Cilantro is a fragrant herb commonly used in Central American, Middle Eastern, and Asian cuisines. In the United States, cilantro refers to the leaves and stems of the Coriandrum sativum plant, while the seeds are called coriander. In many cultures, the word coriander can refer to any part of the plant.
Like many culinary herbs, cilantro has been used medicinally since ancient times. Modern research methods are finding support for some of the health claims attributed to this plant.
Some health benefits of cilantro may include:
In one study, cilantro extract reduced seizure attacks and prevented nerve-cell damage in rats.In another, when fresh cilantro leaves were added to the diets of laboratory mice, scientists saw improvements in their memory.
In animal studies, extracts from the cilantro plant have proven almost as effective as medication at reducing anxiety symptoms. Studies with human subjects are still needed.
Blood Sugar Management
Cilantro is so well-known for its ability to lower blood sugar that people with low blood sugar or those taking diabetes medications are warned to be careful with the herb.
In animal studies, coriander seeds reduced blood sugar by stimulating an enzyme that removes sugar from the blood.
In another study, cilantro extract decreased blood sugar in rats with obesity and high blood sugar. The effects were similar to the blood sugar medication glibenclamide.
Prevent Foodborne Illnesses
The cilantro plant contains dodecenal, an antimicrobial compound that may help protect your body against infections and illnesses caused by tainted food. The compound is effective against Salmonella, a microbe that can cause life-threatening food poisoning.
Another study found that compounds in cilantro are effective against several bacteria, including those that cause foodborne illnesses and hospital-acquired infections.
Cilantro contains vitamins A, C, and K, and the leaves also have folate, potassium, and manganese. However, it’s rarely eaten in large enough amounts to be a significant source of these nutrients.
Nutrients per Serving
1 tablespoon of cilantro contains:
Things to Watch Out For
People with low blood sugar should be cautious with how much cilantro and coriander they eat. The plant contains enzymes that can reduce blood sugar, so it should be eaten in moderation if you are concerned about low blood sugar.
How to Prepare Cilantro
Fresh cilantro is often paired with lime as an addition to curries, soups, and Asian dishes. Although both the leaves and stems are edible, the stems have a somewhat bitter flavor. Many people prefer to strip the leaves from the plant before adding to recipes, or to chop and add the stems sparingly.
Try these ways to use cilantro in your favorite recipes:
- Sprinkle chopped cilantro on Mexican dishes and salsas to add a fresh flavor.
- Make a spring roll by wrapping whole sprigs of cilantro with cooked pork, cucumber, carrot, and vermicelli noodles.
- Mix cilantro and lime to make a delicious seasoning for grilled fish.
- Chop cilantro and mix it into cooked rice with butter and lime zest.
- Puree cilantro with roasted carrots, onion, and garlic to make a hearty soup.