News Feature | September 20, 2013

Cilantro: Water's Herbal Remedy?

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Cilantro may be useful for purifying water

It may be "an effective 'biosorbent' that can remove lead and other heavy metals" including copper and mercury, which present human health risks. That's according to a study by Ivy Tech Community College chemist Douglas Schauer, presented to the American Chemical Society this month. 

Schauer was quick to address concerns about cost, pointing out that what cilantro lacks in cheapness, it makes up for in abundance. "Cilantro grows wild in vast amounts of countries that have problems with heavy-metal water pollution," he said in The International Business Times.

“Our hope is for somebody who lives in that region to simply be able go in their back yard and grab a handful of cilantro, maybe let it dry out for a couple days sitting on a rock in the sun, and then maybe a handful of that would purify a pitcher of water,” he said, noting that cilantro could be "packed into packets like tea bags or water filter cartridges" for use. 

CNN pointed out additional benefits. "Because cilantro isn't an essential crop, using it as a purifier won't take away from people's food needs in the region, and the relative ease with which the plant grows also makes it a realistic option for cleansing water," Schauer said in Medical Daily.

Cilantro could be key in countries where some methods of treating water, such as "active carbon treatments or ion-exchange resins" are not readily available, such as Mexico, where cilantro grows wild,The Times said.

Currently, Mexico has a problem with metals in water. "Wastewater sampling of drainage water from Mexico City has shown that many toxic metals such as copper, lead, chromium, and nickel are present in large quantities in the water used for irrigation and as drinking water," RedOrbit reported.

More research is needed to support the cilantro findings, the reports said. And even if the solution holds up, it might not work for some drinkers. "The one drawback may come if cilantro-purified water tastes like the herb," The Times said. 'Cilantro borders on offensive for some people, who find that it tastes soapy.'