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Cilantro is an aromatic herb —also known as coriander— and is one of the most popular medicinal plants in Mexico. It is also used as an ingredient in many foods and drinks recipes and is very beneficial for health. However, since it is a medicinal herb, it is important to know its side effects.
Below are its benefits, uses, and properties, as well as the most common adverse reactions and who should not consume it.
Cilantro is also known as coriander or Chinese parsley and is a medicinal and aromatic herb that belongs to the Apiaceae family —like parsley. Its scientific name is Coriandrum sativum.
It is considered the most widely used condiment worldwide as a flavoring and dressing in many recipes, especially in the gastronomy of Latin America, India, China, and Spain.
It is also used as a spice. Cilantro seeds and leaves have completely different flavors and have no substitutes of any kind in the recipes that include it. The seeds are round and dark brown, and their flavor is spicy and citrus, unlike the leaves.
The plant is usually about 50 cm high, has white flowers and very aromatic fruits. Although the whole plant is edible, seeds and leaves are usually used as cooking ingredients.
Growing coriander is easy because it can sprout in a variety of climates. This herb can be grown at home for personal uses and does not require special care. In the third or fourth week, the leaves sprout (usually during the summer).
Its origin goes back to the south of Europe and specifically to the Mediterranean region, as well as to the north of Africa. It is considered one of the oldest plants and spices on record. Cilantro seeds were found in ruins dating from 5000 BC.
This plant is mentioned in several Sanskrit and biblical writings. Its seeds were also planted in Egyptian tombs. In Ancient Greece, it was believed that coriander had great aphrodisiac properties and ingesting large quantities of this plant increased sexual desire.
The Chinese culture also valued its aromatizing, medicinal, and aphrodisiac properties. Later on, American settlers started growing it, and it was also used with liquor by the French back in 1800.
As mentioned earlier, we can use everything from the cilantro plant, especially the leaves and seeds.
Seeds are dried and ground to use as ingredients in seasonings for cooking dishes, making dressings, sauces, beers, sausages, bread, and even coffee. Among the best-known dishes with this ingredient are recipes such as guacamole, cilantro lime chicken or rice, or Indian chicken curry.
The fresh leaves are usually the main ingredient in sauces, as dressings or as condiments in soups, stews, salads, purées, and rice dishes. It is very important to keep in mind that the leaf should never be cooked and know how to store it because it withers easily.
On the other hand, it is used as a remedy for bad breath and as a deodorant using its juice. Because of its nice aroma, the seeds are powerful flavoring for soaps, digestive drinks, liqueurs, and even perfumes.
Traditionally, cilantro has been used as an analgesic, carminative, digestive, antirheumatic or antispasmodic. Modern pharmaceutical therapy has identified Chinese parsley as an agent with benefits and hypoglycemic effects and high antioxidant levels. It is very useful for the treatment of salmonella due to its antibiotic properties.
It also presents antimicrobial effects, helps muscle relaxation, and protects against mutation.
Likewise, coriander also has many other benefits for the proper functioning of our body:
In general terms, It is a very nutritious food that provides our body with many essential substances. Among its nutritional properties, cilantro is rich in protein, fiber, calcium, potassium, iron, sodium, and zinc, among other minerals and nutrients. It also has high amounts of retinol (vitamin A), thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3) and vitamin C.
Consuming great amounts of coriander is not a problem. In medical uses, it is also safe as long as all necessary contraindications and precautions are taken into account.
However, it can cause some adverse effects such as allergic reactions, as well as an increase in sun sensitivity. This last side effect may increase a person's risk of skin burns and, therefore, skin cancer.
Less frequently, cilantro consumed in very high amounts may also cause other symptoms such as diarrhea, stomach pain, depression, amenorrhea, and dehydration. When in contact with the skin, it can cause irritation and inflammation.
Regarding precautions, coriander is not recommended for people who are allergic to similar herbs such as mugwort, anise, caraway, fennel, parsley or dill.
Coriander can lower blood pressure, so it is not recommended to use it in the cases of hypotension or if the person is taking some medicine that lowers blood pressure.
This medicinal herb can lower blood sugar, so its consumption is contraindicated for at least two weeks if the person is to undergo surgery, for it could interfere with blood sugar control levels.