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Cumin is an aromatic spice belonging to the carrot and parsley family. If you have a love for international cuisine or you are just a food lover, you might have noticed that cumin is a common ingredient in many of the best dishes served in eastern Europe and Asia. Cumin rice is a much loved Indian recipe that is commonly prepared in almost every Indian kitchen. In fact, the rich nutty flavour of cumin is the staple eatable in the local cuisine of Morocco.

It might interest you to know that cumin recipes are mentioned in some of the ancient recipe books found in Iraq. However, the use of cumin isn’t restricted to the culinary world. Cumin finds an important place in Folk and ayurvedic medicine for its healing and health building properties. It has long since been used for as a galactagogue and antimicrobial in various cultures. According to some historians, cumin was considered an important medicinal spice in ancient Egypt.

Several pieces of research are now being done to confirm the Ayurvedic uses of cumin seeds. In fact, cumin seeds have been clinically proven to be effective against reducing symptoms of obesity and diabetes. What better than a spice that suits your taste buds and your body?

Did you know?

Cumin plant is an annual herb which can grow up to a height of 1 to 1.5 feet. The smooth stem of cumin is highly branched. It has long compound leaves while the tiny cumin flowers are white or red and are born in clusters on cumin branches. Cumin seeds are long but ovoid and have ridges on their surface.

Some basic facts about cumin:

  • Botanical name: Cuminum cyminum
  • Family: Apiaceae
  • Common names: Cumin, Jeera, Zira.
  • Sanskrit name: Jiraka.
  • Parts used: Fruit.
  • Native region and geographical distribution: Cumin is a native of Egypt but it is also commonly grown in China, Morocco, and India.
  • Energetics: Hot.
  1. Cumin, Caraway and Black cumin varieties
  2. Health benefits of cumin
  3. How to use cumin seeds
  4. Cumin dosage
  5. Cumin side effects

The terms cumin, caraway and black cumin are often used interchangeably. Actually, these three terms are used in reference to different cumin varieties. Let’s find out some basic differences in all of these varieties.

  • Cumin: Cuminum cyminum, also known as Safed jira is the cumin normally used in cooking. It has a warm aromatic flavour which is described to be a bit nutty and earthy.
  • Caraway: Cuminum nigrum also called Shahi jira or kashmiri jira has a flavour that is a bit stronger than that of your kitchen cumin. Caraway seeds are also known to be a bit curved and darker in colour as compared to cumin.
  • Black cumin: Nigella or Kalonji. The spice that is called as black cumin by some people isn’t a cumin at all. It is an entirely different plant belonging to the family Ranunculaceae. According to some historians, Nigella seeds were used in mummification procedures in ancient Egypt.

Another spice that is often confused with cumin is Kaljiri or kali jira. While kaljiri looks a bit like cumin, its taste is much more bitter and harsh as compared to cumin. Additionally, kaljiri is used only in a selective few dishes.

Cumin is a wonder herb when it comes to its benefits for the gastrointestinal tract (gut). It does not only reduce the symptoms of common gastric problems like intestinal gas and flatulence but it also a known remedy for treating irritable bowel syndrome. It is traditionally known to improve milk secretion in lactating mothers.

When you think that is all, cumin seeds are antimicrobial and antioxidant in nature too. Hence, overall cumin seeds are health promoting. Let us together explore some health benefits of cumin.

