Coriander and cilantro are two common herbs used in Indian cuisine. They both have their own special flavor profile but they do share some similarities. Both coriander and cilantro come from the plant genus Curcuma longa, which means “long pepper” or “curly pepper”. These plants grow wild all over India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh. They are native to the region known as the Western Ghats, where it is hot and dry most of the year. In addition to being used in cooking, coriander and cilantro are often added to soups, stews and other dishes with a spicy taste.
The two plants have similar tastes: both contain a mixture of volatile oils (the ones that give food its flavor) along with water-soluble compounds such as capsaicinoids. Capsaicinoids are substances produced when the plant’s fruit contains the seeds containing the seeds of the cayenne pepper species, Piper nigrum.
These capsaicinoids cause pain sensation through receptors in your skin and eyes. The oil from these peppers is usually not used in food products because it tends to burn easily and is generally considered too bitter for human consumption. However, coriander seed oil does have a milder flavor than cayenne pepper oil.
Some foodies have found that cilantro has a deeper, spicier flavor than coriander. Much like chili peppers, different varieties of coriander and cilantro produce fruits and seeds with different tastes and levels of capsaicinoids.
When you eat the plant, the capsaicinoids mix with your salivary glands’ producing chemicals such as benzyl acetate and phenethyl alcohol to produce the tingling effect that lingers during and after eating. A well-known brand of chili sauce uses a cilantro extract to give the sauce its kick. It is important to note that capsaicin, the chemical in chili peppers that make them hot, is also a potent pain-reliever. Because cilantro’s volatile oils are so powerful, pharmaceutical companies have considered using it as an alternative to synthetic painkillers such as ibuprofen (Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol).
The experimental drugs would not have the same gastrointestinal side effects that often come with these over-the-counter pain medications. Some people find cilantro to be an acquired taste, but they might find that when taken with food, the flavored cilantro can help calm and soothe their stomach linings.
In addition, cilantro’s volatile oils might also act as a diuretic to help relieve painful kidney stones.
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