Scientific: Nigella sativa [WikiPedia]
Composition: Cumin contains lots of plant compounds that are linked with potential health benefits, including terpenes, phenols, flavonoids and alkaloids. The strong aromatic smell and warm, bitterish taste of Cumin fruits are due to the presence of a volatile oil which is separated by distillation of the fruit with water. It is limpid and pale yellow in colour, and is mainly a mixture of cymol or cymene and cuminic aldehyde, or cyminol, which is its chief constituent. The tissue of the fruits contains a fatty oil with resin, mucilage and gum, malates and albuminous matter, and in the outerseed coat there is much tannin.
Appearance: Black cumin is an annual herbaceous plant with fine foliage and delicate pale bluish purple or white flowers. It is indigenous to the Mediterranean, but grows prolifically in many areas of the world.
Parts Used: The seeds are used in cooking and teas. The oil is used both cosmetically and medicinally.
Common Uses: Cumin seed is used as a spice for its distinctive flavour and aroma. Cumin can be found in some cheeses, such as Leyden cheese, and in some traditional breads from France. Cumin can be an ingredient in chili powder (often Tex-Mex or Mexican-style), and is found in achiote blends, adobos, sofrito, garam masala, curry powder, bahaarat, and is used to flavor numerous commercial food products. In South Asian cooking, it is often combined with coriander seeds in a powdered mixture called dhana jeera. Cumin can be used ground or as whole seeds. It imparts an earthy, warming and aromatic character to food, making it a staple in certain stews and soups, as well as spiced gravies such as curry and chili. It is also used as an ingredient in some pickles and pastries. The seeds are powdered and used in different forms like kashaya (decoction), arishta (fermented decoction), and vati (tablet/pills), and processed with ghee (a semifluid clarified butter). In traditional medicine practices of several countries, dried cumin seeds are believed to have medicinal purposes, although there is no scientific evidence for any use as a drug or medicine. In southern Indian states, a popular drink called jira water is made by boiling cumin seeds.
In a 100-g reference amount, cumin seeds provide high amounts of the Daily Value for fat (especially monounsaturated fat), protein, and dietary fiber. B vitamins, vitamin E, and several dietary minerals, especially iron, magnesium, and manganese, are present in substantial Daily Value amounts. Cumin seeds contain petroselinic acid.
Modern studies have confirmed some of the health benefits cumin is traditionally known for, including promoting digestion and reducing food-borne infections. Research has also revealed some new benefits, such as promoting weight loss and improving blood sugar control and cholesterol.
- Cumin aids digestion by increasing the activity of digestive proteins. It may also reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
- Cumin is very dense in iron, providing almost 20% of your daily iron in one teaspoon.
- Free radicals are lone electrons that cause inflammation and damage DNA. Cumin contains antioxidants that stabilize free radicals.
- Cumin supplements may help improve blood sugar control, though it is not clear what causes this effect or how much is needed.
- Cumin’s traditional use as a seasoning may restrict the growth of infectious bacteria and fungi. This may reduce food-borne illnesses.
- Cumin extracts reduce signs of narcotic addiction in mice. It is not yet known if they would have similar effects in humans.
- Cumin contains multiple plant compounds that decrease inflammation in test-tube studies. It is not clear if it can be used to help treat inflammatory diseases in people.
Topic Specific Research:
- Cuminum cyminum and Carum carvi: An update [PubMED];
- Cumin extract for symptom control in patients with irritable bowel syndrome: a case series [PubMED];
- A Survey of Plant Iron Content—A Semi-Systematic Review [PubMED];
- Physio-Biochemical Composition and Untargeted Metabolomics of Cumin (Cuminum cyminum L.) Make It Promising Functional Food and Help in Mitigating Salinity Stress [PubMED];
- Spices in the management of diabetes mellitus [PubMED];
- Chemical composition and antimicrobial activity of cumin oil (Cuminum cyminum, Apiaceae) [PubMED];
PLEASE NOTE that herbal and other natural products can harm your animals – not all plants are safe and gentle! Do not attempt using any of the ingredients listed, or any other plant matter, without the guidance of a qualified herbalist.