Coriander is an herb that’s commonly used to flavor international dishes.
It comes from the Coriandrum sativum plant and is related to parsley, carrots, and celery.
In the United States, Coriandrum sativum seeds are called coriander, while its leaves are called cilantro. In other parts of the world, they’re called coriander seeds and coriander leaves. The plant is also known as Chinese parsley.
Many people use coriander in dishes like soups and salsas, as well as Indian, Middle Eastern, and Asian meals like curries and masalas. Coriander leaves are often used whole, whereas the seeds are used dried or ground.
To prevent confusion, this article refers to the specific parts of the Coriandrum sativum plant.
Here are 8 impressive health benefits of coriander.
1. May help lower blood sugar
High blood sugar is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes (1).
Coriander seeds, extract, and oils may all help lower blood sugar. In fact, people who have low blood sugar or take diabetes medication should practice caution with coriander because it’s so effective in lowering blood sugar.
Animal studies suggest that coriander seeds reduce blood sugar by promoting enzyme activity that helps remove sugar from the blood (2).
A study in rats with obesity and high blood sugar found that a single dose (9.1 mg per pound of body weight or 20 mg per kg) of coriander seed extract decreased blood sugar by 4 mmol/L in 6 hours, similar to the effects of the blood sugar medication glibenclamide (3).
A similar study found that the same dosage of coriander seed extract lowered blood sugar and increased insulin release in rats with diabetes, compared with control animals (4).
2. Rich in immune-boosting antioxidants
Coriander offers several antioxidants, which prevent cellular damage caused by free radicals.
One test-tube study found that the antioxidants in coriander seed extract lowered inflammation and slowed the growth of lung, prostate, breast, and colon cancer cells (12).
3. May benefit heart health
Coriander extract appears to act as a diuretic, helping your body flush excess sodium and water. This may lower your blood pressure (13).
Some research indicates that coriander may help lower cholesterol as well. One study found that rats given coriander seeds experienced a significant decrease in LDL (bad) cholesterol and an increase in HDL (good) cholesterol (15).
What’s more, many people find that eating pungent herbs and spices like coriander helps them reduce their sodium intake, which may improve heart health.
In populations that consume large amounts of coriander, among other spices, rates of heart disease tend to be lower — especially compared with people on the Western diet, which packs more salt and sugar (16).
4. May protect brain health
Coriander’s anti-inflammatory properties may safeguard against these diseases.
One rat study found that coriander extract protected against nerve-cell damage following drug-induced seizures, likely due to its antioxidant properties (20).
A mouse study noted that coriander leaves improved memory, suggesting that the plant may have applications for Alzheimer’s disease (21).
Coriander may also help manage anxiety.
Animal studies demonstrate that coriander extract is nearly as effective as Diazepam, a common anxiety medication, at reducing symptoms of this condition (22).
Keep in mind that human research is needed.
5. May promote digestion and gut health
Oil extracted from coriander seeds may accelerate and promote healthy digestion (23).
One 8-week study in 32 people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) found that 30 drops of a coriander-containing herbal medication taken thrice daily significantly decreased abdominal pain, bloating, and discomfort, compared with a placebo group (24).
Coriander extract is used as an appetite stimulant in traditional Iranian medicine. One rat study noted that it increased appetite, compared with control rats given water or nothing (25).
6. May fight infections
Coriander contains antimicrobial compounds that may help fight certain infections and foodborne illnesses.
Additionally, one test-tube study revealed that coriander seeds are among several Indian spices that can fight the bacteria responsible for urinary tract infections (UTIs) (28).
7. May protect your skin
Coriander may have several skin benefits, including for mild rashes like dermatitis.
Furthermore, many people utilize coriander leaf juice for skin conditions like acne, pigmentation, oiliness, or dryness. Nonetheless, research on these uses is lacking.
8. Easy to add to your diet
All parts of the Coriandrum sativum plant are edible, but its seeds and leaves taste very different. While coriander seeds have an earthy flavor, the leaves are pungent and citrus-like — though some people find that they taste like soap.
Whole seeds can be added to baked goods, pickled vegetables, rubs, roasted vegetables, and cooked lentil dishes. Warming them releases their aroma, following which they can be ground for use in pastes and doughs.
Meanwhile, coriander leaves — also called cilantro — are best to garnish soup or use in cold pasta salads, lentils, fresh tomato salsa, or Thai noodle dishes. You can also purée them with garlic, peanuts, coconut milk, and lemon juice to make a paste for burritos, salsa, or marinades.
The bottom line
Coriander is a fragrant, antioxidant-rich herb that has many culinary uses and health benefits.
It may help lower your blood sugar, fight infections, and promote heart, brain, skin, and digestive health.
You can easily add coriander seeds or leaves — sometimes known as cilantro — to your diet.
Keep in mind that many of the above studies use concentrated extracts, making it difficult to know how much coriander seeds or leaves you would need to eat to reap the same benefits.