Who’d have thought that the same culinary herb used to spice up your salsa could suck hazardous heavy metals out of your tap water, too? That’s right—cilantro just might be nature’s own Brita filter, according to new research presented at the American Chemical Society national meeting. Cilantro—also known as coriander and Thai parsley—acts as a very effective “biosorbent,” a material that absorbs heavy metals in your H20, like lead, copper, and mercury.
Douglas Schauer, Ph.D., challenged his students at Ivy Tech Community College to find a low-cost water purification alternative for developing countries. Small-scale experiments conducted by the undergrads, in conjunction with scientists at a Mexican university, found that cilantro might be even more effective than pricier activated carbon, the stuff found in home water filtration systems. Great news for rural areas in Mexico plagued with heavy-metal water, since wild cilantro grows rampant in those areas.
But what does this mean for you? “At this stage, we are looking at a very crude method where ground and dried cilantro is shaken with water, the cilantro is allowed to settle, and the clean water is isolated,” says Schauer. “But we can envision a future where cilantro is placed in teabags or [water purification] filters.” Cilantro water filters might also have the advantage of improving your health while while protecting it. The herb is thought to prevent cardiovascular damage, prolong sleep, minimize anxiety, and according to a study published in the The Journal of Food Science, potentially even help beat diabetes.