  • Promotes weight loss: Cumin is a well-known weight loss agent in traditional medicine. It has now been scientifically proven that cumin powder, when given alone or with lemon promotes weight reduction in obese individuals.
  • Benefits for stomach: Cumin seeds are your best bet against most stomach problems. Not only do they relieve stomach pain, bloating and gas but also they have been evidenced to improve irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Anti-diabetic: Research evidence indicates that cumin is an excellent hypoglycemic agent (reduces blood sugar). It also reduces the risk of complications associated with diabetes.
  • Good for heart: Cumin seeds have been proven to reduce cholesterol and regulate blood pressure levels, two major risk factors for heart diseases. Cumin is an excellent antioxidant and anticoagulant (prevents blood clot). Regular consumption may protect you from heart attacks and protects heart from age-related damage.
  • Improves skin and scalp health: Cumin is an excellent antibacterial and antifungal agent. It inhibits the growth of infectious fungi and bacteria on skin and scalp. Being an antioxidant, it helps delay premature ageing of skin and hair greying.
  • Improves brain function: Cumin seeds are known for their stress and anxiety reducing properties. They also improve memory and cognition.
  1. Cumin for weight loss
  2. Cumin for cholesterol
  3. Cumin for diabetes
  4. Cumin for Irritable bowel syndrome
  5. Cumin benefits for stomach
  6. Cumin seeds anti-inflammatotry
  7. Cumin anticoagulant properties
  8. Cumin antimicrobial activity
  9. Cumin for high blood pressue
  10. Cumin for heart health
  11. Cumin as an antioxidant
  12. Cumin for brain health
  13. Cumin seeds for lactation
  14. Cumin for skin and hair

Cumin for weight loss

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), obesity is a condition marked by significantly higher fat levels in the body.

Obesity is mostly caused by an imbalance in calorie uptake and burning out of the same calories. It has become one of the major concerns all over the world. Being overweight isn’t just physically challenging but it has also been reported to increase the risk of diseases like diabetes, blood pressure, and liver problems. Fortunately, obesity as a disease is completely curable.

Recent studies indicate that cumin may be a potent weight loss agent. In a random trial, a group of 72 obese people was given two different doses of cumin and lime capsules or placebo (a substance which doesn’t affect health in any way) two times a day for a period of eight weeks. At the end of the designated period, it was observed that the group which received a high dose of cumin-lemon capsules showed a significant reduction in total body weight.

In another clinical study, a group of 88 overweight people were administered 3 grams of cumin or placebo twice a day for three months. A substantial amount of weight loss was observed in people who took cumin.

Hence, it can be safely said that cumin is an effective weight loss agent. It is always advisable to ask your doctor for the right dosage of cumin for you depending on your body type.

(Read more: Obesity causes)

Cumin for cholesterol

Cholesterol is a type of fat that is found naturally in our bodies. It is an essential part of our body cells and is needed for various metabolic functions including proper digestion of food in the stomach.

However, an imbalance in cholesterol levels can lead to conditions like atherosclerosis (narrowing of arteries due to fat deposition) which in turn increase the risk of heart strokes and heart attacks. According to doctors, the most common remedy for high cholesterol is a healthier diet and change in lifestyle. Supplementing your diet with potential fat burning foods may also help in alleviating the problem of high cholesterol.

According to a review article published on Phytotherapy, cumin is an excellent hypolipidemic (lowers blood cholesterol) in at least 6 random clinical trials. Additionally, it suggested that regular consumption of cumin reduces the amount of a specific kind of body fat (non-triglycerides).

Furthermore, cumin administration has also shown a significant reduction in LDL (low-density cholesterol) levels in some weight loss studies. Hence, we can safely say that cumin has a bright future as a hypolipidemic agent.

Cumin for diabetes

In a recent clinical study, a group of diabetes patients was given either a dose of cumin capsule or placebo once a day for 8 weeks. At the end of 8 weeks, it was noted that the group that received cumin showed a marked reduction in blood insulin levels. Additionally, it was also noted that all the subjects showed significant improvement in other diabetic complications.

In another clinical study, the hypoglycemic (blood sugar lowering) effects of cumin essential oil have been found to be much more prominent than that of Vitamin E. Additionally, it was also suggested that cumin essential oil is a potent anti-inflammatory (reduces swelling).

However, it is always recommended that you talk to your doctor before taking cumin as a health supplement.

(Read more: Diabetes treatment)

Cumin for Irritable bowel syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome is a common gut problem which is marked by symptoms like flatulence, stomach pain, constipation, and diarrhoea. The current line of treatment for IBS includes dietary modifications or changes in lifestyle.

However, modern medicine is fast moving towards more plant-based treatments. In this trend, a small-scale study was done to test the potential of cumin in relieving various IBS symptoms. The clinical study comprised of 55 IBS patients who were given 20 drops of cumin essential oil per day. Any changes or improvement in symptoms were noted.

