The tiny, fragrant cumin may already figure in your cooking experiments, whether it’s Indian curries, Mexican black bean soups or chili, or Arabic meat barbecues. But beyond its flavor power, cumin is a superfood that features prominently in traditional alternative remedies for a range of illnesses. Here’s a look at what that sizzle of cumin can do to keep you in good health.
1. Is A Good Source Of Iron
Iron is a crucial mineral that you need for your body’s growth and development. It helps make hemoglobin, the protein in your red blood cells which helps in the transport of oxygen to the cells and carbon dioxide to the lungs. A deficiency of this mineral can lead to anemia. But cumin can help you meet your daily quota for iron. Just 1 teaspoon of this spice gives you 1.39 mg of iron, which is 17.3% of the daily recommended amount for an adult man and 7.7% of the amount recommended for women.1 2 And that’s not all. Cumin also contains other important nutrients like vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, potassium, copper, and calcium, though in smaller amounts.
2. Improves Digestion
Ayurveda and other natural therapies put a lot of value on cumin’s digestive abilities. The ancient ayurvedic text Charaka Samhita lists it as a super remedy that helps with digestion and eases stomach pain. Cumin helps improve digestion by increasing bile acid. It also has a carminative effect, cutting out bloating and flatulence. In fact, the Indian name for cumin (jeeragam) is derived from a word that means digestion.3
Chew on some cumin seeds if a meal has settled like lead in your tummy. You can also boil a teaspoon of cumin seeds in a cup of water, let it sit overnight, and drink it in the morning to enhance digestion.4
3. Eases Symptoms Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome affects your large intestine and causes issues like bloating, abdominal cramping, constipation or diarrhea.5 Cumin can help you tackle the discomfort that this disorder causes. One study found that patients who took 20 drops of cumin essential oil daily saw a significant decrease in symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain, incomplete defecation, and the urgent need for a bowel movement. Cumin even helped those with a constipation dominant pattern of irritable bowel syndrome. Subjects found that their defecation frequency and stool consistency improved.6
4. Has Antimicrobial Properties
Harmful infection-causing germs are all around us. But studies show that cumin may be able to protect us against many of these pathogens. Common fungi such as Aspergillus, Penicillium, Saccharomyces, and Candida have been found to be vulnerable to cumin components like cumin volatile oil and cuminaldehyde. Cumin also works against bacteria such as Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus. The Staph bacteria are implicated in a number of illnesses, ranging from skin problems like folliculitis and impetigo to breast infections and even pneumonia. E. coli, on the other hand, can cause severe intestinal problems as well as infections in organs like the prostate gland or gallbladder.7 8 9 Powering up your meals with some cumin power may help fend off these deadly microbes.
5. May Improve Memory
Animal studies have found that cumin may help boost memory. In one such study, subjects who were given cumin extracts were trained to do a task. Once they learned to do the task, they were given an amnesia-inducing drug. Contrary to the control group which didn’t get any cumin extracts, the subjects on cumin extracts showed less amnesia and relearned the task much faster. The free radical-scavenging ability of the antioxidants in cumin is thought to be at least partly responsible for this effect.10
6. Helps Combat Stress
We live in stressful times. And though we’ve come to accept stress as an unavoidable part of life, it brings about changes in our endocrine, nervous, and immune systems and may be involved in health issues like hypertension, ulcers, sexual dysfunction, and memory loss. But cumin can help out here too. One animal study found that treatment with a cumin extract reversed biochemical changes induced by stress. Researchers have suggested that these beneficial effects of cumin could be due to its potent antioxidant activity.11
7. Lowers Blood Pressure
Another common problem that cumin may be able to address is hypertension. Animal studies have found that administering cumin extracts can reduce systolic blood pressure (the first number in your blood pressure reading) by improving the level of nitric oxide in the blood. Nitric oxide signals the smooth muscle around your blood vessels to relax and, thereby, lowers blood pressure.12 Cumin also brought down inflammatory and oxidative stress, markers of hypertension, in the subjects.13
8. Lowers Blood Sugar And Improves Immunity In Those With Diabetes
If you’re struggling to control your blood sugar, cumin may be able to lend a hand. Animal studies have found that cumin may lower blood sugar by stimulating β-cells – cells in your pancreas that release, store, and produce insulin – to increase insulin secretion.
