Published by: Gourmet Sleuth
Last Updated: 08/23/2019
Coriander is the common name for for the coriandrum sativum plant (an annual herb). Cilantro on the other hand is a name for the leaves of the plant. It does get confusing because some people refer to the leaves as coriander (primarily in Europe and some parts of Asia) while here in the U.S. they are typically called cilantro leaves. The seed from coriander is always called "coriander seed", not "cilantro seed".
Coriander grows wild in South East Europe and had been cultivated in Egypt, India and China for thousands of years. It is mentioned in Sanskrit text and the Bible Spanish conquistadors introduced it to Mexico and Peru where it now commonly paired with chilies in the local cuisine. It has since become very popular in the Southwest and Western part of the United States as well as in most metropolitan areas.
An interesting note is that people of European descent frequently are reviled by the smell of cilantro. It has not gained in popularity in Europe as it has in many other parts of the world.
Coriander is believed to be named after "koris", the Greek word for "bedbug" as it was said they both emitted a similar odor. The Chinese used the herb in love potions believing it provided immortality. Coriander is one of the herbs thought to have aphrodisiac qualities. The book of The Arabian nights tells a tale of a merchant who had been childless for 40 years and but was cured by a concoction that included coriander. That book is over 1000 years old so the history of coriander as an aphrodisiac dates back far into history. Cilantro was also know to be used as an "appetite" stimulant.
From Sunset Low Fat Mexican Cookbook
Coriander is considered an aid to the digestive system. It is an appetite stimulant and aids in the secretion of gastric juices. A poultice of Coriander seed can be applied externally to relieve painful joints and rheumatism. Once source (Herbs & Herb Gardening by Jessica Houdret) said the seeds can be mixed with violets for a remedy for a hangover.
The essential oils of the cilantro leaves contain antibacterial properties and can be used as a fungicide. Coriander seeds is considered to have cholesterol lowering properties.