What is coriander

Coriander (Coriandrum sativum Linn.), also known as cilantro  (in the US and in Canada) or Chinese parsley, is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae (Umbelliferae) that has been extensively cultivated for centuries in many temperate climates such as the Middle East, Latin American, Africa, and Asia 1). All parts of the coriander plant are edible, both the seeds and aerial parts of coriander are used as food elements, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the parts most traditionally used in cooking.

All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the parts most traditionally used in cooking. Coriander is used in cuisines throughout the world.

The leaves are variously referred to as coriander leaves, fresh coriander, dhania, Chinese parsley, or cilantro. Fresh leaves are used as a flavoring agent, and dried coriander seeds are used as spices in food preparation 2).

Coriander leaves

The coriander leaves have a different taste from the seeds, with citrus overtones. In addition to volatile oils, caffeic acid and flavonoid glycosides have been isolated from coriander leaves 3). Some people may be genetically predisposed to find the leaves to have unpleasant soapy taste or a rank smell. The fresh leaves are an ingredient in many South Asian foods (such as chutneys and salads); in Chinese and Thai dishes; in Mexican cooking, particularly in salsa and guacamole and as a garnish; and in salads in Russia. In Portugal, chopped coriander is used in the bread soup Açorda, and in India, chopped coriander is a garnish on Indian dishes such as dal. As heat diminishes their flavor, coriander leaves are often used raw or added to the dish immediately before serving. In Indian and Central Asian recipes, coriander leaves are used in large amounts and cooked until the flavor diminishes. The leaves spoil quickly when removed from the plant, and lose their aroma when dried or frozen.

Figure 1. Coriander leaf, seeds and root


Coriander seeds

The dry coriander fruits are known as coriander seeds. The word “coriander” in food preparation may refer solely to these seeds (as a spice), rather than to the plant. Coriander seeds have a lemony citrus flavor when crushed, due the seeds are essential oils and monoterpenoids, such as linalool and pinene. It is described as warm, nutty, spicy, and orange-flavored.

The variety Coriandrum sativum vulgare has a fruit diameter of 3–5 mm (0.12–0.20 in), while var. Coriandrum sativum microcarpum fruits have a diameter of 1.5–3 mm (0.06–0.12 in). Large-fruited types are grown mainly by tropical and subtropical countries, e.g. Morocco, India, and Australia, and contain a low volatile oil content (0.1-0.4%). They are used extensively for grinding and blending purposes in the spice trade. Types with smaller fruit are produced in temperate regions and usually have a volatile oil content around 0.4-1.8%, so are highly valued as a raw material for the preparation of essential oil.

Coriander is commonly found both as whole dried seeds and in ground form. Roasting or heating the seeds in a dry pan heightens the flavour, aroma, and pungency. Ground coriander seed loses flavour quickly in storage and is best ground fresh. Coriander seed is a spice in garam masala and Indian curries which often employ the ground fruits in generous amounts together with cumin, acting as a thickener in a mixture called dhana jeera.

Roasted coriander seeds, called dhana dal, are eaten as a snack. They are the main ingredient of the two south Indian dishes sambhar and rasam.

Outside of Asia, coriander seed is used widely in the process for pickling vegetables. In Germany and South Africa (see boerewors), the seeds are used while making sausages. In Russia and Central Europe, coriander seed is an occasional ingredient in rye bread (e.g. Borodinsky bread), as an alternative to caraway.

Coriander seeds are used in brewing certain styles of beer, particularly some Belgian wheat beers. The coriander seeds are used with orange peel to add a citrus character.

Coriander seed is one of the main traditional ingredients in the South African Boerewors, a popular spiced mixed-meat sausage.

Coriander Nutrition Facts

The nutritional profile of coriander seeds is different from the fresh stems or leaves. Leaves are particularly rich in vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K, with moderate content of dietary minerals. Although seeds generally have lower content of vitamins, they do provide significant amounts of dietary fiber, calcium, selenium, iron, magnesium and manganese.

Table 1. Coriander (cilantro) leaves, raw

NutrientUnitValue per 100 g
Total lipid (fat)g0.52
Carbohydrate, by differenceg3.67
Fiber, total dietaryg2.8
Sugars, totalg0.87
Calcium, Camg67
Iron, Femg1.77
Magnesium, Mgmg26
Phosphorus, Pmg48
Potassium, Kmg521
Sodium, Namg46
Zinc, Znmg0.5
Copper, Cumg0.225
Manganese, Mnmg0.426
Selenium, Seµg0.9
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acidmg27
Pantothenic acidmg0.57
Vitamin B-6mg0.149
Folate, totalµg62
Folic acidµg0
Folate, foodµg62
Folate, DFEµg62
Choline, totalmg12.8
Vitamin B-12µg0
Vitamin B-12, addedµg0
Vitamin A, RAEµg337
Carotene, betaµg3930
Carotene, alphaµg36
Cryptoxanthin, betaµg202
Vitamin A, IUIU6748
Lutein + zeaxanthinµg865
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)mg2.5
Vitamin E, addedmg0
Vitamin D (D2 + D3)µg0
Vitamin DIU0
Vitamin K (phylloquinone)µg310
Fatty acids, total saturatedg0.014
Fatty acids, total monounsaturatedg0.275
16:1 undifferentiatedg0.002
18:1 undifferentiatedg0.273
22:1 undifferentiatedg0
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturatedg0.04
18:2 undifferentiatedg0.04
18:3 undifferentiatedg0
20:4 undifferentiatedg0
20:5 n-3 (EPA)g0
22:5 n-3 (DPA)g0
22:6 n-3 (DHA)g0
Fatty acids, total transg0
Alcohol, ethylg0
[Source 4)]