After 4 weeks, a substantial reduction was observed in symptoms of a stomach ache. Diarrhoea, and bloating. Still, if you are suffering from IBS, it’s preferable that you check in with your ayurevda doctor before taking cumin in any form.

Cumin benefits for stomach

Cumin is a traditional remedy for most of the common gastric problems like acidity, indigestion, gas and stomach ulcers. Animal studies indicate that regular consumption of cumin has a stimulatory effect on the secretion of digestive enzymes from the pancreas.

According to a review article published in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, numerous clinical studies have suggested that Persian cumin or caraway seeds have anti-dyspeptic (alleviates indigestion) properties. However, further studies are still needed to deal with possible safety concerns.

(Read more: Upset stomach treatment)

Another review in a Taylor and Francis Journal mentions an in vitro (Lab-based) study wherein cumin extracts were found to be potent in killing the most common ulcer-causing bacteria, Helicobacter pylori. It was also claimed that cumin is equally effective on antibiotic-resistant strains of this bacteria.

However, in the absence of human studies, you are suggested to refer to your doctor before taking cumin for any kind of stomach condition.

(Read more: Stomach pain relief)

Cumin seeds anti-inflammatotry

A recent laboratory study indicates the anti-inflammatory effects of cumin seeds. The study suggested that cumin inhibited the action of a certain immune responsive molecule to mediate its anti-inflammatory effects.

It was further added that cuminaldehyde, a natural chemical present in cumin, may be responsible for the anti-inflammatory property for this spice. However, due to the lack of clinical studies, it is best to check in with an ayurveda doctor before taking cumin as a supplement for health.

Cumin anticoagulant properties

Laboratory-based studies suggest that cumin is a potential anticoagulant (prevents blood clotting). Studies suggest that ether extracts of cumin efficiently inhibits the aggregation of platelets in the body.

However, no human studies have yet been done to account for the possible mechanism, side effects and dosage of cumin as an anticoagulant. So, it is best to ask your doctor to know more about the blood thinning properties of cumin.

Cumin antimicrobial activity

Numerous studies have been done to test the efficiency of cumin and cumin extracts in killing most of the common microbial pathogens and food spoiling bacteria. All lab-based studies claim that cumin is an excellent antimicrobial.

In one of these studies, it was found that cumin is very effective in killing Escherichia coli, and Staphylococcus aureus. Another research claims that the essential oil of cumin is effective against a lot of foodborne fungi like Aspergillus. Hence, it can be used as a natural food preservative in the future.

According to a study published in the World Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology, cumin has a potent antimicrobial action against the common yeasts Saccharomyces and Candida. However, clinical trials are still pending to confirm any benefits or side effects of cumin as an antimicrobial. So, it is recommended that you talk to your ayurveda doctor to understand the antimicrobial content and action of cumin.

Cumin for high blood pressue

Traditional medicine system has been using cumin as a remedy for high blood pressure.

In vivo studies claim that cumin seeds reduce the systolic blood pressure in the body. However, no clinical studies have been done in this field so far. So, it is best to refer to a doctor before taking cumin for high blood pressure problems.

Cumin for heart health

Cumin has a lot of benefits when it comes to heart health. Firstly, it is claimed to reduce blood pressure. Second, it is an excellent hypolipidemic. And finally, studies hint that cumin is a potent antioxidant. Together, these three properties may not only reduce the risk of heart diseases like strokes and heart attacks but they also keep the heart healthier by reducing the adverse effects of stress and lifestyle problems on the body. 

(Read more: Heart disease prevention)

Cumin as an antioxidant

Numerous lab studies have been done to test the antioxidant potential of cumin and all of them suggest that cumin is an excellent antioxidant.

A recent study claims that the polyphenols present in cumin are the primary antioxidants of this spice. A further study indicates that the most potent antioxidant present in cumin oil is gamma-terpinene.  Researchers hint that the antioxidant property of cumin oil makes it useful as a preservative in the food industry.

Cumin for brain health

Traditional medicine recognizes cumin as an anti-stress herb. Animal studies claim that cumin is efficient in fighting anxiety and stress-related symptoms. It was further stated that regular consumption of cumin may help improve memory and cognition.

