CORIANDER (Coriandrum sativum): Origin: native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean region. In Biblical times manna is compared to coriander seeds (Exodus, 16:31). Remains of coriander seeds were found inside the tomb of Egyptian King Tut-ankh-Amon. The Roman generalist, Pliny, wrote that the best coriander was to be found in Egypt, and that the seeds were prepared as antidotes for snake bite. Pliny also wrote that crushed coriander seeds mixed with honey were used to treat burns, carbuncles, and diseased testes, and if mother’s milk was added, the mixture could cure eye disease. In the language of flowers coriander is symbolic of concealed merit. Some suggest that it was the Romans who introduced coriander to the British Isles.
The Gerarde herbal identifies the uses of coriander: when coriander seed is covered with sugar and eaten after meate (i.e. dining) the mouth of the stomach will be closed, potential for vomiting reduced, and digestion will be aided; coriander seeds parched in an oven and drunk with wine kills and ejects intestinal worms, stopps bloodie flux, and other blood disorders. Gerarde identified how to prepare coriander seeds both for general consumption and for medicine:
Take the seede well and sufficiently dried, whereupon powder [with] some wine and vinegar, and so leave them to infuse or steepe fower and twenty howers, then take them foorth and drie them and keep them for your use.
Gerarde also wrote: when green coriander leaves are boiled with bread crumbs or barley meal, the mixture will reduce swellings and inflammations; if mixed with bean meal it will dissolve wens [sebaceous cysts commonly on the wrist] and hard lumps; the juice of coriander leaves mixed and pounded in a lead mortar then blended with vinegar and oil of roses will cure St. Anthony’s’ fire (ergot poisoning;).
A form of wild coriander was noted by de Castañada during the Coronado expedition of 1540-1542 through the North American Southwest. Accounts from mid-16th century Peru report that European coriander was introduced to the Andean region within several decades after the conquest by Francisco Pizarro. During the 18th and 19th centuries the word coriander was a slang term for a small coin. Coriander seeds have been used to treat constipation and delayed menstruation. Mixtures of coriander seed and vinegar sometimes have been used to preserve meat. In Medieval England consumers were warned not to eat too many coriander seeds, lest they trouble a manne’s witt [sic]” and place the person with great jeopardye of madness [sic]. (Summarized from: Gerarde, 1597, pp. 859-860; de Castanada, Part 2, pp. 51-52;. 1596, de la Vega, 1609, 9:29, pp. 601-602; Hayes, 1961, pp. 43-44; Lehner and Lehner, 1962, p. 117; Northcote, 1971, pp. 19-20; Powell, 1977, p. 63; Darby, Ghalioungui, Grivetti, 1979, Vol. 2, pp. 798-799; Priestley and Priestley, 1979, p. 50;).