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Coriander comfits, sold by the confectioner as admirably warming to the stomach, and corrective of flatulence, consist of small aromatic seeds coated with white sugar. These are produced by the Coriander, an umbelliferous herb cultivated in England from early times for medicinal and culinary uses, though introduced at first from the Mediterranean.
Coriander has now become wild as an escape, growing freely in our fields and waste places. Farmers produce it, especially about Essex, under the name of Col, the crops being mown down when ripe, and the fruits being then thrashed out to procure the seeds.
The generic name has been derived from koros, a bug; alluding to the stinking odour of the bruised leaves, though these, when dried, are fragrant, and pleasant of smell. In some countries, as Egypt and Peru, they are taken in soups.
The seeds are cordial, but become narcotic if used too freely. When distilled with water they yield a yellow essential oil of a very aromatic and strong odour.
Coriander water was formerly much esteemed as a carminative for windy colic. Being so aromatic and comfortably stimulating, the fruit is commended for aiding the digestion of savoury pastry, and to correct the griping tendencies of such medicines as senna and rhubarb. It contains malic acid, tannin, the special volatile oil of the herb, and some fatty matter.
Distillers of gin make use of this fruit, and veterinary surgeons employ it as a drug for cattle and horses.
Alston says, "The green herb—seeds and all—stinks intolerably of bugs"; and Hoffman admonishes, "Si largius sumptura fuerit semen non sine periculo e suâ sede et statu demovet, et qui sumpsere varia dictu pudenda blaterant." The fruits are blended with curry powder, and are chosen to flavour several liquors. By the Chinese a power of conferring immortality is thought to be possessed by the seeds.
From a passage in the Book of Numbers where manna is likened to Coriander seed, it would seem that this seed was familiar to the Israelites and used by them for domestic purposes. Robert Turner says when taken in wine it stimulates the animal passions.
* Coriander Aromatherapy: http://aromatherapy4soul.com/coriander.htm