Cumin is native to the Levant and Upper Egypt. It now grows in most hot countries, especially India, North Africa, China and the Americas. The spice is especially associated with Morocco, where it is often smelt in the abundant street cookery of the medinas. Cumin was known to the Egyptians five millennia ago; the seeds have been found in the Old Kingdon Pyramids. The Romans and the Greeks used it medicinally... In Indian recipes, cumin is frequently confused with caraway, which it resembles in appearance though not in taste, cumin being far more powerful. This is due to a misunderstanding of the Indian word jeera. The term usually means cumin, but can occasionally mean caraway, so in doubtful cases, cumin is generally to be understood. The use of the terms ‘black cumin’ for nigella, and ‘sweet cumin’ for aniseed or fennel, further confounds this confusion. As a general rule interpret jeera or zeera (jira, zira) as cumin and kalonji as nigella. When the seeds themselves are in doubt, cumin is easily distinguished from the other Umbelliferae by its flavour, and its shape and colour is quite different from nigella.
Cumin is the seed of a small umbelliferous plant. The seeds come as paired or separate carpels, and are 3-6mm (1/8-1/4 in) long. They have a striped pattern of nine ridges and oil canals, and are hairy, brownish in colour, boat-shaped, tapering at each extremity, with tiny stalks attached. They resemble caraway seeds, but are lighter in colour and unlike caraway, have minute bristles hardly visible to the naked eye. They are available dried, or ground to a brownish-green powder. Cumin is freely available in the West, although it is not a traditional European spice.
Bouquet: Strong, heavy and warm. A spicy-sweet aroma.
Flavour: Pungent, powerful, sharp and slightly bitter.
Hotness Scale: 3
Plant Description and Cultivation
A small, slender, glabrous herbaceous annual, of the parsley family. It usually reaches 25cm (10 in) (some varieties can be double this height), and tends to droop under its own weight. The blue-green linear leaves are finely divided, and the white or pink flowers are borne in small compound umbels. Cumin is grown from seed. A hot climate is preferred, but it can be grown in cooler regions if started under glass in spring. A sandy soil is best; when the seedlings have hardened, transplant carefully to a sunny aspect, planting out 15cm (6 in) apart. Seed regularly. The plants bloom in June and July. The seeds are normally ready four months after planting. Cut the plants when the seeds turn to brown, thresh and dry like the other Umbelliferae.
Cumin is native to Egypt and has been cultivated in the Middle East, India, China and Mediterranean countries for millennia. Throughout history, cumin has played an important role as a food and medicine and has been a cultural symbol with varied attributes.
Cumin was mentioned in the Bible not only as a seasoning for soup and bread, but also as a currency used to pay tithes to the priests.
Cumin seeds were highly honored as a culinary seasoning in both ancient Greek and Roman kitchens. Cumin's popularity was partly due to the fact that its peppery flavor made it a viable replacement for black pepper, which was very expensive and hard to come by. Cumin was also noted for its medicinal properties.
During the Middle Ages in Europe, cumin was one of the most common spices used. Around that time, cumin added another attribute to its repertoire—it became recognized as a symbol of love and fidelity. People carried cumin in their pockets when attending wedding ceremonies, and married soldiers were sent off to war with a loaf of cumin bread baked by their wives.
While it still maintained an important role in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines, the popularity of cumin in Europe declined after the Middle Ages. Today, cumin is experiencing renewed recognition owing to new found appreciation of its culinary and therapeutic properties.
Traditional uses of cumin include to reduce inflammation, increase urination, prevent gas, and suppress muscle spasms. It has also been used as an aid for indigestion, jaundice, diarrhea, and flatulence. Cumin powder has been used as a poultice and suppository, and has been taken orally.
Cumin is a major component of curry and chili powders and has been used to flavor a variety of food products. The oil, which is derived by steam distillation, is used to flavor alcoholic beverages, desserts, and condiments. It is also used as a fragrant component of creams, lotions, and perfumes.
Cumin seeds are used in cooking and the oil is used to flavor food. Components may have antioxidant, anticancer, antibacterial, and larvicidal effects. Cumin may lower blood sugar, reduce seizures, strengthen bones, and treat the eye; however, there is no clinical evidence to support these claims. Cumin is generally recognized as safe for human consumption as a spice and flavoring.
