The plant grows to a height of 2 feet with a spread of 9 inches. The bright, green leaves are fan shaped and become more feathery towards the top of the plant. The flowers, which bloom from mid- to late summer, are small and white, formed in umbel-like clusters. The pale brown roots are fibrous and tapering, shaped like a carrot.
Coriander is an annual herb and, according to the climatic conditions, is cultivated as a summer or winter annual crop. At flowering, the glabrous plant can reach heights between 0.20 and 1.40 m. The germination is epigaeal and the plant has a tap root. The stem is more or less erect and sympodial, monochasial-branched, sometimes with several side branches at the basal node. Each branch finishes with an inflorescence. The colour of the more or less ribbed stem is green and sometimes turns to red or violet during the flowering period. The stem of the adult plant is hollow, and its basal parts can reach a diameter of up to 2 cm. The leaves alternate, and the first ones are often gathered in a rosette. The plant is diversifolious. The blade shape of the basal leaves is usually either undivided with three lobes, or tripinnatifid, while the leaves of the nodes following are to a higher degree pinnatifid. The higher the leaves are inserted, the more pinnate they are. Thus, the upper leaves are deeply incised with narrow lanceolate or even filiform-shaped blades. The lower leaves are stalked, while the petiole of the upper leaves is reduced to a small, nearly amplexicaul leaf sheath.
The leaves are green or light green and their underside often shiny waxy. During the flowering period the leaves sometimes turn red or violet. They wither before the first fruits are ripe starting from the basal leaves. The inflorescence is a compound umbel. Sometimes there are one or two linear bracts. The umbel has two to eight primary rays, which are of different length, in such a way that the umbellets are located at the same level. Two, three or more bracteols carry the umbellets with five to twenty secondary rays. Flowering starts with the primary umbel. In every umbel the peripheral umbellets, and in every umbellet the peripheral flowers are the first ones to flower.
These flowers are protandrous. The central flowers of the umbellets are staminiferous or sometimes sterile. Coriander has an inferior ovary and the five calyx teeth surrounding the stylopodium are still visible in the ripe fruit. The five calyx teeth are of different length, as are the petals in peripherally situated flowers. The flowers have five petals. The peripheral flowers of every umbellet are asymmetric, as the petals toward the outside of the umbellets are lengthened. The central flowers are circular, with small inflexed petals. The colour of the petals is pale pink or sometimes white.
Coriander will not grow well in humid climates. It needs a dry summer and a sunny location. Seeds are sown directly in the garden once all danger of frost has passed. It also does well as a container plant on a sunny porch or balcony. Stems are weak and the plant may require staking.
Cut the leaves as required. They do not dry well, but may be frozen.
Coriander is used to treat digestive ailments and colic.
Coriander is used widely in Indian, Greek and Asian cooking.
The origin of the cultivated species Coriandrum sativum is still not clear, and no certain information about the wild species exists. Nevertheless, several authors have named coriander as a wild plant. Linnaeus reported as long ago as 1780 that coriander also occurs as a weed in cereals. Alefeld (1866) mentioned that coriander was a common weed spread from southeastern Europe to southern Russia. Stoletova (1930) also reports on wild coriander from Armenia.
When considering the origin of this plant, another approach is to look for evidence of its cultivation in ancient times, using either archaeological or linguistic methods. Coriander is named in an Egyptian papyrus dating from 1550 BC that lists medicinal plants (van Harten 1974). Sinskaja (1969) even reports ancient Egyptian notes on coriander dating back to the time of the 5th dynasty, i.e. to 2500 BC. Coriander fruits were found in the tomb of Tutankhamun, and were common in
other graves in ancient Egypt at that time (Germer 1989).
The library of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal of the 7th century BC also contains documents referring to the cultivation of coriander (van Harten 1974). It is interesting to note that the ancient
Egyptian literature mentions varieties of coriander coming from Asia (Reinhardt 1911). According to Van Harten (1974), the Jews must have known coriander before coming to Egypt (around 2000 BC), since the Hebrew name ‘gad’ occurs in the Old Testament. ‘Gad’ is usually translated as coriander, but probably means wormwood, Artemisia L., and is misunderstood because of its similarity with the Punic name ‘goid’, which is the name for coriander in that language (Zohary 1986).
