With a distinct flavor and recognizable taste, cumin is a common ingredient in many chili dishes and is commonly used in various Indian, Mexican and Vietnamese dishes. Cumin is derived from the Cuminum cyminum herb, which is a member of the parsley family. There are several different types of cumin including Cuminum cyminum L., Bunium persicum B., and Nigella sativa L.
The history of cumin dates back over 5000 years. It is well documented that cumin was used by the Greeks and Romans for medicinal purposes. Ancient Greeks were known to keep a dish of cumin at the dinner table, and this practice continues today in Morocco on the dinner table.
Cumin is also one of the common plants seen growing in Medieval monasteries, and was thought to promote love and fidelity. As such, cumin was often carried to weddings and sent with married soldiers off to battle.
Grown in countries such as Malta, India, Sicily, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and China, cumin is enjoying a wonderful resurgence due to its many health benefits. Here are just a few:
1 – Detoxification
Cumin has been said to be a great tonic to the liver and kidneys. Cumin is also known to have antiseptic effects and has even been used as an effective larvicide. The oil extracted from cumin seeds has even been known to kill strains of bacteria that are resistant to other antiseptics. For reasons such as this, many experts believe that cumin can help fight bacteria that may be disruptive to the immune system.
2 – Digestion
Cumin increases the production of digestive enzymes and for this reason, is known to increase digestive speed. Cumin has also been shown to be effective for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
3 – Controls Blood Sugar
It has been demonstrated in several studies that cumin helps control blood sugar and reduces many of the negative symptoms associated with diabetes. For example, cumin has been seen to decrease the advanced glycogen end products (AGEs) which are produced when sugars attach to proteins and disrupt their normal function. Because AGCe are known to cause damage to the eyes, liver, small blood vessels and kidney and nerves of diabetics, cumin can be a powerful agent in combating diabetes.
4 – Reduces Cholesterol
Cumin has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol, in one study showing a 10 percent reduction after taking cumin extract for six weeks. Cumin also increases HDL cholesterol, and it was shown in a study of 88 women who took 3 grams of cumin twice a day for three months that they had higher HDL levels than those who did not take any cumin. Lastly, cumin has been found to reduce unhealthy blood triglycerides when taken in 75 mg doses twice daily for eight weeks.
5 – Combats Inflammation
There are many compounds in cumin that have been found to be powerful anti-inflammatory agents, some of which reduce levels of a key inflammation marker, NF-kappaB. The active ingredients in black cumin include thymoquinone, di-thymoquinone and thymol are thought to reduce inflammation as well as oxidant and carcinogenic damage.
In one study published in Phytotherapy Research thymoquinone was shown to reduce inflammation in people with arthritis. Moreover, for conditions that may be aggravated by increased inflammation, such as joint deterioration, cumin can be effective.
6 – Stimulates the Central Nervous System
The central nervous system (CNS) contributes to a wide variety of functions, from coordination and body control to memory. Improving the function of the CNS can therefore improve memory, enhance cognitive function and help fight against diseases such as Parkinson’s.
7 – Improves Weight Loss
Preliminary research has shown that cumin may act like a diet pill and has been found to help in the attempt to lose weight. In one study, overweight women who ate cumin along with a healthy diet showed improvement in their weight and vitals such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides. In another study, both overweight men and women experienced improvement in their weight by adding cumin to their diet.
Cumin has been known for centuries to have many medicinal effects. Helping detox the body, improve circulation, digestion, blood cholesterol, inflammation, blood sugar and weight loss are just a few of the many health benefits of cumin, and likely in time many more will be discovered. Perhaps the best news is that cumin is delicious, which makes it easy to add to the diet.