June 8, 2021
When I planted my container pots last year, I placed the small cilantro start in one of the large shallow pots. It grew quickly and produced a large amount of leafy foliage. I mentioned to a friend who also grows cilantro for salsa that mine was starting to top. That was when she told me if I let them go to flower the leaves would become bitter and not be worth harvesting. I mentioned I have not been as vigilant this year and the plant began to top two weeks ago. I cut off the flowering portion in hopes of saving it, and again ignored the plant. When I checked last weekend, it was apparently too late. The leaves had turned yellow, and the plant had become covered with beautiful tiny white flowers. I did not know if it was supposed to, but it no longer smelled like cilantro.
Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum L) is part of the Apiaceae family, which contains 3,700 species, including carrots, celery, and parsley. All parts of the plant are edible, but people most commonly use the fresh leaves and dried seeds in cooking. Cilantro has been a part of global cuisine for a long time. One of the sites that came up when I looked up cilantro online was WebMD, which said cilantro can be used as a medicine. It is known to be used for cancer, measles, toothache, and other conditions. However, there appears to be no real scientific evidence to support these uses. Instead, I saw “it might” remove metals from the body, or “it might” help antibiotics or antivirals work better, and “it might” help eliminate bacteria that cause infection. In other words, while it works as a spice its use as a homeopathic medicine is at best dubious.
It was interesting to note cilantro is known to cause side effects. When taken by mouth “it is LIKELY SAFE when taken in food amounts.” It is uncertain what the effects are if taken in larger doses as a medicine (read, never studied it). The site went on to say that some people might experience allergies after eating cilantro. There are reports of hives, facial swelling, and throat swelling. Others apply cilantro to the skin as a poultice. Again, there is not enough reliable information to know if cilantro is safe or effective. What is known is when cilantro contacts the skin, it can cause hives or itching. This may be a cure I will avoid. The flowers are nice though.
Thoughts: When I told my mom I was harvesting my cilantro last year she said, “Keep that away from me!” I assume she is one of the ones who have negative reactions to the plant. In the US, cilantro refers to the leaves, and coriander refers to the seeds. Since my plants have all gone to flower, I could collect the seeds. I believe I have a jar of coriander seeds in my spice cabinet that I purchased about 10 years ago. You could say I do not go through a lot of this spice. I have found it is never a good practice to take folk remedies without understanding what they do. While some are highly effective and have been proven to have known medicinal properties, others are not. “What could it hurt,” is never a good reason to ingest or apply any treatment. Follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.