Table 2. Coriander (cilantro) leaves, dried

NutrientUnitValue per 100 gtsp 0.6 g tbsp 1.8 g
Total lipid (fat)g4.780.030.09
Carbohydrate, by differenceg52.10.310.94
Fiber, total dietaryg10.40.10.2
Sugars, totalg7.270.040.13
Calcium, Camg1246722
Iron, Femg42.460.250.76
Magnesium, Mgmg694412
Phosphorus, Pmg48139
Potassium, Kmg44662780
Sodium, Namg21114
Zinc, Znmg4.720.030.08
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acidmg566.73.410.2
Vitamin B-6mg0.610.0040.011
Folate, DFEµg27425
Vitamin B-12µg000
Vitamin A, RAEµg29325
Vitamin A, IUIU585035105
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)mg1.030.010.02
Vitamin D (D2 + D3)µg000
Vitamin DIU000
Vitamin K (phylloquinone)µg1359.58.224.5
Fatty acids, total saturatedg0.1150.0010.002
Fatty acids, total monounsaturatedg2.2320.0130.04
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturatedg0.3280.0020.006
Fatty acids, total transg000
[Source 5)]

Table 3. Coriander seeds

NutrientUnitValue per 100 g
Total lipid (fat)g17.77
Carbohydrate, by differenceg54.99
Fiber, total dietaryg41.9
Calcium, Camg709
Iron, Femg16.32
Magnesium, Mgmg330
Phosphorus, Pmg409
Potassium, Kmg1267
Sodium, Namg35
Zinc, Znmg4.7
Copper, Cumg0.975
Manganese, Mnmg1.9
Selenium, Seµg26.2
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acidmg21
Folate, totalµg0
Folic acidµg0
Folate, foodµg0
Folate, DFEµg0
Vitamin B-12µg0
Vitamin A, RAEµg0
Vitamin A, IUIU0
Vitamin D (D2 + D3)µg0
Vitamin DIU0
Fatty acids, total saturatedg0.99
Fatty acids, total monounsaturatedg13.58
16:1 undifferentiatedg0.1
18:1 undifferentiatedg13.48
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturatedg1.75
18:2 undifferentiatedg1.75
[Source 6)]

Coriander health benefits

Coriander leaves and seeds are widely used in folk medicine as a cholesterol-lowering agent, a digestive stimulant, and an anti-hypertensive agent 7), in addition to its use as a seasoning in food preparation. Pharmaceutical applications of coriander have also revealed antibacterial 8), antioxidant 9), hepatoprotective 10) and anticonvulsant 11) activities.

The essential oil from coriander has been proven in test tube and petri dish studies to have a strong antifungal effect against Candida species 12). However, most studies have analyzed the essential oil from fruits 13) and seeds 14), which have a different chemical composition from those present in the leaves 15). Previous studies have shown that the major components of coriander leaf essential oil are alcohols and aldehydes 16) with decanal, trans-2-decenal, 2-decen-1-ol and cyclodecane as the most prominent compounds 17). Most of these analytes have also been found as major constituents of coriander leaf samples from Kenya, U.S., Bangladesh, Fiji and Brazil. The mono- and sesquiterpenes found in coriander leaf essential oil may be related to the antifungal activity observed. Natural products are considered strong inhibitors of microbial activity when minimum inhibitory concentration [MIC] (the lowest concentration of a chemical which prevents visible growth of a microorganism) values are lower than 500 µg/ml 18).

In the contrary, Sagdic et al. 19) tested 18 extracts of plant spices commonly grow in Turkey including coriander (Coriandrum sativum) against 23 microorganisms. Coriander did not show bactericidal activity 20). Ates et al. 21) studied 5 plants extracts against 13 bacteria. Coriander had no antibacterial effect to the microorganisms tested. Chaudhury et al. 22) used aqueous decoction of 4 plants against oral pathogens. Similar to our results, coriander did not exhibit any antibacterial activity to the tested organisms 23).

Pharmacological studies in animals have shown that coriander has anti-diabetic 24), hypolipidemic, 25) and anti-cancer effects 26). Sedative-hypnotic activity of coriander seeds have been evaluated in scientific studies in mice 27). Linalool, the main monoterpenoids of coriander seeds is shown to have sedative and anticonvulsant activity in animal studies and anxiolytic and sedative activity in human studies 28). Report also states the in vivo antioxidant activities of coriander seed 29).

In another test tube study, the ethyl acetate extract of coriander root has antioxidant and anticancer properties. Coriander root inhibited DNA damage in fibroblasts and prevented MCF-7 breast cancer cell migration induced by H2O2, suggesting its potential in cancer prevention and inhibition of metastasis 30). The herb exhibited anticancer activity in MCF-7 breast cancer cells by affecting antioxidant enzymes leading to H2O2 accumulation, cell cycle arrest at the G2/M phase and apoptotic cell death by the death receptor and mitochondrial apoptotic pathways. High levels of H2O2 can produce cancer cell death 31).


Although coriander has been reported to possess a wide range of traditional medicinal uses, there are currently no well designed clinical trials to corroborate those traditional medicine uses of coriander. Therefore we do not recommend using coriander as therapeutic medicine, instead we support coriander uses in foods and cooking.

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