CORIANDER – love, cookery and healing

My baby coriander (Coriandrum sativum) plants are coming on. Coriander is a marmite herb – people either love it or hate it.

In Britain, both the fruit (seeds) and fresh leaves are called coriander, while in the US, the seeds keep the name coriander but the leaves take the Spanish name for the plant, cilantro, owing to their extensive use in Mexican cookery.  The Romans were very fond of coriander. They used it in a sophisticated seasoning mixture which included wild celery, coriander, mint, onion, pennyroyal, rue, savory and thyme. Coriander (cilantro) leaves are best used fresh to preserve their volatile oils responsible for the taste and aroma. They can be chopped and sprinkled on curries, stir fries, added to salsas and so on. Try making a coriander pesto instead of a basil one for a taste sensation, or add to your juicer to benefit from coriander leaf’s antioxidants.  The dried seeds, are available whole or ground, but for best results, buy them whole and crush them lightly in a pestle and mortar just before use. They flavour curries, breads, sauces, soups, stews, pastries and sweets and are used commercially to flavour gin.

The leaves and fruit are rich in volatile oils beneficial for the digestive system, what herbalists call a carminative, useful for bloating, gas and indigestion. If coriander is added to the diet, these symptoms may reduce.

Coriander is used as a natural treatment for high cholesterol levels. The acids (linoleic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid and ascorbic acid) found in coriander help to lower ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) and raise ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL). [1] Add some coriander to the diet and add the fresh leaves to fruits and vegetables in your juicer.

Regular consumption of coriander has been shown to reduce blood pressure in many patients suffering from hypertension.[2]

The volatile oils in coriander possess anti-rheumatic and anti-arthritic properties.

Cineole, a phytochemical found in coriander, is thought to have an anti-inflammatory effect. For arthritis and rheumatism, use some coriander in the diet, apply a coriander salve, coriander infused oil or pulverise the leave and use as a poultice.

The volatile oils found in fresh coriander leaves are antiseptic, antimicrobial and healing, and a rinse of coriander leaf infusion will help treat mouth ulcers.

 A well-known home remedy for conjunctivitis is to bathe the closed eyelids with coriander seed tea.

Coriander leaf contains antioxidants to combat damaging free radicals, minerals and vitamins that help in the battle against wrinkles and sagging skin.  They also have a cooling, antiseptic, detoxifying and soothing action. Try making a paste of fresh coriander leaves and mixing them with a little honey, apply to the face, leave 20 minutes and rinse off with warm water.

A hair rinse made from coriander leaf tea will promote new hair growth.

Coriander was used magically too. Pliny wrote that fresh coriander was believed to be aphrodisiac, adding that some thought it beneficial to place coriander beneath the pillows before sunrise. There is some evidence that coriander seeds were placed in Egyptian tombs as a symbol of eternal love and enduring passion. [3] Similarly, in Chinese tradition it was considered both a herb of immortality and an aphrodisiac. [4] It is mentioned several times in the Arabian Nights as arousing sexual desires, and in Europe in the Middle Ages and Renaissance it was considered to provoke lust and love and added to love potions. The seeds were put into the popular drink hippocras which was commonly drunk at Tudor weddings. Culpeper designated coriander as “hot in the first degree”, a herb of Mars, and rather than romantic gentle love and friendship, it is used in spells of lust and passion. Coriander is widely used in love spells, charms and incenses. It can also be used to anoint the candles used in love magic. It can be included in the ritual cup at handfastings and Great Rite celebrations. Add to the handfasting cake.

