Bifora. Another Cilantro Substitute?

Bifora testiculata syn Coriandrum radians (M.Bieb.)

Also called : cilantro, cilantro real, carrot weed, bird’s eye, European bishop, Wild Bishop, Dubbelkoriander, Dobbeltkoriander, Getreideverpester (cereal polluter), Bumnieher, Kosbor Salvagg, חריריים מצויים, كزبرة

In 1905 Joseph Rose whilst working for the US Herbarium (1) noted in the describing of Porophyllum macrocephalum (2) that it had the “odor of bifora”. This piqued my interest as it was my search for a coriander substitute that first drew me to papalo.

  1. Rose, Joseph Nelson: Contributions from the United States National Herbarium Vol VIII : Studies of Mexican, Central American and Porto rican Plants (1905)
  2. which he called both yerba de cabra and yerba de peo

Bifora is an erect annual herb growing to 30 cm high and is a common weed in central and Eastern Europe and the Middle East. The plant is hairless, with striped stems and narrow, finely divided leaves. Bifora has “a strong foetid smell” and smells strongly of coriander. Flowers are borne in an umbrella-like cluster similar to coriander and are small and white, with five spreading petals that have a broad shallow notch at the tip.

Bifora has an umbelliferous flower head similar to coriander (1) and its filiform (2) leaves are also similar in structure to those of cilantro. It can be used culinarily as you would cilantro (3).

  1. and others in the umbelliferae family – fennel, caraway, parsley, cumin, dill, angelica, chervil, asafoetida, celery, lovage, and the toxic ones such as poisonous hemlock (Conium maculatum), water hemlock (Cicuta spp) and hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum).
  2. its spindly, thread like leaves.
  3. Cilantro can also be substituted with : culantro (Eringyum foetidum), papalo (Porophyllum macrocephalum), rau răm (Persicaria odorata – Vietnamese coriander) and potentially chinchweed (Pectis papposa) and skunkweed (Adenophyllum porophylloides)

And as for the Latin nomenclature “testiculata”, the fruit certainly does resemble a wrinkled scrotum. Under normal circumstances I would show a picture of a scrotum for reference sake but in this case I think I’ll leave it up to your imagination.

Photo by Marco Paolucci

Aside from the culinary uses of its leaves the fruits and seeds of this herb have medicinal uses. This plant is mentioned in the Herbarium Vivum. This book (Vonica etal 2012) is a collection of plants historically used in Romanian herbal medicine and is a further study on the herbal medicine of 17th Century Transylvania. The knowledge of the use of the herb has been lost in this particular tradition.

Medicinal uses.

Medicinal actions : carminative, stomachic, antimicrobial (1)

Seeds : taken as a hot infusion as a mild sedative and to reduce stomach pain. It is taken as needed.

Fruits : taken as a decoction as a mild sedative and to reduce stomach pain. This is a stronger medicine than the infusion and is taken only once per day

Aerial Parts : (Kaya etal 2020) notes that an infusion of the aboveground parts of this plant is taken as a treatment to remedy “fear”. This use mirrors the use of some plants that are used in curanderismo to treat conditions such as nervios, susto and espanto (2). A paper by Sellami (etal 2012) notes the high phthalide content of this plant. These phthalides relax the smooth muscle surrounding the arterial walls, lowering blood pressure and reducing the effort needed by the heart to circulate blood around the body. Phthalides also decrease the production of stress hormones, reducing symptoms of hypertension.

Bifora has become a major weed for farmers especially in grain and legume crops, where it can substantially reduce harvest speed, grain quality and yields. It is a declared weed in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.

  1. reasonably effective against P. aeruginosa and E. coli (Ozçelik etal 2004)
  2. These are psychological/emotional/spiritual conditions involving various levels of fear.


  • Kaya, Omer Faruk & Dağlı, Mehmet & Celik, Hatice. (2020). An ethnobotanical research in Şanlıurfa central district and attached Villages (Turkey).
  • Kloot, P.M. (2009). The Naturalised Flora of South Australia 3 . Its Origin, Introduction , Distribution , Growth Forms and Significance : South Australian Department of Agriculture, J. Adelaide Bot Gard. 10(1): 99-111 (1987)
  • Oran, Sawsan & Al-Eisawi, Dawud. (2015). Ethnobotanical survey of the medicinal plants in the central mountains (North-South) in Jordan. Journal of Biodiversity and Environmental Sciences (JBES). 6. 2220-6663.
  • Ozçelik, Berrin & Kusmenoglu, Senay & Turkoz, Songul & Abbasoglu, Ufuk. (2004). Antimicrobial Activities of Plants from the Apicaceae. Archives of physiology and biochemistry. 42. 526-8. 10.1080/13880200490893311.
  • Rose, Joseph Nelson: (1905) Contributions from the United States National Herbarium Vol VIII : Studies of Mexican, Central American and Porto rican Plants
  • Seighali, N. & Ghomi, M. & Zaker, S. & Ramezanighara, M. & Karimi, P.. (2011). Medicinal plants diversity in the flora of Langaroud of Iran. 5. 413-417.
  • Sellami, Ibtissem & Rebey, Iness & Bourgou, Soumaya & Dahmani, Rahma & Limam, Ferid & Marzouk, Brahim. (2012). Essential oil and aroma composition of leaves, stalks and roots of celery (Apium graveolens var. dulce) from Tunisia. Journal of Essential Oil Research. 24. 513-521. 10.1080/10412905.2012.728093
  • Vonica, Ghizela & Aurelia, Horotan. (2012). Herbarium vivum: A historical collection of medicinal plants from the natural history museum (Sibiu, Romania). 7. 569-578.

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