Coriander, also known as Chinese Parsley, is among the oldest known spice plants. All parts of the plant are used for culinary purposes, though their respective flavours of seeds, leaves and root are quite distinct. The genus is said to have earned its name from the Greek word 'Cory' implying that its scent of the leaves bear some similarity to bedbugs. Despite this rather unpalatable association not many people have been deterred by its smell, it seems, as it is one of the oldest known spice plants and remains one of the most commonly used ones. (Note: there seem to be some people who react strongly to the flavour of the leaves and may be allergic. Apparently, the leaves' flavour changes as the seeds ripen, becoming more palatable with maturity.) The history of its use as a spice plant dates back thousands of years. One of the earliest records stems from a recipe inscribed on a Babylonian clay tablet, while actual archaeological finds in ancient caves of Israel date back some 7000 years. But Coriander not only has long history of flavouring our dishes, it has also been highly esteemed for its medicinal and magical powers. In ancient Egypt it was placed in the coffins of the Emperor, to protect them on their last journey and ensure their rebirth in the Otherworld. An incense recipe mentioned in the tales of the Arabian Nights reveals its reputation as a powerful aphrodisiac. As incense it also dispels evil spirits and cures the possessed, which is why it is associated with St. Anthony. In the Middle Ages, St. Anthony's fire was a common occurrence due to the contamination of grain with a hallucinogenic fungus. However, Coriander seeds themselves are said to be dangerous in large doses, causing stupor and hallucinations. Apparently, wine was sometimes spiced with Coriander to make it more intoxicating.
The oil contained within the seeds is strongly antibacterial. As a spice it adds its warming, aromatic flavour while gently stimulating the digestion and acting as a carminative, reducing flatulence and the sensation of bloating. By stimulating the digestive juices, it also stimulates the appetite. It is said to be a tonic for the nervous system. In Western medicine they served as a popular admixture to other, less pleasant tasting medicine to make them more palatable. In India its medicinal uses are more diverse; apart from the applications for all manner of digestive troubles it is also used for chronic conjunctivitis, headache, sore throat and the common cold, as well as in external applications such as poultices to treat chronic ulcers and carbuncles.
Coriander can be used to dispel negative energies and to banish demons. It is used for protection and exorcism. It has also often been included in love potions and incense blends intended to stir the Kundalini snake from its lair. It may be included in ritual cups and cakes for a hand-fasting, especially when the bond is meant to last beyond space and time. Coriander protects the practitioner on spirit journeys and astral travels.