Some of our most important drugs were discovered partly by accident. Penicillin was developed after Alexander Fleming found a mold devouring the bacteria he was growing in a petri dish.
A class of valuable blood pressure medications called ACE inhibitors (lisinopril, ramipril, etc.) was developed when scientists investigated why victims of the deadly jararaca snake of Brazil died after experiencing very low blood pressure.
Sometimes ordinary people also put unexpected discoveries to good use. Such was the case when Donald Agar found that eating two coconut macaroon cookies daily could control the devastating diarrhea brought on by his life-long inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s). He shared this surprising outcome, and many other people have benefited over the last decade.
Several weeks ago we heard from a reader that a common herb, cilantro (coriander leaf), might offer unexpected help:
“I have a home remedy that is amazing. I used to have severe psoriasis on my knees, elbows, eyes, forehead, wrists, feet and scalp. It would crack and bleed, itch and flake.
“One day a man commented on my raw patches and asked about the treatments I’d tried. I explained about the numerous prescription treatments that had next-to-no success. Steroids gave short-term relief but the problem usually came back worse than before the treatment.
“This man said to cure my skin problem all I needed to do was eat raw cilantro. He said I should eat enough to turn my stool green.
“I found that it takes a bundle each day for 10 to 15 days. I mix it in a green salad with my favorite dressing and find it an interesting flavor. My skin has been completely clear for six years. If I notice a small patch starting to get rough once or twice a year, I eat a bundle of cilantro for two or three meals and have no more skin problems!”
We could find no research to support his claims, but since then we have heard from others who have also reported benefit.
One person offered this follow-up:
“I have been testing this out, as I have bouts of psoriasis. This winter I woke up sporting quite a few spots on my thighs. I know how quickly this stuff can multiply so I thought I would test out the cilantro. I can say that it is having an effect.”
Another reader reported:
“I have been eating one bunch of cilantro in a salad for lunch every day for about two weeks. It worked. My psoriasis subsided just like it does in the summer after exposure to the sun. No other drink (oolong tea, green tea) had any notable effect. No topical creams had any notable effect. My scalp is not perfect, but I don’t have to hide my skin.”
In an experimental vein, one woman came up with a different way to consume this remedy:
“I make a smoothie with cilantro and V8 juice in the blender. It is helping my psoriasis tremendously.”
There is still no evidence grounded in science that would support or explain this home remedy. We caution those taking warfarin that cilantro, like parsley, is very rich in vitamin K and suddenly increasing consumption by eating a bunch a day could interfere with the effectiveness of the anticoagulant.
It is unlikely that scientists will test cilantro, but these stories stand as a reminder that careful observation can lead to intriguing options.