Is Coriander and Cilantro The Same Thing?

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".

History And Lore

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. 

Featured Recipe: Cilantro Slaw

From Sunset Low Fat Mexican Cookbook 

  • 5-6 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 cup firmly packed cilantro leaves, minced 
  • 1/4 cup lime juice 
  • 1 Tablespoon each water and honey 
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds 
  • Salt and Pepper to taste 
Combine all the ingredients in a large glass or wood bowl and toss to mix well.

Medicinal Uses

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.

Culinary Uses

In the Middle East the Cilantro leaves are used in pickles, curries, and chutneys. In Mexico and the Southwestern U.S. it is used in everything from salsas and salads to burritos or meat dishes. The coriander seeds are used in sweets, breads, cakes and to flavor liqueurs.

Grow Your Own

Cilantro, is a fast growing annual reaching 12 - 24 inches tall. The entire plant including the leaves, the seeds and roots are all edible. Coriander can easily be grown in pots. Simply pick or trim fresh leaves of whole stalks as required. The leaves get a stronger and sometimes disagreeable flavor as they get older and larger. If you want to harvest seed for your next crop; do so after the leaves and flowers turn brown.

How to Grow

Look for seed varieties are slower growing and thus take longer to bolt. (Bolting is when the plant prematurely produces flower stalks and begins to produce flowers and seed). Flower stalks are thickened stems that eventually produce flowers and seeds. Grow in full sun. The soil should be kept moist but well drained. But all things considering the plant is not fussy about soil conditions. Plant seeds in mid to late Spring. Plant in 2 -3 week intervals for harvest all season long.

Nutrition Information For Cilantro

Serving Size
1 cup
Calories from Fat
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g
Saturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 7mg
Total Carbohydrate 1g
Dietary Fiber 0g
Sugars 0g
Protein 0g
Vitamin A  0% Vitamin C  0%
Calcium  0% Iron  0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Where To Buy

Cilantro can normally be found fresh in your local grocery store and is available year-round. Before you store cilantro it should be rinsed and left moist (not wet) and place in a plastic bag. The cilantro may be stored for up to 1 week.

Buy Seeds

  1. Renees Garden Seeds 
  2. Park Seeds 



Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.