Coriander: the antibacterial spice

An aromatic herb with a unique fragrance, coriander has been used for several millennia to enhance the flavor of many dishes. But in addition to this culinary role, that molecules present in coriander have a powerful antimicrobial action which could make it possible to prolong the preservation of food and reduce the risks of food poisoning but which also benefit our health when we eat it.

Originally from the Middle East, coriander is an aromatic plant of the Apiaceae family whose taste is appreciated in several regions of the world, particularly in Asia, Portugal and Latin America. Nicknamed “Arabian parsley” because of their similar appearance, cilantro nevertheless has a texture and flavor quite distinct from that of parsley. Indeed, coriander is characterized for its high content of aldehydes, a class of fragrant molecules with a very particular aroma which are found in particular in soaps. It is believed that depending on genetic variations in the receptors involved in taste detection, this aroma can either be appreciated for its great freshness or, on the contrary, downright hated because it is too reminiscent of soap.

These differences would explain the unconditional love of some for coriander while others spontaneously reject any dish containing this herb. However, it is possible for the “anti-coriander” to gradually tame its taste by finely chopping the leaves a few minutes before adding the herb to a dish: the breaking of the plant cells causes the release of enzymes which will transform the aldehydes into less odorous molecules and thus considerably sweeten their aroma. It is also for this reason that coriander pestos have a much less pronounced taste than fresh coriander.

Coriander molecules: formidable antibacterials

Historically, spices and herbs were first and foremost used to improve food preservation. For example, countries where the climate is very hot (and therefore where food spoils the fastest) tend to have the most “spicy” foods, as these cultures have long used spices such as chili peppers or pepper to preserve food from contamination by microorganisms.

It is also believed to be a form of “Darwinian gastronomy”, i.e. there would have been an evolutionary advantage to liking spicy dishes, because the amateurs were in better health. , having less risk of eating unhealthy food.

Several studies indicate that this antimicrobial effect is not restricted to spices such as chilies or pepper, but that aromatics such as oregano or thyme also have strong activity against microorganisms. In the same vein, Portuguese researchers have recently shown that the oil extracted from coriander seeds also has an exceptional antibacterial action. They observed that the addition of a small amount (1%) of this oil induced the death of several distinct types of bacteria, including species such as Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica, and even the very dangerous methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. . This effect of coriander is due to its property of destroying the outer membrane of these bacteria, thereby preventing them from maintaining the basic functions necessary for cell survival, which ultimately causes their death.

Eating coriander makes us enjoy its benefits

Do not be surprised if in the near future you notice the presence of coriander oil on the list of ingredients of a food, or in a lotion, mouthwash or other sanitary product. The molecules that will be isolated from coriander may also give rise to new antibiotics. In their evolutionary struggle to ensure their survival over hundreds of millions of years, plants have developed very elaborate defense systems, allowing them to survive the attacks of the microorganisms to which they are exposed. Eating plants means taking advantage of this evolutionary richness to maintain our health.


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Silva F et al. Coriander (Coriandrum sativum L.) essential oil: its antibacterial activity and mode of action evaluated by flow cytometry. J.Med. Microbiol. 60: 1479-1486.


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