This member of the parsley family may be somewhat confusing. Two parts of the plant, Coriandrum sativum, are referred to as a different herb and spice. The herb, Cilantro, is the leaf and the spice is the round tan seed known as Coriander. Cilantro leaves have a much different taste from the coriander seeds, one that is similar to parsley with a dash of citrus flavour.
Coriander is native to southern Europe and North Africa to southwestern Asia. It is a soft, hairless plant growing to 50 cm (20 in.) tall. Cilantro leaves are variable in shape, broadly lobed at the base of the plant, and slender and feathery higher on the flowering stems.
Cilantro has a mild peppery taste that adds a distinct flavour to the dishes it is used in. In many Mexican dishes, especially in salsa and the tomato garnish called Pico de Gallo, cilantro is the key ingredient. Fresh cilantro gives those dishes their distinct and extremely popular flavours. It is also used in Indian and Thai cooking. The Chinese use so much of the herb that it is also referred to as Chinese Parsley. They often add the root to stir fries.
Chopped Coriander leaves are a garnish on cooked dishes such as dal and curries. As heat diminishes their flavor quickly, coriander leaves are often used raw or added to the dish immediately before serving. In Indian and Central Asian recipes, coriander leaves are used in large amounts and cooked until the flavor diminishes.
Cilantro and coriander have been known through the ages. It is mentioned in the Bible. Ancient Romans used it to preserve meat. Steeped as a herbal tea, cilantro is said to have stomach soothing properties. And consumed in large quantities, cilantro will offer Vitamins A and C.
Coriander has been used as a folk medicine for the relief of anxiety and insomnia in Iranian medicine. Coriander seeds are used in traditional Indian medicine as a diuretic by boiling equal amounts of coriander seeds and cumin seeds, then cooling and consuming the resulting liquid.
Also Cilantro seeds are reputed to help reduce stress.