CILANTRO/CORIANDER herb & oil  profile

by Jeanne Rose

photo of coriander seeds, cilantro leaf and essential oils of Coriander seeds CO2, and steam-distilled


CORIANDER, Coriandrum sativum ~ oil from the seed is called Coriander seed oil, while the plant and oil of the leaf is called Cilantro leaf oil.

BOTANICAL FAMILY ~ Apiaceae family includes 3700 species, including Cumin, Coriander, Fennel, and Dill.

COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN ~ Native to Europe and growing wherever it is planted.

ENDANGERED ~ This plant is GNR (no status).

GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF PLANT, HABITAT & GROWTH ~ Coriander belonging to the carrot family (Apiaceae), is a large group of flowering plants. The members of this family are often aromatic, and the plants are characterized by hollow stems, taproots, and flat-topped flower clusters known as umbels.

Coriander is an intensely aromatic annual or biennial herb/plant whose leaves are called Cilantro. It is between one and three feet high, with few fine, spindly leaves and delicate whitish pink edible flowers, followed by green seeds called Coriander seeds. To harvest the correct plant, you must grow the proper plant variety, and each plant grown should be grown in the proper terroir for the healthiest plant. Grow organically without chemical pesticides or herbicides. Harvest at the correct time to ensure peak properties, and that is just before the herb flowers and bolts, and harvest for the seeds when they are young and green or when they are ripe and brown, depending on your desires for taste and longevity. 

Many people dislike the odor of Cilantro leaves; it is produced by aldehydes that also are “emitted by various insects, including stinkbugs. ….This scent is released by pounding or cooking. And for gardeners, the aldehyde content of cilantro plants rises as they develop, so the leaves smell mildest before the flower buds appear, strongest  as the small green fruits are maturing.”3

Coriander flowers and leaves



  Always distill with good equipment at the proper temperature and pressure to preserve oil molecules.

Cilantro, or Chinese Parsley, oil is steam distilled from the leaves.     

Coriander seed oil is steam distilled from the crushed, ripe seeds.             

“The world has two key sources of coriander, each operating on a different schedule. In Morocco, coriander is planted in February and harvested in May. In contrast, in Eastern Europe (essentially Bulgaria and Romania), planting is in February, and the harvest is from July to August. Eastern Europe’s longer growing season results in higher levels of essential oils, around 0.8 to 1.2 percent, compared to Morocco at 0.8 to 1 percent. This level determines the intensity of flavour, but not the proportions of citrus to mellow spice, which varies depending on the source.”1

 Yield: 0.8-1.0% for the seeds.


SOURCE ~ This work is sponsored and supported by Prima Fleur Botanicals. 

Coriander seed oil SD and Coriander seed, total CO2


Chart of organoleptic characteristics of Cilantro leaf and Coriander seed oi.

ODOR DESCRIPTION  AND AROMA ASSESSMENT – This plant has a curious and eponymous odor. Each part is different; the flower is pleasant, the mature leaves have a curious ‘soapy’ odor, and the seeds and oil especially are fresh and grassy odor – each has a different odor based on the chemistry.  Where the scent of the seed and flower are almost always acceptable, the scent of the leaves is disliked by half of the people smelling them.  The chemistry of each part is different, and the taste as well.  This is one plant and essential oil that should be individually assessed for scent.

CHEMICAL COMPONENTS of Cilantro/Coriander

Cilantro leaf has unpleasant-smelling aldehydes such as decanal (a fatty lipid,  an aldehyde molecule with a musty, fatty, grassy odor). Decanal is also part of the odor of Buckwheat.
Cilantro flowers have benzofuran and others. Benzofuran is in the odor of Daisies and Sunflowers. Coriander seeds include mainly Linaloöl, with Limonene, Gamma-Terpinene, Geraniol, and more.


HISTORICAL USES ~    Aromatic stimulant, culinary spice, and aphrodisiac.

INTERESTING FACTS ~ A remedy for the bite of the two-headed serpent. “Coriandrum is derived from the Latin koras meaning ‘bedbug.’  This is because the odor of its fresh leaves apparently resembled the insect’s smell (and is known in the odor of stinkbugs). . . Cultivated for over 3,000 years, Coriander is mentioned in all the medieval medical texts, by the Greeks, in the Bible, and by early Sanskrit writers” Aromatherapy for healing the Spirit, p.64.2

Coriander/Cilantro botanical specimen

botanical illustration of Coriander, all parts.