(Read more: What causes stress)

In vitro studies indicate that aqueous and ethanolic extracts of cumin may be useful in reducing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s a brain disorder which is associated with a progressive loss of brain functions including loss of memory and cognition.

According to doctors, this disease progresses by inhibition of chemicals like acetylcholine, which is responsible for intracellular signalling in the brain. The current choice of drugs for treating Alzheimer's is not only costly but they also come with certain side effects like gastric discomfort, anxiety etc. Studies indicate that cumin extracts administration can increase the amount of acetylcholine in the brain. Thus delaying the symptoms of Alzheimer's. However, in the absence of clinical studies, it is best to talk to your doctor about the potential benefits of cumin seeds for brain function.

Cumin seeds for lactation

Cumin is a known galactagogue (improves milk secretion) in the traditional and ayurvedic system of medicine.

According to the book Green pharmacy: New discoveries in herbal remedies for common diseases, administration of cumin in the diet leads to an increase in the number of total mammary cells (breast cells). However, no clinical trials are currently available to prove the efficiency of cumin seeds in humans. So, nursing mothers are advised to refer to their ayurvedic doctor before taking cumin seeds in any form.

Cumin for skin and hair

Studies suggest that cumin is an efficient anti-fungal and antibacterial. It has been reported to be especially efficient in killing the fungus responsible for causing the common skin and scalp infections. Additionally, the antioxidant properties of cumin may have some benefits in keeping the skin younger and provide a natural shine and strength to hairs. 

Cumin face masks and scrubs are used for a glowing and healthy looking skin. However, it is always advisable to study more about the possible effects of cumin on your skin type before you use cumin for your skin or hair.

Cumin seeds and powder is popularly used as a condiment in various cuisines for its distinct aroma and flavour.

The earthy flavour of cumin seeds is one of the primary flavours of Garam masala, which is a much sought after Indian spice mixture. Additionally, cumin is used in flavouring bread. Pies, and other baked products.

Cumin oil is used in cooking while the essential oil of this herb is used for its aromatic and medicinal qualities. Essential oil experts characterize the aroma of cumin as warm and nutty.

Cumin tablets and capsules are also prescribed by some ayurveda doctors as a health supplement.

How to make cumin water?

 Cumin water is one of the most commonly used weight loss remedies. It has been scientifically proven that cumin is an effective weight loss agent. Here is a small recipe to prepare this remedy at home.

  • Take some cumin seeds in a cup.
  • Boil water in a pan and pour the boiling water inside the cup of cumin seeds.
  • Let it sit for at least 5 minutes. If you like your tea stronger you can keep the seeds brewing in for a bit longer.
  • Strain the seeds out and drink it warm.

If you don’t like the flavour of cumin tea, to enhance the taste you can always add honey, ginger or lemon to your tea. Apart from making your tea more flavourful, it will also boost the health benefits of this tea.

According to ayurvedic doctors, 1 gram of cumin can ideally be taken per day. However, cumin dosage varies depending on the age and physiological condition of the person. So, if you want to take cumin in the form of a health supplement, it is preferable that you refer to an ayurvedic doctor to know the right dosage for maximum benefits.

  • Cumin is used as an abortifacient (causes miscarriage) in some parts of India. Additionally, there is no clinical research to test the effects of cumin on pregnant women. So, pregnant women are strongly recommended to check with their doctor before taking cumin in any form.
  • Research shows that cumin is a potential anticoagulant (reduces blood clotting). So, if you suffer from any kind of bleeding disorder like haemophilia or a deficiency in clotting factors in the body, it is best to avoid cumin.
  • Cumin has been claimed to be a potent hypoglycemic (reduces blood sugar). So, if you normally have low blood sugar levels or if you are a diabetic person on medication, it is better that you don’t use cumin.
  • Cumin is a known blood thinner. So, if you are about to undergo any surgery or have recently undergone a surgery, it is best to avoid cumin for that particular time period. As it may slow down your healing process.
  • Natural allergy to cumin is not common but it has been reported in a case study on a 68-year-old woman. So, if you are just starting on with a cumin diet, it is preferable to get yourself tested for cumin allergy or start with small doses of cumin.
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References

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