People with diabetes also face a greater risk of infections and complications because the disease can cause immune dysfunction. But cumin may be useful here too as it may improve immunity. This beneficial effect could be due to the antioxidant properties of cumin, helping counter oxidative stress that contributes to immune deficiency in diabetics.14
9. Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Research indicates that cumin has anti-inflammatory effects. Persistent inflammation has been associated with a range of health issues such as cancer, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease. So make sure you spice up your dinner with a little cumin to counter inflammation. It’s particularly important to have foods which can fight inflammation since so many foods that we regularly consume such as red meat, fried foods, refined carbs, and unhealthy fats promote inflammation.15 16
10. Helps Manage Weight
Struggling to lose those extra pounds? A dash of cumin may give you a leg up. One study looked at the effect of consuming cumin powder in overweight women who were on a reduced calorie diet. One group was given 3 g of cumin powder with yogurt at 2 meals every day for 3 months while the control group had yogurt without cumin. It was found that cumin powder was effective at reducing BMI, weight, fat mass, and waist circumference significantly.17
11. Lowers Cholesterol Levels
High cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke and, unfortunately, approximately 1 out of 3 Americans suffers from this condition.18 But research indicates that consuming cumin can lower LDL cholesterol or bad cholesterol and triglyceride while increasing HDL cholesterol or good cholesterol. It is thought that the glycoside saponins in cumin are responsible for this beneficial effect as they prevent the absorption of cholesterol and increase its excretion in stool.19
12. May Protect Against Cancer
Animal studies have found that cumin may have a protective effect against certain kinds of cancer such as colon cancer and liver cancer. This beneficial effect is thought to be due to cumin’s potent antioxidant properties as well as its ability to enhance the liver’s detoxification enzymes.20 So adding this flavorsome spice to your dishes may also help keep the dreaded C away.
Spice Up With Cumin!
Wondering how to upgrade your cooking skills to include this amazing spice? Toss cumin seeds on a hot pan till they release a warm aroma and grind them after they cool down. This powder can now be used to flavor soups, stews, and curries. It can even go into salads and bakes. Don’t be afraid to experiment!
You can also try making a cool glass of jal jeera, a traditional drink from north India that literally translates to “cumin water.” To prepare jal jeera, pound 2 tablespoons of roasted cumin seeds, 1 tablespoon of dry mango powder, and fresh mint and coriander leaves into a smooth paste. Add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice and you’ve got yourself a jal jeera concentrate that can be mixed in with water to make a refreshing drink that helps with digestion.
|↑1||Full Report (All Nutrients): 02014, Spices, cumin seed. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑2||Iron. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑3||Dog, Tieraona Low. “A reason to season: the therapeutic benefits of spices and culinary herbs.” Explore: the journal of science and healing 2, no. 5 (2006): 446-449.|
|↑4||Swaminathan, Uma. Healing with Herbs. Jaico Publishing House, 2016.|
|↑5||Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). HealthDirect.|
|↑6||Agah, Shahram, Amir Mehdi Taleb, Reyhane Moeini, Narjes Gorji, and Hajar Nikbakht. “Cumin extract for symptom control in patients with irritable bowel syndrome: a case series.” Middle East journal of digestive diseases 5, no. 4 (2013): 217.|
|↑7||Shetty, R. S., R. S. Singhal, and P. R. Kulkarni. “Antimicrobial properties of cumin.” World Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology 10, no. 2 (1994): 232-233.|
|↑8||Staphylococcus aureus Infections. Merck Manual.|
|↑9||Escherichia coli Infections. Merck Manual.|
|↑10, ↑11||Koppula, Sushruta, and Dong Kug Choi. “Cuminum cyminum extract attenuates scopolamine-induced memory loss and stress-induced urinary biochemical changes in rats: a noninvasive biochemical approach.” Pharmaceutical biology 49, no. 7 (2011): 702-708.|
|↑12||Nitric Oxide. University of Washington.|
|↑13||Kalaivani, Periyathambi, Ramesh Babu Saranya, Ganapathy Ramakrishnan, Vijayan Ranju, Sekar Sathiya, Veeraraghavan Gayathri, Lakshmi Kantham Thiyagarajan, Jayakothanda Ramaswamy Venkhatesh, Chidambaram Saravana Babu, and Sadagopan Thanikachalam. “Cuminum cyminum, a dietary spice, attenuates hypertension via endothelial nitric oxide synthase and NO pathway in renovascular hypertensive rats.” Clinical and Experimental Hypertension 35, no. 7 (2013): 534-542.|
|↑14||Moubarz, Gehan, Mohamed A. Embaby, Nada M. Doleib, and Mona M. Taha. “Effect of dietary antioxidant supplementation (Cuminum cyminum) on the bacterial susceptibility of diabetes-induced rats.” Central-European journal of immunology 41, no. 2 (2016): 132.|
|↑15||Foods that fight inflammation. Harvard Health Publications.|
|↑16||Wei, Juan, Xitong Zhang, Yang Bi, Ruidong Miao, Zhong Zhang, and Hailan Su. “Anti-inflammatory effects of cumin essential oil by blocking JNK, ERK, and NF-κB signaling pathways in LPS-stimulated RAW 264.7 Cells.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2015 (2015).|
|↑17, ↑19||Zare, Roghayeh, Fatemeh Heshmati, Hossein Fallahzadeh, and Azadeh Nadjarzadeh. “Effect of cumin powder on body composition and lipid profile in overweight and obese women.” Complementary therapies in clinical practice 20, no. 4 (2014): 297-301.|
|↑18||Cholesterol. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑20||Parthasarathy, Villupanoor A., Bhageerathy Chempakam, and T. John Zachariah, eds. Chemistry of spices. Cabi, 2008.|