Family: Apiaceae (Umbelliferae), Coriandrum sativum L.

Source: Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. 1984. Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate Zone. Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT.

Coriander, Coriandrum sativum L., also known as Chinese parsley or cilantro, is an annual herb native to the eastern Mediterranean region and southern Europe. Valued for the dry ripe fruits, called coriander seeds, the herb is produced in Morocco, Romania, Mexico, Argentina, the People's Republic of China, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Canada, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Poland, Syria, the United States, the USSR, and Yugoslavia (11.1-95, 11.1-96) . Reaching a height of 1 meter, the plant has strong smelling pinnately or ternately decompound leaves and produces compound umbels with small white or pinkish flowers that are attractive to bees.

The reported life zone of coriander is 7 to 27 degrees centigrade with an annual precipitation of 0.3 to 2.6 meters and a soil pH of 4.9 to 8.3 (4.1-31). Coriander thrives in full sun and grows best in deep fertile loams with adequate drainage. The plant is tolerant to cold, heat and drought stresses (14.1-7).

Usually sown in early spring, the adromonoecious plant flowers in July and August. Since seeds shatter soon after maturity, timeliness of harvest and weather conditions greatly influence yield. Young, immature fruit have a characteristic disagreeable odor and lack the desirable spicy aroma associated with mature fruit. Harvesting in the early morning, while the dew is on the plant, reduces seed loss caused by shattering. The seed is dried and stored for later use.

For essential oil extraction, the seed is ground immediately before distillation to increase oil yield and minimize distillation time. The essential oil content of dried fruit ranges from 0.5 to 1% and the oil contains d-linalool, camphor, d--pinene, camphene, -pinene, sabinene, myrcene, -terpinene, -terpinene, limonene, and other constituents (1.5-141, 14.1-9). Coriander fruit also contain a fixed or fatty oil.

Coriander seeds, available whole or ground, are used primarily as a flavoring agent in the food industry or as spice in the home kitchen for breads, cheeses, curry, fish, meats, sauces, soups, pastries, and confections. The seeds are also used to flavor alcoholic beverages, such as gin, and in liqueurs. Fresh leaves are especially popular where the plant is produced locally for use as a flavoring agent in soups and stews. The essential oil is used in perfumes, soaps, and other cosmetics. The fruit has been used to flavor cigarette tobacco.

As a medicinal plant, coriander has been used as an antispasmodic, carminative, stimulant, and stomachic. Coriander has also exhibited hypoglycemic activity (7.1-21). At one time, coriander was used in love potions and considered to be an aphrodisiac. Chinese herbal medicine includes the use of coriander for measles, stomachache, nausea, hernia, and as a tonic (11.1-10). The linalool in coriander oil is known to cause contact dermatitis (11.1-96). Seeds are sometimes used as a flavoring agent to improve taste in other medicinal preparations.

Coriander is generally recognized as safe for human consumption as a spice/natural flavoring and for use as an essential oil or oleoresin (21 CFR sections 182.10, 182.20 [1982]).

[Note: References listed above in parentheses can be found in full in the original reference].

Aromatic and Medicinal Plants Index

Last modified 6-Dec-1997