CORIANDER, Coriandrum sativum L. (Mid. Pers. k/gišnīz, NPers. gešnīz, Kurd. kešneš, Taj. kašnīj/z, Bal. kīnīč and gēnīč, Rīšahri, gešnī, Azeri gešnīz and gašnīš), an herb indigenous to the Mediterranean area, the Caucasus, and Persia (Levey, in Kendī, pp. 326-27 no. 263) and valued for its aromatic leaves and seeds.
Early Persian sources deal mainly with the medicinal virtues of coriander. It is already mentioned in the Bundahišn (TD 2, 16.17) as a vegetable (tarrag) eaten with bread. Mowaffaq Heravī (fl. ca. 370-80/980-90), author of the oldest treatise in Persian on materia medica, recorded (pp. 266-67, s.v. kozbara) a number of properties and uses of coriander (gošnīz), some of which are traceable back to Dioscorides (p. 305 no. 71). Ancient physicians and pharmacologists were not unanimous as to the nature of coriander (see, e.g., Ebn Sīnā, I, bk. 2, p. 348). According to Heravī, who characterized it as cold and moist in the first degree, the leaves are astringent and, if eaten, prevent vapor (boḵār) from ascending to the head. They are anaphrodisiac and in various mixtures (e.g., with barley flour) heal erysipelas. Their juice is effective against thrush (rīš-e dāhān) and aphtha (qolāʿ) and (with rose water in a mouthwash) against laryngitis. However, the juice of fresh coriander causes confusion, mental disorder, lethargy, amnesia, and hebetude (kālīvī); an overdose would be lethal. Taken with mucilage made from fleawort seeds (bezr-qoṭūnā), coriander soothes stomach irritation (tabeš) but may cause impairment of the vision (tārīkī-e čašm). Dried coriander (joljolān, coriander seeds?), cold and dry in the second degree, is good against the torpor resulting from a plethora of gall or phlegm and against epilepsy; it is also stomachic (for joljolān as sesame seeds, see, e.g., Ebn Maymūn, text, p. 29, s.v.; Renaud and Colin, p. 38, no. 367; Bīrūnī, pp. 137-38; cf. Kāšānī, I, p. 214; Tonokābonī, p. 248; for the most detailed account in Persian of the uses of coriander see ʿAqīlī, pp. 745-46).
The medicinal use of coriander seems to have dwindled with time in Persia. In 1874, Schlimmer (pp. 157-58) noted that coriander, cultivated as a kitchen vegetable almost everywhere in Persia, was believed to be anaphrodisiac. In 1937 David Hooper and Henry Field reported (p. 106) that coriander seeds were smoked to relieve toothache and that an infusion of the leaves was believed to relieve headache. According to Ahmad Parsa (p. 52), an infusion of coriander seeds and jujubes is employed against colic at Torbat-e Ḥaydarī. Kurds use an infusion of coriander (gežnēža) leaves to relieve headache, toothache, and articular pains (Ṣafīzāda, p. 150). In Gīlān the juice of coriander (h/ḵīl) leaves is used as a mouthwash to heal eruptions (jūš) on an infant’s tongue (Pāyanda Langarūdī, p. 653). In Khorasan it is believed that eating too much coriander weakens the memory and causes amnesia (Šakūrzāda, p. 263). As a remedy for earache, a small amount of poppy seeds, opium, and coriander is burned with charcoal in the top of a water pipe, and the aspirated fumes of the combined drugs are blown into the aching ear (Šakūrzāda, pp. 251, 633).
Coriander has long been a popular herb in the culinary art of Persia (see, e.g., Bosḥāq-e Aṭʿema Šīrāzī, pp. 56, 82, 98), where it is extensively cultivated, especially in Azerbaijan. The leaves are harvested several times a year (Ṭabāṭabāʾī, pp. 713-16). Abūnaṣrī Heravī (p. 137) has provided instructions for its proper cultivation. Cookbooks from the Safavid period mention coriander as a condiment or ingredient in a variety of dishes (kūkū, qalya, āš) and pastries (see Afšār, index, s.v.; see cooking). Mīrzā ʿAlī-Akbar, chef at the court of Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah (1264-1313/1848-96), used it in sabzī pilaf, in kūkū-ye sabzī, in the Gīlakī dish tūrš-e morḡ, in eggplant pickles, and in three kinds of dietetic āš (pp. 19, 26, 29, 61, 79, 80, 81). At present a kind of āš-e gešnīz is prepared for patients suffering from coryza, pneumonia, and some other infectious ailments. Coriander seeds are added to some vinegar pickles.
