Cilantro: From Master Chelator to Anticonvulsant

Cilantro: From Master Chelator to Anticonvulsant

A basket of cilantro. (successo images/Shutterstock)

Emma Suttie

Emma Suttie


Updated: 3/5/2024

Cilantro is a popular herb used in cuisines worldwide for its bright, citrusy flavor, embellishing dishes from Mexican guacamole and Thai curries to Vietnamese soup (pho). But unbeknownst to some, cilantro is also a powerful medicine—known for its ability to cleanse the body of heavy metals and delay the onset of seizures.


Cilantro and coriander are sometimes confused but come from the same plant–Coriandrum sativum (C. sativum). Cilantro refers to the leaves and stems, whereas coriander refers to the seeds.
In addition to being delicious, cilantro contains abundant phytonutrients and plentiful vitamins K, A, and C. It is a potent antioxidant with antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. It also contains minerals such as folate, potassium, magnesium, and manganese.
Coriander seeds are also used medicinally, have abundant vitamin C, and have antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antimicrobial, and antiseptic properties.
Other names for cilantro include Chinese and Mexican parsley, and in the UK, it is called coriander and the seeds are called coriander seeds.
Traditional medicine is well aware of cilantro’s healing properties, and the leaves and stems are used to treat various conditions, including digestive upsets. Cilantro also helps to promote healthy sleep, manage anxiety, balance blood sugar levels, and detoxify the body.
Coriander seeds, which have a different flavor than cilantro, are traditionally used to treat digestive problems (diarrhea, gas, bloating, and pain), fungal and bacterial infections, and food poisoning, to lower cholesterol, and to rid the body of parasites. They are also commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine, where they are made into a tea to treat colds and flu.
Coriander seeds, fresh cilantro, and powdered coriander. (Elena Schweitzer/Shutterstock)

Coriander seeds, fresh cilantro, and powdered coriander. (Elena Schweitzer/Shutterstock)

A Natural Chelator

The most notable benefit of cilantro is its powerful ability to cleanse the body of toxic heavy metals, which it does through chelation.
Chelation comes from the Greek word “chele,” meaning claw, which characterizes its role in holding on tightly to something and, in the case of cilantro, escorting it politely out of the body.
Some heavy metals occur naturally, are found deep in the earth, and are vital for survival—but become dangerous when they accumulate in our tissues and organs. Other sources of heavy metals, primarily from human activities, are toxic and detrimental to our health—especially in children whose bodies and brains are still developing. Heavy metals can come from various sources, from the metal amalgams in our dental fillings to the byproducts of industry pumped into the air we breathe, the soil we grow our food in, and the water we drink.
Heavy metals include (but are not limited to) mercury, lead, cadmium, aluminum, and arsenic.
A study published in 2020 describes four ways that human beings can acquire heavy metals:
  1. Eating contaminated food
  2. Drinking contaminated water
  3. Inhaling them from the atmosphere
  4. Absorbing them through contact with the skin
Heavy metals can accumulate in the tissues, blood, bones, and organs, such as the liver, kidneys, and brain, where they can lead to complications from disorders of the nervous and immune system to cancer.
Toxins bombard us daily, and natural chelators help us to regularly detoxify from these harmful heavy metals so they don’t accumulate and make us sick.
Cilantro binds to heavy metals in our bodies and transports them out via the excretory system.

Cilantro Chelation Studies

Studies in mice and humans have demonstrated cilantro’s chelating prowess.
A study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology fed mice 1,000 parts per million of lead in their drinking water for 32 days. The researchers starting giving the mice cilantro on day seven up until the end of the experiment. After the experiment, researchers found that cilantro significantly decreased the amount of lead deposited in the animals’ femurs and decreased “severe lead-induced injury in the kidneys.”
Another mouse study found that cilantro “significantly protects against lead-induced oxidative stress” in animals with exposure.
In the mid-1990s, Dr. Yoshiaki Omura, then director of medical research at the Heart Research Foundation, made a compelling discovery. After he and his colleagues had little success treating infections in their patients with antibiotics and antivirals, Dr. Omura found that these patients had localized concentrations of metals such as lead, mercury, and aluminum. While testing one patient, he noticed a significant increase in mercury levels in the patient’s urine after he had eaten Vietnamese soup—which contains fresh cilantro.
After further testing, Dr. Omura found that eating cilantro (or drinking cilantro juice) expedited the removal of aluminum and lead from the body. When he advised his patients to consume fresh cilantro or its juice and then use antibiotics or natural antivirals, their infections would heal permanently.
Dr. Omura subsequently conducted two studies based on his observations.
The first study showed an accumulation of mercury (Hg) and lead (Pb) in patients with chlamydia (a bacterial infection) and herpes viral infections. The study revealed that once the mercury deposits were chelated from the body using cilantro and the appropriate medications were given, the cilantro enhanced the drug effects, and the infections healed. The results caused Dr. Omura and his team to hypothesize that the infectious organisms somehow use the heavy metals to protect themselves from the effects of the antibiotics/antivirals—which would usually destroy them.
In the other study, three amalgam fillings (which the study noted contain about 50 percent mercury) were removed from a patient using all of the precautions available to ensure that the patient would not absorb any mercury during the procedure. After the procedure, despite the precautions, the patient accumulated significant amounts of mercury in their lungs, kidneys, endocrine organs, liver, and heart—which had not been there before. Dr. Omura and his team gave the patient a 100 mg tablet of cilantro four times daily in addition to other “drug-uptake enhancement methods,” beginning before the procedure and continuing for two to three weeks afterward—eliminating almost all of the mercury from the patient’s organs.

Cilantro as an Anticonvulsant

In addition to being a powerful chelator, cilantro is a known anticonvulsant and has been shown to slow or delay the onset of seizures associated with epilepsy and other disorders.
A study published in 2019 found out why.
The study, published in The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal, uncovered the mechanisms that allow cilantro to delay certain types of seizures—something that science had not previously understood.
Scientists discovered that dodecenal, a component in cilantro, activates multiple potassium channels in the brain, including two isoforms responsible for regulating electrical activity in the brain and heart. The dodecenal opens these potassium channels and, in so doing, reduces their cellular excitability. Dodecenal also recapitulated cilantro’s anticonvulsant action and delayed certain chemically induced seizures.

Other Conditions Treated

Cilantro and its seeds are used to treat many conditions, some of which are listed here:

Final Thoughts

Despite how hard we try to avoid them, heavy metals and other toxins are ubiquitous in our air, soil, water, and food. Eating foods such as cilantro, garlic, onions, and Brazil nuts, and using other natural chelators, such as chlorella and activated charcoal, helps us to regularly cleanse these toxins.
If you are considering using cilantro for a major detox and want to use levels higher than those naturally found in foods, be sure to do so under the supervision of a health care provider to ensure that you are doing it safely and have professional support.
Cilantro is a versatile herb that makes a delicious addition to many dishes—it creates a tasty pesto, makes an excellent sauce, and pairs exceptionally well with lime (yum!). It can be grown in a backyard garden or on an apartment balcony, giving your dishes a splash of flavor and your body a mountain of health benefits. For those who are not fans of its flavor but still want to reap the benefits, it is available in supplement form.
Emma Suttie

Emma Suttie


Emma is an acupuncture physician and has written extensively about health for multiple publications over the past decade. She is now a health reporter for The Epoch Times, covering Eastern medicine, nutrition, trauma, and lifestyle medicine.

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