Coriander (Coriandrum sativum L.) is grown as a spice crop all over the world. The seeds have been used to treat indigestion, diabetes, rheumatism and pain in the joints. In the present study, an ethanol extract of the seeds was investigated for effects on insulin release from the pancreatic beta cells in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Blood samples were drawn from the retro-orbital sinus before and 1.5, 3 and 5 h after administration of the seed extract. Serum glucose levels were determined by the glucose oxidase method. To determine the insulin releasing activity, after extract treatment the animals were anaesthetized by diethyl ether, the pancreas was excised, fixed in 10% formaldehyde and embedded in paraffin for sectioning. Pancreatic sections of 5 µm were processed for examination of insulin-releasing activity using an immunocytochemistry kit. The results showed that administration of the ethanol extract (200 and 250 mg/kg, i.p.) exhibited a significant reduction in serum glucose. Administration of streptozotocin decreased the number of beta cells with insulin secretory activity in comparison with intact rats, but treatment with the coriander seed extract (200 mg/kg) increased significantly the activity of the beta cells in comparison with the diabetic control rats. The extract decreased serum glucose in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats and increased insulin release from the beta cells of the pancreas. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.