Abū Manṣūr Mowaffaq Heravī, Ketābal-abnīa ʿan ḥaqāyeq al-adwīa, ed. A. Bahmanyār and Ḥ. Maḥbūbī Ardakānī, Tehran, 1346 Š./1967.
Qāsem b. Yūsof Abūnaṣrī Heravī, Eršād al-zerāʿa, ed. M. Mošīrī, Tehran, 1346 Š./1967.
Ī. Afšār, ed., Āšpazī-e dawra-ye ṣafawī. Matn-e do resāla az ān dawra, Tehran, 1360 Š./1981.
Mīrzā ʿAlī-Akbar, Ṣofra-ye aṭʿema, Tehran, 1353 Š./1974.
Moḥammad-Ḥosayn ʿAqīlī Ḵorāsānī, Maḵzan al-adwīa, Calcutta, 1844.
Abū Rayḥān Bīrūnī, Ketāb al-ṣaydana, ed. and tr. M. Said and R. E. Elahie, Karachi, 1973; tr. Abū Bakr b. ʿAlī Kāšānī as Ṣaydana, ed. M. Sotūda and Ī. Afšār, 2 vols., Tehran, 1358 Š./1979.
Bosḥāq-e Aṭʿema Šīrāzī, Dīvān, ed. Mīrzā Ḥabīb Eṣfahānī, Istanbul, 1303/1885-86; repr. Shiraz, 1360 Š./1981.
Dioscorides, The Greek Herbal of Dioscorides, tr. J. Goodyer (1655), ed. R. T. Gunther, Oxford, 1934.
Ebn Maymūn (Maimonides), Šarḥ asmāʾ al-ʿoqqār (L’explication des noms de drogues), ed. and tr. M. Meyerhof, Cairo, 1940.
Ebn Sīnā, Ketāb al-qānūn fi’l-ṭebb, 3 vols., Būlāq, 1294/1877.
W. B. Henning, “Coriander,” Asia Major 10/2, 1963, pp. 195-199.
D. Hooper and H. Field, Useful Plants and Drugs of Iran and Iraq, Chicago, 1937.
Yaʿqūb b. Esḥāq Kendī, The Medical Formulary or Aqrābādhīn of al-Kindī, tr. M. Levey, Madison, Wis., 1966.
D. N. MacKenzie, A Concise Pahlavi Dictionary, London, 1971, p. 108.
A. Parsa (Pārsā), Flore de l’Iran VIII, Tehran, 1960.
M. Pāyanda Langarūdī, Farhang-e Gīl o Daylam, Tehran, 1366 Š./1987.
H. P. J. Renaud and G. S. Colin, trs. and eds., Toḥfat al-aḥbāb. Glossaire de la matière médicale marocaine, Paris, 1934.
Ṣ. Ṣafīzāda, Ṭebb-e sonnatī dar mīān-e Kordān, Tehran, 1361 Š./1982.
E. Šakūrzāda, ʿAqāyed o rosūm-e mardom-e Ḵorāsān, 2nd ed., Tehran, 1363 Š./1985.
M. Ṭabāṭabāʾī, Gīāh-šenāsī-e kārbordī . . . I. Gīāhān-e zerāʿathā-ye bozorg, Tehran, 1365 Š./1986.
Moḥammad-Moʾmen Ḥosaynī Tonokābonī (Ḥakīm Moʾmen), Toḥfat al-moʾmenīn (Toḥfa-ye Ḥakīm Moʾmen), Tehran, n.d. [1360 Š./1981?].
Originally Published: December 15, 1993
Last Updated: October 31, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. VI, Fasc. 3, p. 273
Hūšang Aʿlam, “CORIANDER,”Encyclopaedia Iranica, VI/3, p. 273, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/coriander-coriandrum-sativum-l (accessed on 30 December 2012).