PROPERTIES of Coriander seed and leaf


CILANTRO LEAF oil (the leaf of Coriander) is used mainly as it is rich in antioxidants, aids digestion, can be a powerful cleanser and detoxifier; in skincare, it is soothing to the skin, and it flavors foods many foods, in particular, salsa.  

CORIANDER SEED oil is used by inhalation (IN) as it is relaxing, soporific, and sedative; by application (AP), it is used in skincare as it is anti-inflammatory and warming; and this essential oil is occasionally taken internally to soothe the stomach, as a carminative and antispasmodic and aid elimination (depurative, once known as an alterative).

•                                                                                PHYSICAL USES & HOW USED (IG OR AP) Ingestion (IN)of the herb ~ The herb tea is used for stomachache or to alleviate gas.  The essential oil has been used for flatulence, digestive problems, and as a stimulant to the entire body.

Application (AP) of the seed oil – A warming pain-easer for arthritis and rheumatism, for oily skin, clears blackheads, for skin impurities, in perfumery, and as a revivifying stimulant during convalescence.                                          

EMOTIONAL/RITUAL/ ENERGETIC by Diffusion ~ Cilantro oil and Coriander oil may have similar emotional benefits, such as relief from stress and energetic support to assist them in respecting boundaries or finding the courage to complete a difficult task or processing the events of life, and stay true to their self.            

These oils can be applied to ease externally to ease migraine headaches. Dilute in your favorite carrier oil to about 10% and massage around the temples and the back of the neck.  Also, inhaling may ease stress, anxiety, insomnia, and mental fatigue. Remember, in these cases, the scent should be pleasing and acceptable.

BLENDING AND PERFUMERY ~ Depending on your uses for these two oils, your blends may include Fennel, Dill, and other family members. Coriander and Cilantro are used in some very fashionable, high-end perfumes. They are described by D.S. & Durgas as “It is an everyday scent, light enough to meld with skin and project its presence with a subtle aura. Fresh, but unique with its pungent green atmosphere.”           

Cilantro leaf EO Blends best with strong florals such as Jasmin, and Ylang-ylang, citrus odors such as Clary sage, Lemon, Grapefruit, Neroli,  spicy odors such as any kind of Pepper, Nutmeg,  Cinnamon, Cardamom, and Ginger, vegetative/herbaceous odors such as Palmarosa, Petitgrain, Geranium, and Galbanum to enhance the green grassy odor, and deep woody odors like Vetiver.
Coriander seed EO blends with florals, citrus, woods, and spicey odors.

HYDROSOL ~ If I had this hydrosol, first, I would smell it carefully and then decide if  I would use it.  I would think that I would prefer the Coriander hydrosol before the Cilantro hydrosol.  But both could be used as a digestive drink.

PLEASE NOTE: A true hydrosol should be specifically distilled for the hydrosol, not as a co-product or by-product of essential oil distillation. The plant’s cellular water has many components. Most are lost under pressurized short steam runs for essential oil or by using dried material. We recommend that the producers specifically distill for a product by using fresh plant material.


Coriander seed oil, 2 types, in a small bowl of the seeds

HERBAL USE AND PROPERTIES ~ When I was able to grow Coriander, I enjoyed the flowers in salads. I harvested the seeds as they were green turning to brown and cut the seed heads directly into a small paper bag, which I then tied off the top and would hang the bag in the house until the heads had dried, and the seeds had dropped into the bottom of the bag.  It is an easy method. When the seeds were thoroughly dried, they were stored in a labeled glass jar for use during the winter.

I enjoy the taste of the seeds in gin when it is used as a flavor ingredient, and I am neutral about the taste of Cilantro and will eat it in tacos.  My son, however, is violently opposed to eating or smelling Cilantro.

Herbally, Coriander seed and when picked with the leaf and flowers, are used in teas and infusions; for stomach ache or flatulence, in a foot wash for athletes’ foot (with other herbs), in blended herbal remedies for the respiratory system, and also for scant or painful urinary complaints.

This is one herb that I use in cooking, in some herbal teas, and sometimes when making my Bruise Juice. The seed is good in Middle Eastern cooking and is ground for soup, stew, and many vegetable and meat dishes. It is part of many traditional spice blends in Asian, Indian, and Latin cuisine.