It is probably not just for taste alone that cumin has made it into the stellar ranks of Indian, Middle Eastern and Mexican cooking. This ordinary looking seed is anything but ordinary when it comes to health benefits.
Cumin is a seed that has been used since antiquity. It’s health benefits and medicinal uses were well known even then. Today, this seed of a small flowering herb of the parsley family might not be used quite as much in food preparation as it was 5000 years ago, but it’s healing properties are still valued and used in natural and Ayurvedic healing.
This traditional herbal remedy has many uses. I is a stimulant as well as a great herb for digestive disorders and even as an antiseptic of sorts. The seeds themselves are rich in iron and are thought to help stimulate the secretion of enzymes from the pancreas which can help absorb nutrients into the system. It has also been shown to boost the power of the liver's ability to detoxify the human body.
Recent studies have revealed that cumin seeds might also have anti-carcinogenic properties. In laboratory tests, this powerful little seed was shown to reduce the risk of stomach and liver tumors in animals.
The health benefits of cumin for digestive disorders has been well known throughout history. It can help with flatulence, indigestion, diarrhea, nausea, morning sickness, and atonic dyspepsia. In this case, the seeds are boiled in water to make a tea of sorts - 1 teaspoon seeds to 1 glass water. Mix with salt and a teaspoon of coriander leaf juice.
Cumin is also said to help relieve symptoms of the common cold due to it’s antiseptic properties. Again, you’ll want to boil the seeds in a tea and then drink a couple of times a day. If you also have a sore throat then try adding some dry ginger to help soothe it.
Cumin can also be applied topically and is said to be a good salve for boils. Make a black cumin paste by grinding seeds with water and apply to the affected area.
Cumin makes a great tonic for the body even if you don’t have a specific ailment to cure. It is said to increase the heat in the body thus making metabolism more efficient. It is also thought to be a powerful kidney and liver herb and can help boost your immune system. Though the appropriate studies have yet to be conducted, some believe black cumin seeds may even be able to help treat asthma and arthritis.
Iron for Energy and Immune Function
Cumin seeds, whose scientific name is Cuminum cyminum, are a very good source of iron, a mineral that plays many vital roles in the body. Iron is an integral component of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen from the lungs to all body cells, and is also part of key enzyme systems for energy production and metabolism. Additionally, iron is instrumental in keeping your immune system healthy. Iron is particularly important for menstruating women, who lose iron each month during menses. Additionally, growing children and adolescents have increased needs for iron, as do women who are pregnant or lactating.
Seeds of Good Digestion
Cumin seeds have traditionally been noted to be of benefit to the digestive system, and scientific research is beginning to bear out cumin's age-old reputation. Research has shown that cumin may stimulate the secretion of pancreatic enzymes, compounds necessary for proper digestion and nutrient assimilation.
Cumin is extremely good for digestion and related problems. The very smell (aroma) of it, which comes from an aromatic organic compound called Cuminaldehyde, the main component of its essential oil, activates our salivary glands in our mouth (the mouth watering flavor), facilitating the primary digestion of the food. Next is Thymol, a compound present in cumin, which does same to the glands which secrete acids, bile and enzymes responsible for complete digestion of the food in the stomach and the intestines, due to its Stimulating properties. Cumin is also Carminative i.e. relieves from you from gas troubles and thereby improves digestion and appetite. Due to its essential oils, magnesium and sodium content, it promotes digestion and also gives relief in stomach-ache when taken with hot water (like aqua ptycotis and mint).
Cumin seeds may also have anti-carcinogenic properties. In one study, cumin was shown to protect laboratory animals from developing stomach or liver tumors. This cancer-protective effect may be due to cumin's potent free radical scavenging abilities as well as the ability it has shown to enhance the liver's detoxification enzymes. Yet, since free radical scavenging and detoxification are important considerations for the general maintenance of wellness, cumin's contribution to wellness may be even more farther reaching.
Cumin itself has detoxifying and chemo-preventive properties and accelerates secretion of detoxifying and anti-carcinogenic enzymes from the glands, as it does to other secretions. As well as, it has nice anti oxidants like vitamin-C and vitamin-A in it, in addition to those essential oils, which, besides having countless other benefits, have anti carcinogenic properties too. It is particularly good for cancer of colon.
The main reason behind piles is constipation added with infections in the wound in the anal tract, which again is caused by constipation. Cumin, because of its dietary fiber content and carminative, stimulating, anti fungal and anti microbial properties due to the presence of essential oils comprising mainly of Cuminaldehyde and certain pyrazines, acts as a natural laxative in powdered form, helps healing up of infections or wounds in the digestive and excretory system and speeds up digestion too.
