Cumin Seeds

Cumin seeds on white background.
Jeera (cumin seeds). Copyright: digifuture / 123RF Stock Photo

Cumin lends a characteristic aroma and flavour to a variety of foods. The seeds are most popular but the leaves have also been used in cooking. It is especially popular as a flavouring throughout India and is now to be found infusing dishes in Africa and other parts of Asia.

Cumin (Cuminum cyminum L.) is a plant in the Apiaceae family. The plant was first thought to have originated in Egypt. It is an annual which is grown throughout India, China, Iran, Iraq and North Africa such as Tunisia and Morocco. It is known as jeera in India.

Extracts of the seed also have numerous health benefits. It helps with the following:-

  • aiding digestion including dyspepsia
  • skin conditions including treatments for boils
  • improving immunity
  • reducing sleep issues such as insomnia
  • relieving respiratory disorders such as asthma and bronchitis
  • alleviating diarrhoea
  • reducing the impact of jaundice

Componentry

The essential oil was extracted from the seeds by hydrodistillation. The oil yield was 3.8 percent. Examination by gas chromatography (GC) and mass spectrometry (GC-MS). The main components are cuminal or cuminaldehyde (36 – 39%), cuminic alcohol (16.92%), γ-terpinene (11-15%), safranal (10.87%), o-cymene (12%), p-cymene (9.85%) and β-pinene (7.75%) and myrtenal (3.5%) (Li and Jiang, 2004; Kedia et al., 2014).

The plant, the composition of the seed oil and its medicinal benefits have been exceptionally well reviewed (Al-Snafi, 2016).

Nutritional Benefits

  • vitamins A, C, B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B5 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine).
  • minerals – iron, manganese, copper, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium.
  • sources of protein, carbohydrate, dietary fibre (fiber)
  • various fatty acids

Clinical And Medicinal Benefits

Constipation

Cumin seeds have a high fibre content, which boosts the both activity and transit times for food in the gastrointestinal tract. This in turn stimulates enzyme secretion. Cumin seeds are often used as a natural laxative. Due to this property, cumin seeds are capable of healing severe digestive disorders, like piles.

Recipe: To get rid of constipation, roast 1 tbsp. of cumin seeds till they turn deep brown and grind them into a fine powder. Then mix the powder with water and honey and consume it on an empty stomach everyday.  

Diabetes

A few studies with diabetic mice (streptozotocin induced) suggest that there is some benefit in cumin seeds reducing blood sugar levels (hyperglycaemia). The excretion of glucose in the urine (glucosuria) is also reduced. These are characteristic symptoms of diabetes.

For Pregnant Women

The properties of cumin seeds help in relieving constipation and improving digestion in pregnant women. The seeds also help in dealing with pregnancy symptoms like nausea and constipation. Along with aiding in better delivery, they also enhance lactation.

Recipe: Take a glass of warm milk and add half tbsp. cumin powder and 1 tbsp. honey to it. Mix well. Have it everyday. 

References

Al-Snafi, A. E. (2016). The pharmacological activities of Cuminum cyminum-A review. IOSR Journal of Pharmacy, 6(6), pp. 46-65.

Li, R. and Jiang, Z.-T. (2004), Chemical composition of the essential oil of Cuminum cyminum L. from China. Flavour Fragr. J., 19 pp. 311–313. doi: 10.1002/ffj.1302

Kedia, A., Prakash, B., Mishra, P. K., & Dubey, N. K. (2014). Antifungal and antiaflatoxigenic properties of Cuminum cyminum (L.) seed essential oil and its efficacy as a preservative in stored commodities. International Journal of Food Microbiology, 168, pp. 1-7

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