You’ve probably seen cilantro used as a garnish for various dishes. This often divisive herb, which some say tastes either refreshing and citrusy or like soap, offers many health benefits such as detoxifying your body.
Cilantro, an amazing superfood
Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) belongs to the mint family. An annual plant, cilantro was originally found in Southern Europe, particularly Italy, Greece and Spain. Cilantro can also be traced back to North Africa, specifically in Libya, Morocco and Tunisia.
A 3.5 oz (100 g) serving of cilantro contains the following vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin C
In traditional medicine, cilantro is used to address minor complaints like diarrhea, excessive flatulence, nausea and toothache.
Cilantro tinctures are also used as a part of medical formulations together with other medicinal herbs to relieve conditions like bacterial infections, diabetes, heavy metal poisoning, indigestion, respiratory troubles and vitamin K deficiency.
Cilantro in modern research
In a study published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology, researchers from the University of Beira Interior in Portugal tested coriander oil against 12 bacterial strains.
Coriander oil is derived from coriander or cilantro seeds.
Out of all the tested strains, which included Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica, Bacillus cereus and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), all showed reduced growth. Findings also showed that most of the strains were killed by solutions with 1.6 percent coriander oil or less.
Additionally, cilantro helps flush out toxic metals like aluminum, arsenic, cadmium and mercury from your body.
Several studies suggest that coriander contains antioxidants that can prevent cellular damage from free radicals. Antioxidants from the herbs also help minimize inflammation in the body.
Animal studies and test-tube studies have found that compounds such as terpinene, quercetin and tocopherols may offer anticancer, immune-boosting and neuroprotective effects. (Related: Molecular mechanism explained: How cilantro helps delay seizures common in epilepsy and other neurological disorders.)
Fast facts about cilantro
It’s best to consume fresh and uncooked cilantro because heat lowers its abilities and breaks it down.
Here are some interesting facts about this tasty herb:
- The upper leaves of C. sativum are thin and blade-like. Meanwhile, the lower leaves are denser and have smaller incisions.
- The leaves of the C. sativum plant are called cilantro while the seeds are called coriander.
- Cilantro contains flavonoids that help naturally ease menstrual cramps and muscle spasms.
- Egyptian tombs contained coriander seeds, which suggest their medicinal properties.
- In Pakistan, Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries, cilantro is used as an active ingredient in herbal formulations.
Refreshing cilantro shallot green salad recipe
Try this recipe for a tasty salad to reap the many health benefits of cilantro!
- 1 cup shallots, evenly sliced and sauteed (or crispy fried)
- 1 big bunch of fresh cilantro leaves and stems
- 1/2 cup peanuts, well-toasted
- 150 g asparagus spears, very thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- 2 teaspoons olive oil or sunflower oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (e.g., sea salt)
- 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- Garlic pods, chopped or sliced in half (optional)
- Boil the water in a medium saucepan, then add salt. Cook the asparagus for 15 seconds.
- Drain the asparagus, then quickly place them to a bowl of ice. Drain again, then set aside.
- Trim and wash the cilantro leaves and stems thoroughly. Dry the cilantro.
- In a bowl, combine the soy sauce, salt, sugar and oil. Whisk until well combined.
- Place the asparagus, cilantro, peanuts and sesame seeds in a large bowl.
- Drizzle the soy dressing over the salad, then gently and thoroughly toss the bowl to spread the dressing evenly.
- Add some sauteed cottage cheese cubes for a salad with a refined texture.
- Serve with fresh, warm bread on the side.
Cilantro is a nutritious herb that deserves to be used as more than a garnish. Serve cilantro in a refreshing salad or use it in savory dishes so you can reap its many health benefits!