Coriander is referred to as ‘dhanayaka’ or ‘kusthumbari’ in the Sanscrit literature. According to Prakash (1990), these references date as far back as 5000 BC. This claim seems doubtful, however. There are no references to coriander until the Egyptian period, and the Sanskrit language itself is not that old. Classical Greek authors such as Aristophanes, Theophrastus, Hippocrates and Dioscorides (van Harten 1974) and Latin authors such as Pliny and Columella also wrote about this crop. Egyptian coriander was especially praised by them for its quality (Reinhardt 1911; Hegi 1926). Göök (1977) reports that in the 12th century AD, flowering fields of coriander were seen on the banks of the river Nile in Egypt.
In China, coriander is mentioned as a vegetable in a book on agriculture from the 5th century (Li 1969). The Persian name for coriander was used in China, which lends support to the hypothesis that the plant was introduced to China from this area (Ivanova and Stoletova 1990). In Europe, the Romans brought coriander to the northern countries, and the name of the plant is similar in all of these countries. The old Russian name ‘ki nec’ is very similar to the Persian ‘geshnes’ and Turkish ‘kisnis’, and the crop probably came to Russia from the Caucasus or even from areas to the east of the Caspian Sea (Luk’janov and Reznikov 1976). Hegi (1926) mentions the Tartar name ‘ghiachnich’, which would also support his pathway. In India, in addition to the Hindi and Sanskrit names cited, there exist many local names for this plant. These different names bear witness to the role that coriander has played since ancient times in the Indian subcontinent. It is interesting to note that names are related to each other not only in Indian, but in many of the languages cited, and the
name of the plant often starts with the consonant ‘k’. Characteristic types are found in Ethiopia, where local names for coriander indicate that here too it has a long tradition of cultivation.
Coriander seeds have a health-supporting reputation that is high on the list of the healing spices. In parts of Europe, coriander has traditionally been referred to as an "anti-diabetic" plant. In parts of India, it has traditionally been used for its anti-inflammatory properties. In the United States, coriander has recently been studied for its cholesterol-lowering effects.
The health benefits of coriander include treatment of swellings, high cholesterol levels, diarrhea, Mouth ulcers, anemia, digestion, menstrual disorders, small pox, eye care, conjunctivitis, skin disorders, blood sugar disorders, etc.
Cineole, one of the 11 components of the essential oils, and linoleic acid, present in coriander, possess anti rheumatic and anti arthritic properties, which are very beneficial for swelling caused due to these two reasons. For others, such as swelling due to malfunctioning of kidney or anemia, it is seen to be effective to some extent, as some of the components help excretion of extra water from the body while.
High Cholesterol Levels
Some of the acids present in coriander viz. linoleic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid and ascorbic acid (vitamin-C) are very effective in reducing the cholesterol level in the blood. They also reduce the cholesterol deposition along the inner walls of the arteries and veins.
Some of the components of essential oils in coriander such as Borneol and Linalool, aid digestion, proper functioning of liver and bonding of bowels, helping cure diarrhea. It is also helpful in diarrhea caused by microbial and fungal action, since components like Cineole, Borneol, Limonene, Alpha-pinene & beta-phelandrene have anti bacterial effects. In addition, the fresh coriander leaves are excellent appetizers.
Citronelol, a component of essential oils in coriander, is an excellent antiseptic. In addition, other components have anti microbial and healing effects which do not let wounds and ulcers in the mouth go worse. They aid healing up of ulcers and freshen up the breath.
Coriander is good in iron content which directly helps curing anemia.
Coriander, due to its rich aroma because of its essential oils, apart from being an excellent appetizer, helps in proper secretion of enzymes and digestive juices in the stomach, stimulates digestion and peristaltic motion. It is helpful in treating problems like anorexia.
The essential oils in coriander are rich in anti microbial, anti oxidant, anti infectious and detoxifying components and acids. The presence of vitamin-C and iron strengthen the immune system too. These properties help prevent and cure small pox. They also reduce the pain and have a soothing effect on pox patients.
Being stimulating in nature and helping proper secretion from the endocrine glands, it also helps proper secretion of the hormones and thereby inducing proper menstrual cycles and reducing pains etc. during periods.
Coriander has lots of anti oxidants, vitamin-A, vitamin-C and minerals like phosphorus in the essential oils in it which prevents aging of eye, macular degeneration and soothes eyes against stress.
As discussed earlier, coriander is a very good disinfectant and has anti microbial properties which protect the eyes from contagious diseases like conjunctivitis.
The disinfectant, detoxifying, anti-septic, anti-fungal and anti-oxidant properties of cumin are ideal for curing skin disorders such as eczema, dryness and fungal infections.
