Cumin is a distinctly fragrant and tasty spice that has many digestive and detoxifying properties for the body.
Cumin is related to coriander and is a member of the parsley family. The seed component of the plant is mainly what is used as a spice and it is a key ingredient in chili powder and curry powder. Cumin has a strong, sharp taste and is used extensively in Mexican, Indian, North African, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking.
Cumin is a source of iron and manganese. Rich in essential oils such as cuminaldehyde and pyranzines, cumin is associated with blood glucose-lowering effects.
In traditional medicine, cumin helps aid digestion and related problems. Its aromatic essential oils, mainly cuminaldehyde, activate the salivary glands in the mouth, facilitating the primary digestion of food. Thymol, another compound present in cumin, has stimulating properties and helps to trigger the glands which secrete acids, bile and the enzymes responsible for complete digestion of food in the stomach and the intestines, and greater absorption of nutrients. Cumin is also a carminative i.e. it prevents the build-up of gas in the intestine and thereby reduces flatulence, improves digestion and appetite.
Cumin has antibacterial properties and has been known to protect against hookworm infection (a soil-transmitted parasitic infection).
One study showed that rats that were given an extract of black cumin had reduced inflammation attributed to arthritis.
Rats who consumed cumin for six weeks had marked reduction in blood glucose, hemoglobin and triglyceride levels. Researchers also found cumin supplementation to be more effect than glibenclamide (an oral hypoglycemic medication to help control blood glucose) in the treatment of diabetes mellitus.
Cumin added to the diets of rats slowed down the formation of colon cancer cells.
Cumin was found to be highly effective at killing H. pylori, a bacteria associated with stomach ulcers.
Tips on Using Cumin
- Because cumin can lose its flavor quickly, fresh-ground seeds are preferable to cumin powder.
- Lightly roast whole cumin seeds to bring out the flavor before using them in a recipe.
- Cumin goes well with chicken, or add it to legume dishes such as lentils and beans.
- After a meal, chew a blend of cumin seeds, fennel, cloves and cardamom to enhance digestion and sweeten the breath.
- Tekeoglu I, Dogan A, Demiralp L. Effects of thymoquinone (volatile oil of black cumin) on rheumatoid arthritis in rat models.Phytother Res. July 11, 2006
- Hypolipidemic effect of Cuminum cyminum L. on alloxan-induced diabetic rats. Pharmacol Res. 2002 Sep;46(3):251-5.
- Lee HS. Cuminaldehyde: Aldose Reductase and alpha-Glucosidase Inhibitor Derived from Cuminum cyminum L. seeds. J Agric Food Chem. 2005; 53(7):2446-50
- Nalini N, Manju V,Menon VP. Effect of spices on lipid metabolism in 1,2-dimethylhydrazine-induced rat colon carcinogenesis. J Med Food. 2006 Summer;9(2):237-45.
- O'Mahoney R et al. Bactericidal and anti-adhesive properties of culinary and medicinal plants against Helicobacter pylori. World J Gastroenterol. 2005 Dec 21;11(47):7499-507.