Coriander for Migraines

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According to the Migraine Research Foundation, someone living in almost one in four households in the U.S. suffers from migraines, and 85 percent of them are women. Once thought to be triggered by blood vessel constriction, researchers now suspect migraines may involve impaired neural signaling, which qualifies the condition as a neurological disorder. Coriander, fairly-well-studied for its antioxidant value and beneficial effect on arthritis and rheumatism, is showing promise as an effective treatment for migraine.

Photo by iStock/SharafMaksumov

Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) seed refers to the dried fruit of a flowering annual in the parsley family that is native to the Mediterranean region, as well as northern Africa and western Asia. While the seed is called coriander, the mother plant is known as Chinese parsley, dhania, and cilantro, the leaf of which is widely used in Indian, Asian, Middle Eastern and Spanish cuisines. Due to the presence of pinene and linalool, coriander imparts a nutty, citrusy flavor to curries and spice blends like garam masala. Coriander is also a flavoring agent in gin (along with juniper berry), Benedictine, Chartreuse and Belgian wheat beers. The seed is also a pickling spice.

An Ancient Remedy Becomes New Again

In the Ayurvedic and Iranian traditional systems of healing, coriander has long been regarded a viable therapy for headache when infused in hot water and the steam inhaled. New research shows that the seed is also helpful in reducing the duration, severity and frequency of migraines. In one study published in 2016, for example, which involved 68 subjects and a syrup made from coriander, the treatment group experienced 50 percent less pain, length of attack and frequency of occurrence than the control group.

In March 2018, researchers at the Kerman University of Medical Sciences of Iran published the results of a double blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial involving 88 migraine patients and a traditional Iranian herbal migraine remedy that contains coriander combined with the flowers of the violet and damask rose. At the end of four weeks, the subjects in the treatment group reported reduced duration, severity and frequency of migraines over the placebo group.

A review published in the March 2018 issue of Food Research International notes the neuroprotective activity of coriander and its ability to counter migraine. The authors further describe the seed as anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, hypoglycemic, hypotensive, anxiolytic, antimicrobial and analgesic, and suggest that coriander is a functional food that modulates disease pathways that otherwise lead to cancer, neurodegenerative and metabolic diseases. These effects are due to a variety of flavonoids, polyphenols and terpenoids. Of particular interest is the terpenoid linalool, which is found in the seed in a concentration of 60-70 percent.

How to Use Coriander

Powdered coriander seed is enjoyed in a variety of foods, such as curry, dhana jeera and other Indian dishes, often partnered with cumin and black pepper. The powdered seed may also be encapsulated. The standard dose for adults is 1-5 grams powdered coriander, three times per day.

One of the easiest ways to take coriander—and the most useful should a migraine strike—is to prepare the seed as tea: steep 2 teaspoons crushed seeds in a cup of boiling water; strain and drink up to three times per day between meals. In cooking, the whole seeds are roasted and eaten as a snack or added to rice, vegetable dishes and soups.

Sensible Cautions

If you have a known allergy to any food in the carrot family, you should not use coriander. Also, because coriander reduces blood sugar, you should not use this herb therapeutically while pregnant or nursing. Check with your health care practitioner before using coriander if you take prescription drugs for hypoglycemia because the spice may increase their effect.

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