CILANTRO ~ some people truly dislike Cilantro.  “Cilantro and arugula, I don’t like at all. They’re both green herbs; they have kind of a dead taste to me.”…Julia Child said and “I would never order it, and “I would pick it out if I saw it and throw it on the floor.”           

Apparently, Ms. Child had plenty of company for her feelings about Cilantro. The Oxford Companion to Food notes that the word “coriander” is said to derive from the Greek word for bedbug, that cilantro aroma “has been compared with the smell of bug-infested bedclothes” and that “Europeans often have difficulty in overcoming their initial aversion to this smell.”            

Charles J. Wysocki of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia studied Cilantro and found that some people may be genetically predisposed to dislike it.

“Modern Cilantro haters often describe the flavor as soapy rather than buggy. I don’t hate Cilantro, but it does sometimes remind me of hand lotion. Each of these associations turns out to make good chemical sense. Flavor chemists have found that cilantro aroma is created by a half-dozen or so substances, and most of these are modified fragments of fat molecules called aldehydes. The same or similar aldehydes are also found in soaps and lotions and the bug family of insects. Decanal and (E)-2-decenal were the most abundant compounds, accounting for more than 80% of the total amount of identified compounds.”4

KEY USE ~ Herb For Digestive Problems and EO of seed/leaf for aching muscles and to reduce gut gas. •

Coriander seeds uncracked



“Coriandrum sativum L. (C. sativum) is one of the most useful essential oil-bearing spices and medicinal plants, belonging to the family Umbelliferae/Apiaceae. The leaves and seeds of the plant are widely used in folk medicine and as a seasoning in food preparation. The C. sativum essential oil and extracts possess promising antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-oxidative activities as various chemical components in different parts of the plant, which thus play a great role in maintaining the shelf-life of foods by preventing their spoilage. This edible plant is non-toxic to humans, and the C. sativum essential oil is thus used in different ways, viz., in foods (like flavoring and preservatives) and in pharmaceutical products (therapeutic action) as well as in perfumes (fragrances and lotions). The current updates on the usefulness of the plant C. sativum are due to scientific research published in different web-based journals.5.”

SAFETY PRECAUTIONS:          Dilute for external use; otherwise, none known.



2. Mojay, Gabriel.  Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit.  Rochester, Vermont:  Healing Arts Press, 1999. 3.McGee, Harold. Nose Dive. 1st edition, 2020, pages 258-259.

4. April 14, 2010, Section D, Page 1 of the New York Times, The Curious Cook, by Harold McGee

5 Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, Vol. 5, Issue 6, June 2015, Pages 421-428


Copeland, Dawn. Basic Profiles from the Aromatherapy Studies Course. 2005

Rose, Jeanne.  375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols.  Berkeley, California: Frog, Ltd., 1999

Rose, Jeanne.  The Aromatherapy Book: Applications & Inhalations.  San Francisco, California: Herbal Studies Course/ Jeanne Rose & Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, 1992.

Worwood, Susan & Valerie Ann.  essential aromatherapy, a pocket guide to essential oils and aromatherapy. Novato, CA. New World Library, 2003.



Scent snapshot of the analyzed oil of Cilantro and Coriander.


Moderation in All Things.
Be moderate in using essential oils, as they are not environmentally sustainable.
Be selective and more moderate in your usage.
Use the herb first as tea or the infusion. —JeanneRose 2014

DISCLAIMER:  This work is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for accurate diagnosis and treatment by a qualified health care professional. Dosages are often not given, as that is a matter between you and your healthcare provider. The author is neither a chemist nor a medical doctor.  The content herein is the product of research and personal and practical experience. Institute of Aromatic & Herbal Studies – Jeanne Rose


  1. I enjoyed this timely blogpost. My Cilantro is flowering now so, in a sense, is transitioning to Coriander. I like this plant at all stages and use all of the above ground parts. I especially like the green seeds and make a special black bean dip each summer when these green seeds form. In the evenings the scent of the flowers is particularly strong and I can smell them even in the near dark from 15 feet or more away. Lovely and fresh to my nose. I appreciate the information on benzofuran. I think I can recognize that similar note in Daisies.

Thank you for reading and your comments.