Douglas Schauer, undergraduate student at a community college, said that C- also known as coriander and Thai parsley - shows promise as a much-needed new "biosorbent" for removing lead and other potentially toxic heavy metals from contaminated water.
Schauer said that cilantro grows wild in vast amounts in countries that have problems with heavy-metal water pollution. It is readily available and inexpensive.
"When the filter in a water purification pitcher needs to be changed, they could go outside, gather a handful of cilantro or some other plant, and presto, there's a new filter ready to purify the water," the researcher said.
Cilantro's secret may lie in the structure of the outer walls of the microscopic cells that make up the plant. They have an architecture ideal for sorption of heavy metals. Other plants, including cilantro's cousins, parsley and culantro, have similar features and could potentially work as biosorbents, he added.
Schauer said that biosorbents like cilantro could be packed into tea-bag-like packets, reusable water filter cartridges or even tea infuser balls and used to remove heavy metals.
The study was presented at National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society.