Due the stimulating effect of cumin on the endocrine glands, the secretion of insulin is increased from pancreas which increases the insulin level in the blood, thereby helping proper assimilation and absorption of sugar and resultant fall in the sugar level in the blood. This property is very beneficial for the diabetes patients and others too.
Still want more from it? Coriander helps cure ulcer, inflammation, spasm and acts as an expectorant, protects and soothes liver. It is anti-carcinogenic, anti-convulsant, anti-histaminic and hypnotic.
Control of Blood Sugar, Cholesterol and Free Radical Production
Recent research studies (though still on animals) have confirmed all three of these healing effects. When coriander was added to the diet of diabetic mice, it helped stimulate their secretion of insulin and lowered their blood sugar. When given to rats, coriander reduced the amount of damaged fats (lipid peroxides) in their cell membranes. And when given to rats fed a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet, coriander lowered levels of total and LDL (the "bad" cholesterol), while actually increasing levels of HDL (the "good" cholesterol). Research also suggests that the volatile oils found in the leaves of the coriander plant, commonly known as cilantro, may have antimicrobial properties.
A Phytonutrient-Dense Herb
Many of the above healing properties of coriander can be attributed to its exceptional phytonutrient content. Coriander's volatile oil is rich in beneficial phytonutrients, including carvone, geraniol, limonene, borneol, camphor, elemol, and linalool. Coriander's flavonoids include quercitin, kaempferol, rhamnetin, and epigenin. Plus, coridander contains active phenolic acid compounds, including caffeic and chlorogenic acid.
Nutrient As Well As Phytonutrient-Dense
Not only is coriander replete with a variety of phytonutrients, this exceptional herb emerged from our food ranking system as an important source of many traditional nutrients. Based on our nutrient density ranking process, coriander qualified as a very good source of dietary fiber and a good source of iron, magnesium and manganese.
Coriander has been used in medicine for thousands of years (Mathias 1994). The first medicinal uses of the plant were reported by the ancient Egyptians. General references to coriander’s medical uses are also found in classical Greek and Latin literature (Manniche 1989), and instructions to cultivate coriander are contained in the German emperor Charlemagne’s decree ‘Capitulare de villis’ in 812 (Gööck 1977).
The coriander fruits are believed to aid digestion. Many other fruits of umbelliferous plants have been used in medicine since antiquity (French 1971) as they also affect the digestive system. Some of these, such as hemlock (Conium maculatum L.), are poisonous. Coriander is also used externally to treat ulcers and rheumatism; these and several other medicinal uses are recorded by Hegi (1926). Losch (1903) describes how the fruits need to be soaked in wine or in vinegar overnight before being re-dried, in order to remove chemical compounds contained in the fresh fruits, which cause dizziness. These are mentioned in the older references (Linnaeus 1780; Reichenbach 1833; Losch 1903; Hegi 1926). Fruits thus treated were used for medicinal purposes, and also to treat halitosis.
Today, the plant is still sometimes used for these purposes in folk medicine. The medical uses of coriander in the modern era are described by Cicin (1962). In India, the fruits are considered carminative, diuretic, tonic, stomachic, antibilious and refrigerant. They are used chiefly, however, to conceal the taste or smell of other ingredients in pharmaceutical preparations (this use is also reported by Jansen (1981), and to correct the gripping qualities of rhubarb and senna (Bhatnagar 1950).
The seeds are chewed as a remedy for halitosis. The drug, known as ‘Coriandri fructus’ or ‘Fructus coriandri’, is hardly used in current orthodox medicine. It is still on the German and Austrian official lists of pharmaceutical plant drugs, however (Ebert 1982). The antibacterial effects of the
essential oil of coriander are mentioned by Pruthi (1980).
Coriander is safe in food amounts, and it may be safe for most people when taken by mouth in appropriate medicinal amounts.
Coriander can cause some side effects, including allergic reactions and increased sensitivity to the sun. Increased sensitivity to the sun might put you at greater risk for sunburns and skin cancer. Avoid sunlight. Wear sunblock and protective clothing outside, especially if you are light-skinned.
There is one report of severe diarrhea, stomach pain, darkened skin, depression, lapse of menstruation, and dehydration in a woman who took 200 mL of a 10% coriander extract for 7 days.
When coriander comes in contact with the skin, it can cause skin irritation and inflammation.
Some people may experience dermatitis after handling the leaves of coriander or from coming in contact with the oil from the seeds.
Special Precautions & Warnings
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of coriander during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
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