Cilantro is the Spanish word that refers to the leafy portions of Coriandrum sativum, a member of the parsley family. (The seeds are the spice coriander.) The herb has been used for many thousands of years for both food and medicine. In fact, archaeological and genetic evidence indicates that cilantro was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians and traces of the plant were discovered among the burial items in Tutankhamen's tomb.
The herb contains a number of active compounds that lend the plant anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, antibacterial, cardioprotective, analgesic and anti-carcinogenic properties. The leaves also contain aldehyde groups that are responsible for the perception of experiencing a soapy taste when chewing the leaf in less than 20% of the population.
Cilantro also has a history of use as an anti-convulsant. Recently, scientists have found that one long-chain fatty aldehyde dubbed (E)-2-dodecenal acts on potassium channels to open them, reducing cellular excitability that might otherwise trigger a seizure. The researchers hope that understanding the molecular mechanism of dodecenal may assist in the development of safer and more effective anti-convulsant therapies.
Rían W. Manville, Geoffrey W. Abbott. Cilantro leaf harbors a potent potassium channel–activating anticonvulsant. The FASEB Journal, 2019; fj.201900485R DOI: 10.1096/fj.201900485R