res. 2012;26(22):2095-8. doi: 10.1080/14786419.2011.613388. Epub 2011 Oct 12.
- Deepa B, Anuradha CV. Antioxidant potential of Coriandrum sativum L. seed extract. Indian J Exp Biol. 2011 Jan;49(1):30-8.
- Furletti VF, Teixeira IP, Obando-Pereda G, Mardegan RC, Sartoratto A, Figueira GM, Duarte RM, Rehder VL, Duarte MC, Höfling JF. Action of Coriandrum sativum L. Essential Oil upon Oral Candida albicans Biofilm Formation. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:985832. doi: 10.1155/2011/985832. Epub 2011 May 21.
- Lixandru BE, Drăcea NO, Dragomirescu CC, Drăgulescu EC, Coldea IL, Anton L, Dobre E, Rovinaru C, Codiţă I. Antimicrobial activity of plant essential oils against bacterial and fungal species involved in food poisoning and/or food decay. Roum Arch Microbiol Immunol. 2010 Oct-Dec;69(4):224-30.
- Soares BV, Morais SM, dos Santos Fontenelle RO, Queiroz VA, Vila-Nova NS, Pereira CM, Brito ES, Neto MA, Brito EH, Cavalcante CS, Castelo-Branco DS, Rocha MF. Antifungal activity, toxicity and chemical composition of the essential oil of Coriandrum sativum L. fruits. Molecules. 2012 Jul 11;17(7):8439-48. doi: 10.3390/molecules17078439.
- Velaga MK, Yallapragada PR, Williams D, Rajanna S, Bettaiya R. Hydroalcoholic seed extract of Coriandrum sativum (Coriander) alleviates lead-induced oxidative stress in different regions of rat brain. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2014;159(1-3):351-63.
- Jabeen Q, Bashir S, Lyoussi B, Gilani AH. Coriander fruit exhibits gut modulatory, blood pressure lowering and diuretic activities. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009;122(1):123-30.
- Rezaei M, Karimi F, Shariatifar N, Mohammadpourfard I, Malekabad ES. Antimicrobial Activity of the Essential Oil from the Leaves and Seeds of Coriandrum sativum toward Food-borne Pathogens. West Indian Med J. 2015.
- Rahman S, Parvez AK, Islam R, Khan MH. Antibacterial activity of natural spices on multiple drug resistant Escherichia coli isolated from drinking water, Bangladesh. Ann Clin Microbiol Antimicrob. 2011;10:10.
- Growing Cilantro