Cilantro is one of the most polarizing herbs out there. Some people love it, while others hate it and think it tastes like soap.
If you do like cilantro, that's good news because it's filled with nutrients and has several great health benefits. If you don't, you may want to try coriander instead, which comes from the same plant but has a completely different taste.
Here's more about these two closely related herbs, their top benefits, and how you can use them for health.
What Are Cilantro and Coriander?
It's easy to get confused about whether cilantro and coriander are the same herb or not. In fact, outside of the U.S., 'cilantro' is usually referred to as 'coriander' or 'coriander leaves'.
The confusion stems from the fact that both cilantro and coriander come from the same plant: Coriandrum sativum.
Cilantro refers to the leaves of the plant, which look very similar to parsley but have their own distinct smell (and taste). Coriander refers to the seeds of the plant that are small, round, and peppery.
The leaves are considered an herb and best used fresh, while the seeds are considered a spice and are used dried and sometimes ground.
Both the seeds and the leaves have powerful medicinal properties as well as intense flavor.
Top Benefits of Cilantro and Coriander
Nutritious and Full of Antioxidants
Both cilantro and coriander contain essential vitamins and minerals.
Just a quarter cup of fresh cilantro leaves provides about 16% of the recommended daily value (DV) of vitamin K, an important nutrient for blood clotting and bone health.
The same serving also contains good amounts of vitamin C and vitamin A as well as trace amounts of vitamin E, folate, potassium, and manganese.
Coriander seeds tend to be higher in minerals, containing good amounts of iron, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus.
Both the seeds and the leaves also contain high amounts of antioxidants that protect your body from cellular damage and inflammation and may even slow the growth of cancer cells. (1)
Great Digestive Aid
There are benefits of cilantro and coriander both for aiding digestion, but the seeds especially may be able to help with common digestive complaints.
One study found that an extract from coriander seeds had an antispasmodic and carminative effect, which helped to relieve pain and bloating associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Another found that coriander had activity against Salmonella, a common pathogen that causes food poisoning. (2)(3)
Traditionally, coriander has been used for gas, bloating, indigestion, heartburn, and nausea, so it's a great herb to pull out for an upset stomach or to add to food to avoid digestive problems.
Helps Your Body Detox
Research has found that preparations made from the coriander plant may be able to help remove heavy metals from the body and protect from their harmful effects.
Even if you don't have heavy metals in your body, you can still eat cilantro and coriander to help keep your natural detox pathways moving.
Has Natural Anti-Anxiety Properties
Though its effects haven't been studied in humans yet, lab research and animal studies indicate that coriander extract has strong anti-anxiety properties.
In fact, it appears to possess power nearly equal to Diazepam, one of the most commonly used anxiety medications, but without any of the negative side effects. (6)
Beneficial for Blood Sugar and Heart Health
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of cilantro and coriander is their potential to help with diabetes and heart health.
Other research indicates that coriander may also help to lower blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, both of which are hard on your heart and can put you at a higher risk of heart disease. (9)(10)
May Help With Pain and Inflammation
Coriander extract may become a helpful natural remedy for pain and inflammation, according to research studies.
Along with possessing general pain-relieving properties, coriander appears to be especially beneficial for migraines. One study found that it was able to reduce the frequency, severity, and duration of migraines when taken alongside a traditional medication much more effectively than the medication alone. (11)
May Promote a Healthy Menstrual Cycle
Coriander seeds have been used in Ayurvedic medicine to help promote a healthy cycle. They have emmenagogue properties, which means they help stimulate menstrual flow, and may be especially useful for those with late or missed periods.
By relieving pain and inflammation, the extract may also be able to help with cramps during your period.
Using Cilantro and Coriander
As mentioned before, cilantro is most potent when used fresh, while coriander is typically dried before being consumed.
Simply adding fresh cilantro to meals will give you all of its nutrition and several potential health benefits as well. It's best to not cook cilantro if you want to keep all the antioxidants intact, so try it in a pesto, salsa, or other raw dish.
To get stronger health benefits, use dried coriander seeds to make a tea (great for digestion) or look for the more concentrated extract at a health or herbal store.
To make a tea, simply crush about a teaspoon of the seeds and simmer in water for 5-15 minutes. Or make yourself some chai with coriander, like this Up N' Atom Chai blend.
In general, both cilantro and coriander are very safe herbs to consume with few reported side effects. Rarely, an allergic reaction will happen, in which case you should discontinue use.
Because both herbs can lower blood sugar, be careful with taking large amounts of them while on certain diabetes medications.
Concentrated amounts of coriander should most likely be avoided during pregnancy because it is an emmenagogue and may stimulate contractions. Culinary amounts are typically fine.
Filling Up on Herbs
Like many other herbs, cilantro and coriander can boost your health when consumed regularly and can specifically aid digestion, heart health, blood sugar levels, and more.
As long as you don't think they taste like soap, be sure to add these two closely related herbs to your list!
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and should not be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your health care provider, herbalist, midwife, or naturopathic physician before taking herbs, supplements, etc. Here's the link to our full disclaimer.