The Indian Kitchen as an Ayurvedic Pharmacy – Coriander (Cilantro)

Coriander, Dhaniya or Cilantro as it is sometimes know, is an ‘essential’ in any Indian kitchen. Coriander is used in almost every Indian dish as a garnish, either raw or added at the last stage of the cooking process. The fresh leaves are also ground into a chutney. The coriander seeds are an integral part of most spice mixes, either whole or ground as a powder.

Coriander has many health benefits. It is rich in fibre, iron, magnesium, manganese, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K and protein; as well as small amounts of calcium, phosphorous, potassium, thiamin, niacin and carotene. It has essential oils and acids.

It is thought to help lower cholesterol, regulate blood pressure, aid in digestion and control diabetes. It also has anti-histamine properties that make it an effective anti-allergen.

The coriander leaves, fresh and cooked, have many health benefits. Among these are:

  •  Known to have antioxidant properties.
  •  Can help with intestinal infections like diarrhoea and e. coli as well as other infections caused by pathogenic bacteria including influenza and high blood pressure, as it contains a natural antibiotic.
  •  Body detox, as it is said to be the only chelating agent that can remove mercury, lead and other heavy metals from the central nervous system. A chelating agent is a chemical compound that reacts with metal ions to form stable water soluble compounds.
  •  Can help in reducing cholesterol as it contains both sodium and potassium.
  •  Contains iron and therefore helps with anaemia.
  •  Contains a natural diuretic that helps flush the kidneys and can help prevent kidney stones.
  •  The enzymes in the leaves can also help digestion and prevent bloating.

The coriander seeds (Dhaniya) have many of the same benefits as the leaves. In addition, the seeds also can help with:

  •  Diabetes, as they stimulate the production of insulin.
  •  Digestion, as they help in the production of digestive enzymes and juices.
  •  Bacterial infections, as they have anti bacterial properties. A study published in 2017 states, “Coriander seed oil is the world’s second most relevant essential oil, exhibiting antimicrobial activity against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, some yeasts, dermatophytes and filamentous fungi.” (Antimicrobial activity of coriander oil and its effectiveness as food preservative. Silva F, Domingues FC.)
  •  Women’s health, as it has been known in Ayurveda for its effectiveness in regulating menstrual problems. It is most commonly prepared as an infusion. (Please consult your Ayurvedic doctor for directions of use as it dosage may differ with symptoms).
  • There are also claims that the infusion made from Coriander seeds can help with weight loss.

In most Indian, Thai, and South American diets coriander is eaten daily – the seeds and the fresh leaves. It is used in almost every cuisine in the world.

For those who are not used to adding coriander or cilantro in their food, a handful of fresh coriander leaves each day, chopped, and added to a salad, can help us get the many of the nutrients that our bodies require on a daily basis.

– Vasant

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