Whether you drink it plain, over ice, or as a base for fun summer cocktails, cilantro lemonade is a delicious way to get a medicinal dose of this cooling, hydrating culinary herb.
Like many common culinary herbs, cilantro has been used for thousands of years as a digestive aid. This herb has also been shown to help the body process and utilize cholesterol, most likely due to its effects on the liver: cilantro supports liver function and stimulates the secretion of bile, which the body uses to break down and digest fats and oils.
Cilantro is an excellent anti-inflammatory and, in medicinal doses, can ease inflammation and heat associated with hives, rashes, flushed or red skin, and excess sweating. Extracts of cilantro leaf have been shown to help balance blood sugar levels, and the herb may be of benefit in preventing metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Cilantro increases the amount of insulin released from cells and has insulin-like qualities, which both work to remove excessive amounts of glucose from the blood.
Last, but certainly not least, cilantro can be used as an effective natural chelator. Chelators are substances that bind with heavy metals in the body so they can be carried out. One study showed that cilantro reduced lead counts in mice, and I suspect that it is effective in reducing levels of other heavy metals, such as mercury and cadmium, as well. When you eat seafood, consider also eating a medicinal dose of cilantro in a salad, pesto, or herbal drink to ensure that any heavy metals deposited in the seafood from polluted ocean waters do not get stored in your body.
Cilantro in the Kitchen
The volatile oils and aromas that give cilantro much of its unique, refreshing flavor dissipate once the plant is heated, dried, or frozen. For this reason, it is often used as a garnish or served raw in salsas, chutneys, sauces, and salads. When I want to put cilantro in a stew or other slow-cooked dish, I add the fresh leaves at the very end or save them for a garnish on top. Or I use the root — it imparts an unusual earthy and rich flavor, holds up better to cooking, and offers many of the same benefits as the leaf.
You may have noticed that cilantro is commonly used with spicy foods, like salsa and chili. This is because it has an overall cooling effect, helping to relieve heat in the body, which makes it a nice complement for dishes with heat. It is also used heavily in cuisines from hot climates. The next time you need a refreshing drink at the end of a long, hot day, try a glass of cilantro lemonade!
You can drink this beverage on a daily or weekly basis to stay cool in hot weather or to support liver and digestive function and gentle detoxification. It also makes a nice seasonal tonic to help the body transition from colder to warmer weather.
Cilantro lemonade is hydrating, detoxifying, and invigorating. The combination of cilantro’s cooling and detoxifying properties with the high amounts of vitamin C found in the lemon juice, the enzymes and sugars from the honey, and a little pinch of mineral-rich salt help replenish the body on a hot day. Cilantro lemonade is excellent plain or over ice. You can even use it as a base for fun summer cocktails.
Yield: About 3 cups
- 1 bunch cilantro (about 2 cups packed)
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1–2 lemons)
- 2 tablespoons raw honey
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups water
- Combine the cilantro with the lemon juice, honey, salt, and water in a blender and purée for 3 minutes. The drink will be a rich green color with a beautiful white foam on top. I enjoy drinking the lemonade as it is, with the cilantro pulp, but you can strain it through a sieve or tea strainer before serving, if you like. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.