Chemists have discovered that coriander produces a powerful antibiotic.

Chemists have discovered that coriander produces a powerful antibiotic.

Crushing a handful of aromatic coriander leaves might get your taste buds tingling, but it could also protect you against a host of food-borne pathogens, say US and Mexican researchers.

Researchers at the University of California Berkeley (UCB) and the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara have found that a compound found in both the seeds and leaves of the coriander plant is twice as potent as the antibiotic gentamicin against the notorious food bug Salmonella.

The compound dodecenal is one of several antibiotic agents the team found in the plant, but it is far and away the most powerful. Most natural antibiotics found in food are quite weak, says Isao Kubo at UCB who led the research, so this came as a surprise.

The researchers suggest that the compound could help in the war against antibiotic resistance. It appears to eradicate its pathogen target by rupturing bacterial cell membranes in much the same way as a detergent - something that bacteria would be unlikely to evolve a way round.

Apparently dodecenal is not associated with the unmistakable taste of coriander, and the researchers suggest that it could be used as a tasteless food additive for the prevention of foodborne disease. Certainly eating whole coriander would be unlikely to achieve the same goal - one would have to eat almost the same weight of coriander leaves as the weight of the entire meal.

Bea Perks