Herb of the Month: Coriander
Our featured Herbalist Vilma Matuleviciute takes a look at our herb of the month for October. Vilma is a qualified Herbalist, Naturopath and Craniosacral therapist. Vilma is a senior lecturer of herbal medicine in the College of Naturopathic Medicine (CNM) and she gives talks on herbal medicine and naturopathy across Ireland. Currently she is the president of the Irish Register of Herbalists (IRH).
This easy growing aromatic annual belongs to the Apiaceae, the same botanical family to which many other aromatic herbs, such as fennel, dill and caraway, belong. Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) is native to the Mediterranean region and is also widely cultivated and used in Eastern and Central Europe, North Africa and Asia. The name of the plant comes from the Greek word ‘koriannon’, which means bug, and it is difficult to say whether it applies to the shape or to the smell of its seeds.
Coriander has been known for millennia. It is mentioned in Sanskrit writings and in the Bible and the seeds were found in Egyptian tombs. Greek physician Hippocrates who lived 400BC used coriander as medicine and it was used as an aphrodisiac in love potions in the Middle Ages.
Coriander has many traditional uses as medicine across the world.
This highly aromatic herb is traditionally used for a wide range of digestive problems. Being rich in essential oil, it can help to reduce gas and bloating, soothe abdominal cramps or spasms and improve digestion overall. It may be used to improve appetite and ease off nausea.
Studies of coriander indicate that it has antimicrobial, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, and including it as a spice or fresh herb in a daily diet can be helpful to prevent Candida yeast infections or food poisoning, and generally to protect from bad bacteria overgrowth in the intestines.Coriander is also known to have strong antioxidant qualities, and because of this it can help with lowering cholesterol or managing blood lipid profile. As part of a nutritious diet, coriander or cilantro can be used to increase overall antioxidant status in the body and brain and fight free radicals. Traditionally coriander has also been used to lower blood sugar levels.
Ground seeds are used as a spice and are referred to as coriander and leaves are called cilantro, which are popular in Latin American cuisine. Seeds have a slightly citrusy refreshing and distinctive aroma. It is an integral part of Chinese or Indian curries and masalas and Mexican salsa dishes.
Coriander and cumin are used in falafels. And many soups or salads in Asian countries would be garnished with fresh chopped cilantro leaves. Coriander is called Chinese parsley.
Fresh cilantro is very rich in minerals and nutrients and can be used interchangeably with parsley in many dishes and as a garnish. It would go well with many vegetables, salads, soups and fish dishes.
‘Kitchari’- nutritious rice and lentils porridge
1 cup of rice
1 cup of mung beans/dal/whole lentils (pre-soaked)
5-6 cups of water
1/2 teasp. ground coriander seeds
1/2 teasp. ground cumin
1/2 teasp. turmeric powder
A handful of fresh cilantro
1-2 tblsp. olive oil, coconut butter or ghee (clarified butter)
A pinch of Himalayan salt to season
Optional- other spices can be added too- ginger, mustard, asafoetida or garlic
Vegetables of choice- broccoli, cauliflower, kale, carrot, cabbage, etc.
Rinse rice and mung beans/lentils well. Add water and cook with a lid on a low heat for about 20min. If using vegetables, wash and cut them in small pieces and add them to the rice and lentils/beans mixture and cook for another 10min or so. In a separate pan heat the oil and sauté spices for a couple of minutes to release the aroma, then add it into your pot and stir well. Season with salt. Serve while it’s warm and top it up with chopped cilantro. Enjoy!