You can throw coriander seeds instead of confetti at handfastings, and indeed, coriander seeds may have been the original ‘confetti’. The fruits used to be made into the sweets called confits, coated in white or pink sugar. These were thrown into the crowds from the backs of carnival wagons. However, eventually this was thought to be wasteful, and they were replaced by bits of coloured paper, but kept their original name ‘confetti’. [5]

The word coriander is believed to be derived from the Greek word koris which means ‘a bedbug’,  [6] and this is  thought to refer to the strong scent of the leaves, caused by the aldehydic components of the essential oil present, which some people hate and others, like me, love. It is certainly named after a bug in several languages, but the earliest attested form of the word is the Mycenaean Greek written in Linear B syllabic script, reconstructed as koriadnon or koriandron. [7] Now ari means ‘most’ and adnos means ‘holy’ and this is also the derivation of the name of the Minoan goddess of the labyrinth Ariadne’s name, so there may be a lost legend here connecting the two, or at least, coriander must have been considered a very holy herb. Coriander is certainly associated with the Phoenician/Canaanite warrior goddess Ana (Anatu/Anahita), titled Virgin, Mother of Nations, She Who Kills and Resurrects, the consort of Ba’al who wore horns and carried a moon disc. She wore coriander perfume and purple make up for battle. The greatest of gods were afraid of her. Coriander was much valued as a perfume in the ancient world. [8]

CAUTIONS:

Coriander is considered safe in food amounts and when taken by mouth in appropriate medicinal amounts for most people. When coriander comes in contact with the skin it can cause skin irritation and inflammation or an allergic reaction in some people. As always, if you are pregnant or breast-feeding, stay on the safe side and stick to food amounts.  Coriander can slightly lower blood sugar levels, so if you are diabetic, you should monitor these carefully.  It can also lower blood pressure, so if you take medications for hypertension or have low blood pressure, monitor levels carefully. Coriander seeds can have a narcotic effect when consumed in excessive quantity which is perhaps how it became to be known as ‘dizzycorn’.

Coriander Leaf Tea

1 tbsp. fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves

250 ml boiling water

Pour the boiling water over the leaves. Cover and infuse for 5 minutes, strain and drink.

 

Coriander Seed Tea

1 teaspoon of coriander seeds

250 ml water

Lightly crush the seeds and put in a pan with the water, simmer for 15 minutes, remove from the heat and leave to stand for another 5-10 minutes, strain and drink.

 

Infused Coriander Oil

1 tablespoon coriander

250 ml vegetable oil

Crush the coriander seeds in a pestle and mortar. Put into a jar with the oil, fit the lid and leave on a sunny windowsill for 2 weeks, shaking daily. Strain the oil into a sterilised bottle.

 

© Anna Franklin, condensed extract from The Hearth Witch’s Kitchen Herbal, Llewellyn, 2019

[1] P. Dhanapakiam, J. Mini Joseph, V.K. Ramaswamy, M. Moorthi3 & A. Senthil Kumar, The cholesterol lowering property of coriander seeds, (Coriandrum sativum): Mechanism of action, Journal of Environmental Biology, Journal of Environmental Biology January 2008

[2] Qaiser Jabeen, Samra Bashir, Badiaa Lyoussi, Anwar H.Gilani, Coriander fruit exhibits gut modulatory, blood pressure lowering and diuretic activities, Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Volume 122, Issue 1, 25 February 2009, Pages 123-130

[3] Spices of Life in Ancient Egypt, http://www.history.com/news/hungry-history/spices-of-life-in-ancient-egypt, accessed 26.9.17

[4] Julie Brunton-Seal & Matthew Seal, Kitchen Medicine, Merlin Unwin Books Ltd, London, 2010

[5] J.O. Swain, The Lore of Spices, Grange Books, London, 1991

[6] J.O. Swain, The Lore of Spices, Grange Books, London, 1991

[7] John Chadwick, The Mycenaean World. Cambridge University Press, 1976

[8] ibid

Author: annafranklinblog

Anna Franklin is the High Priestess of the Hearth of Arianrhod, which runs teaching circles, a working coven, and the annual Mercian Gathering, a Pagan camp which raises money for charity. She regularly speaks at conferences, moots and workshops around the country. She is the author of many books on witchcraft and Paganism, including the popular Pagan Ways Tarot, Sacred Circle Tarot, The Fairy Ring, Herb Craft, Magical Incenses and Oils, Personal Power, A Romantic Guide to Handfasting, Familiars, The Oracle of the Goddess, Hearth Witch, The Path of the Shaman and The Hearth Witch’s Compendium. Anna’s books have been translated into nine languages.

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