This is a very peculiar property of cumin. It is a stimulant as well as a relaxant at the same time. This property cannot be attributed to a single component alone, just as causes of insomnia cannot be attributed to a single cause. But studies show that a proper intake of vitamins (particularly B-complex) and a good digestion help induce a sound sleep. Cumin helps both of these. Some of the components of the essential oil have tranquilizing effects.
Respiratory Disorders, Asthma, Bronchitis etc.
Presence of caffeine (the stimulating agent), the richly aromatic essential oils (the disinfectants) make cumin an ideal anti congestive combination for those suffering from respiratory disorders such as Asthma, Bronchitis etc.
Common Cold is a viral infection which affects our body frequently when our immune system goes weak. Again, the essential oils present in cumin act as disinfectants and help fight viral infections which cause common cold. Cumin also does not let cough formation in the respiratory system as it is supposed to be hot and dries up the excess mucus. Cumin is rich in iron and has considerable amount of vitamin-C, which are essential for a good immunity and keeps infections away.
It is rich in iron and thus very good for lactating mothers as well as women who are undergoing menses or who are pregnant, since they are more in need of iron than others. Moreover, cumin is said to help ease and increase secretion of milk in lactating women due to presence of Thymol, which tends to increase secretions from glands, including milk which is a secretion from mammary glands. It is more beneficial if taken with honey. Cumin has remarkable amount of calcium (above 900 mg per 100 grams) which accounts to over 90% of our daily requirement of calcium. This calcium is an important constituent of milk and hence cumin is very good for lactating mothers.
As stated above, cumin is very rich in iron (above 66 mg. in each 100 grams) which is more than 5 times the daily requirement of iron for an adult. This iron is the main constituent of haemoglobin in the red blood corpuscles of blood. It is haemoglobin which transfers oxygen (as oxide of iron) to the body-cells and whose deficiency causes anemia. So, cumin can be a nutritious additive to daily diet for anemic people.
Almost all of us know that vitamin-E is good for skin. It keeps the skin young and glowing. This vitamin is also present in abundance in cumin. The essential oils present in this have disinfectant and anti fungal properties. This prevents any microbial and fungal infection from affecting the skin.
Boils are just outlets for removal of toxic substances and foreign matters such as microbes etc. from the body. So, they are rather symptoms which show that a lot of toxic substances have accumulated in the body. Here cumin can help you a great deal. Those who regularly use cumin in food have been seen keeping free from boils, rashes, pimples etc. Components such as Cuminaldehyde, Thymol, phosphorus etc. are good de-toxicants which help in the regular removal of toxins from body, through excretory system of course, and not through boils.
As discussed above, abundance of iron, presence of essential oils and vitamin-C and vitamin-A in cumin boosts up our immune system.
Cumin is also beneficial in treating renal coli, weak memory or lack of concentration, insect bites and sting etc.
Cumin is safe in food amounts and seems to be safe for most adults in appropriate medicinal amounts. The side effects of cumin are not known.
Special Precautions & Warnings
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of cumin during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Surgery: Cumin might lower blood sugar levels. Some experts worry that it might interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgery. Stop using cumin at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Moderate Interaction – Be cautious with this combination
Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs) interacts with cumin
Cumin might decrease blood sugar. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking cumin along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.
Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.
The appropriate dose of cumin depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for cumin. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.
The BEST! March 26, 2011, From Louisiana
VERY aromatic. It is as though I am trying Cumin for the first time!
Freshest Ground Cumin May 24, 2010, From California
... we constantly use cumin, because it cools the body, …
AMAZING SMELL! November 15, 2011, From Japan
Tastes great, amazing smell, I use it everyday! Will definitly reorder!
Good review July 07, 2010, From California
great July 18, 2011, From Missouri
fresh smell and taste, like it
Flavorful Seeds September 11, 2011, By quanarose
... They are delicious and flavorful. Since these are the whole seeds, they should remain tasty for years. I also have enough extra to make spice mixes for gifts.
Fresh and fragrant July 14, 2010, By k tucey
... The freshness is nothing compared to what you would find in the grocery store, and my kitchen was filled with the fragrance when I ground a tablespoon in a mortar and pestle for a dish I was preparing...