|Eryngium foetidum leaves, with a US measuring tape for scale|
Eryngium foetidum is a tropical perennial herb in the family Apiaceae. Common names include culantro (// or //), recao, chadon beni (pronounced shadow benny), Mexican coriander, bhandhania, long coriander, sawtooth coriander, and ngò gai. It is native to Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America, but is cultivated worldwide, mostly in the tropics as a perennial, but sometimes in temperate climates as an annual.
In the United States, the common name culantro sometimes causes confusion with cilantro, a common name for the leaves of Coriandrum sativum (also in Apiaceae but in a different genus), of which culantro is said to taste like a stronger version.
Eryngium foetidum is widely used in seasoning, marinating and garnishing in the Caribbean (particularly in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Trinidad and Tobago), as well as El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica, Guyana, Suriname, Ecuador, and in Brazil's and Peru's Amazon regions. It is also used extensively as a culinary herb in Cambodia, Thailand, India, Nepal, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, southwestern China and other parts of tropical Asia. It is sometimes used as a substitute for coriander leaves, but has a stronger taste. Contrary to coriander, Eryngium foetidum dries well, retaining good color and flavor, which makes it valuable in the dried-herb industry.
In the United States, E. foetidum grows naturally in Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
Eryngium foetidum has been used in traditional medicine in tropical regions for burns, earache, fevers, hypertension, constipation, fits, asthma, stomachache, worms, infertility complications, snake bites, diarrhea, and malaria.
Eryngium foetidum is also known as E. antihystericum. The specific name antihystericum reflects the fact that this plant has traditionally been used for epilepsy. The plant is said to calm a person's 'spirit' and thus prevents epileptic 'fits', so is known by the common names spiritweed and fitweed. The anticonvulsant properties of this plant have been scientifically investigated. A decoction of the leaves has been shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects in rats.
Eryngial is a chemical compound isolated from E. foetidum. The University of the West Indies at Mona, Jamaica, has investigated the use of eryngial as a treatment for human Strongyloides stercoralis infection (strongyloidiasis).
It is used as an ethnomedicinal plant for the treatment of a number of ailments such as fevers, chills, vomiting, burns, fevers, hypertension, headache, earache, stomachache, asthma, arthritis, snake bites, scorpion stings, diarrhea, malaria and epilepsy.[medical citation needed] The main constituent of essential oil of the plant is eryngial (E-2-dodecenal). A pharmacological investigation claims to have demonstrated anthelmintic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anticonvulsant, anticlastogenic, anticarcinogenic, antidiabetic, and antibacterial activity.[unreliable medical source?]
Qualitative analysis of the leaves demonstrated the presence of tannins and saponin, as well as some flavonoids; no alkaloids have been reported yet. Caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid (CGA), and kaempferol have been among the phenolic compounds found in E. foetidum leaves.