Cumin is a herb with very distinct flavour. Its distinctive and strong flavour, warm perception on taste buds which comes from certain group of essential oils in seeds makes it favourite for many. Its powder is pungent, sharp and slightly sweet; greenish brown in colour, and is an essential ingredient in Mexican and Indian cuisine. The spice is native to Middle-East Asian region, and is grown all over the world for its flavourful seeds.
In the Middle Ages cumin seed was thought to promote love and fidelity, so it was carried by attendees of weddings, and soldiers were always sent off to battle with a fresh loaf of cumin seed bread.
People take cumin for digestion problems including diarrhoea, colic, bowel spasms, and gas. Cumin is also used to increase urine flow to relieve bloating, to start menstruation, and to increase sexual desire (as an aphrodisiac).
Cumin finds its primary use in culinary. It is used as a spice and employed in cooking as a condiment and flavouring base. To keep its fragrance and flavour intact, it is generally ground just before preparing dishes. Its seeds have been used since ancient times in the preparation of many popular dishes in the Mediterranean, Asian and Chinese cuisines. Some Indian vegetarian, non vegetarian curries and rice dishes use cumin on regular basis. Its seeds have also been used in the preparation of soups, barbecue sauces and pickling.
Cumin is a good source of Iron, Manganese, and other vitamins and minerals. It can stimulate the production of pancreatic enzymes and help digestion. It is protective against memory loss and the damaging effects of stress on the body.
Along with its culinary uses, it is has equally important medical uses. For its health benefits it has been used in Ayurvedic medicines for centuries.
Health benefits of cumin seed
Good for Gut: The seeds are an excellent source of dietary fibre. The active principles in the cumin may improve gut motility and help in digestion by augmenting gastro-intestinal enzyme secretions. Cumin seeds contain numerous phyto-chemicals that are known to have antioxidant, carminative and anti-flatulent properties.
Source of Minerals: This spice is an excellent source of minerals like iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, selenium, zinc and magnesium. Copper is required in the production of red blood cells. Iron is required for red blood cell formation. Zinc is a co-factor in many enzymes that regulate growth and development, sperm generation, digestion and nucleic acid synthesis. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the powerful anti-oxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
Source of Vitamins: The spice also contains very good amounts of B-complex vitamins such as thiamin, vitamin B-6, niacin, riboflavin, and other vital anti-oxidant vitamins like vitamin E, vitamin A, and vitamin C.
Cancer Prevention: Cumin seeds may also have anti-carcinogenic properties. The cancer-protective effect may be due to cumin's potent free radical scavenging abilities as well as the ability it has shown to enhance the liver's detoxification enzymes.
Health Promoting Property: Free radical scavenging and detoxification are important considerations for the general maintenance of wellness, cumin's contribution to wellness may be even more farther reaching.
Dr. Smita Kumari
Deptt. of Rachna Sharir
Dayanand Ayurvedic College, Jalandhar.