Coriander

(Coriandrum sativum) When green, the seed has a very disagreeable smell, hence the name Coriander, which is derived from Greek koros, a bug. But when fully ripe, the flavour is aromatic, and the longer they are kept, the more fragrant they become. The seeds are used to flavour curries (Brownlow), pickles, and sauces, and for confectionery. Coriander comfits, for example, used to be made; they were just the seeds coated with sugar (Hutchinson & Melville). They are used in flavouring liqueurs, and were once used in gin and whisky distillation (Fluckiger & Hanbury, G B Foster), ".the Brewers employ it considerably all over Holland, and in some parts of England, to give their strong beer a good 'Relish' " (Pomet).

The offensive smell when handled was the source of the medieval idea that it was poisonous (Fluckiger & Hanbury). But it was one of the many plants supposed to be aphrodisiac (Haining). Albertus Magnus (De virtutibus herbarum) includes coriander among the ingredients of a love potion, and its use as an aphrodisiac is mentioned too in the Thousand and one Nights (Clair). From a description quoted by Guazzo, it is clear that coriander seeds were sometimes an ingredient of malevolent witch charms. But in North Africa, it is used to drive away evil spirits, and also as a charm against the evil eye. People in Morocco fumigate themselves with coriander seed as a protection against the evil juun. It is also hung under the roof of a house haunted by juun (Westermarck). The leaves, though, were supposed to cure forgetful-ness (Legey). The Chinese have a legend that says it confers immortality on those who eat it (Sanecki), and it is regarded in Europe as the symbol of hidden worth (Leyel. 1937).

The seeds are still known to herbalists as an efficient indigestion remedy. A few seeds chewed before a meal always help (Conway), and they would be chewed to sweeten the breath, too (G B Foster). The whole plant is used in Chinese herbal medicine in the early stages of measles, to bring the rash out (Geng Junying). The juice, "blown up the nostrils", was used to stop a nosebleed, and when mixed with violets, it was used to sober up a drunk (F J Anderson). The Anglo-Saxon version of Apuleius claimed an extraordinary use for coriander seeds. In translation, it reads "in order that a wife may quickly bring forth, take seed ... eleven grains or thirteen, knit them with a thread on a clean linen cloth; let then a person take them who is a person of maidenhood, a boy or a maiden, and hold this at the left thigh, near the natura, and as all parturition be done, remove away the leechdom, lest part of the inwards follow thereafter" (Cockayne). So, according to Apuleius, it helps women in childbirth, but according to Macer Floridus, it virtually has the opposite effect (Gubernatis).

Coriandrum sativum > CORIANDER

Cordyline terminalis > TI PLANT

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