Cumin scientific name is Cuminum Cyminum, other common names are jeera, safed jeera, jiraka, zira, and kamun. Ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, and China were producers and consumers of cumin. Cumin seeds have been recovered from multiple ancient Egyptian archaeological sites. In one of the oldest ancient Egyptian medical texts, cumin seeds are mentioned as medicine and as indigenous to Egypt.
The seeds were considered a stimulant and effective against flatulence, they were often used together with coriander for flavoring. Cumin powder was mixed with some wheat flour as a binder and a little water was applied to relieve the pain of any aching or arthritic joints. Powdered cumin mixed with grease or lard was inserted as an anal suppository to disperse heat from the anus and stop itching.
It was also a well-known spice to ancient Greeks and Romans, Greeks kept cumin at the dining table, like pepper today. Cumin was regarded as a good substitute for black pepper, which was an expensive import from India. Ancient Romans and Greeks used cumin in cosmetics to create a pale, pallid complexion.
Morphology of the Cumin
Cumin is an annual herb with a smooth surface and long slender root, it has deep green leaves and small flowers, white or rose in color. The plant has aromatic seed-like fruit, commonly known as cumin seed. It is oval-shaped, approximately 6 mm long, and light yellowish-brown in color. It has a peculiar, strong, and heavy odor, the dried seeds form essential ingredients of curry powder. It was one commonly used spice in the Middle Ages.
The cumin oil is extracted by steam distillation from the ripe seed, it is pale yellow in color and acquires a deeper yellow color as it ages. The oil has an overpowering smell and blends well with caraway, angelica, rosemary, and chamomile, the oil is useful in treating muscular aches.
The dried fruit is crushed and subjected to fractional or steam distillation to yield a valuable volatile oil pale yellow in color, which on storage turns dark. The cumin aldehyde present in the volatile oil is easily converted into thymol.
Chemical Constitution of Cumin
An analysis of cumin seeds shows moisture 6.2%, protein 17.7%, fat 23.8%, crude fiber 9.1%, carbohydrates 35.5%, and minerals 7.7% per 100 grams. Their mineral and vitamin contents are calcium, phosphorus, iron, sodium, potassium, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamins C and A. Their calorific value is 460.
Habitat of Cumin
Cumin is a native of Egypt, Syria, Turkey, and the Eastern Mediterranean region. It is now grown in southeast Europe, North Africa, India, and China. It is a cold season crop in the plains and a summer crop in northern India, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh hills.
India is the largest producer, consumer, and exporter of cumin in the world, in 2009-2010 India’s estimated production was 290,000 metric tons, domestic consumption was 100,000 metric tons and global consumption was 187,000 metric tons. Other major producers of cumin are Syria (10,000-20,000 metric tons), Iran (5000-10,000 metric tons), and China (8000 metric tons). Some production takes place in Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Japan, Netherlands, France, Morocco, Syria, and Turkey consume 10% of cumin, and the rest is exported to Europe, the USA, and Latin America.
Health Benefits and Uses of Cumin
The cumin seeds contain carminative, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antibacterial, astringent, antimicrobial, and analgesic properties. It is an emmenagogue and galactagogue, it is used to relieve mild digestive disorders, diarrhea, dyspepsia, morning sickness, colic, dyspeptic headache, and bloated stomach. Cumin is a popular folk medicine in India to ease flatulence.
In Ayurveda, a decoction of cumin seeds in water is given to stimulate the appetite and as a general nutritive tonic to improve heart health and cognitive function and nourish the eyes.
In the Middle East, a decoction of cumin seeds mixed with ginger, basil, and honey is a remedy for cough, cold, and flu. In India, black pepper is added to this mix. Mixing cumin with dried mint leaves helps clear bronchial and nasal passageway, In Arabia, cumin with black pepper and honey for used as an aphrodisiac.
Cumin has been used as a hair rinse, and if first steeped in vinegar, it is said to help fight dandruff, darken, and thicken hair and encourage hair growth. Whole crushed cumin seeds may be macerated in a base oil and applied as a general analgesic, rubefacient, and disinfectant.
The essential oil of cumin is derived from steam distillation, it can be mixed with natural waxes, esters, or base oils to create salves, balms, ointments, or liniments. In Aromatherapy, cumin essential oil may relieve spasms, general muscular discomfort, anxiety, nausea, nervousness, and stress.
Here are some Health Benefits and Uses of Cumin
Cumin seeds are valuable in amnesia or dullness of memory, licking three grams of black cumin seeds mixed with 12 grams of pure honey helps to get rid of in these conditions.
Black cumin ground in water applied as a paste over the boils gives beneficial results.
Dilute cumin water is an antiseptic beverage and very useful in common colds and fevers, to prepare cumin water, a tsp of cumin is added to boiling water, which is allowed to simmer for a few seconds and set aside to cool. If the cold is associated with a sore throat, a few small pieces of dry ginger can be added to the water, it soothes throat irritation.
Cumin seeds are very useful in digestive disorders like biliousness, morning sickness, indigestion, atonic dyspepsia, diarrhea, malabsorption syndrome, and flatulent colic. A decoction of one tsp of cumin seeds boiled in a glass of water and mixed with one tsp of fresh coriander leaf juice and a pinch of salt taken twice after meals is an effective remedy for diarrhea.
Cumin is valuable in relieving sleeplessness, a tsp of fried powder of cumin seeds mixed with the pulp of a ripe banana taken at night induces sleep.
Black cumin is beneficial in treating piles, about 60 grams of the seeds of which half are roasted, are ground together and three grams of this powder should be taken with water.
The problem of Breast Milk Secretion
A decoction of cumin seeds mixed with milk and honey, taken once daily during pregnancy helps in the healthy development of the fetus eases childbirth, and increases the secretion of breast milk.
Black cumin seeds mixed with caraway seeds and black salt are useful in renal colic. About 20 grams of caraway seeds and 6 grams of black salt are ground together and mixed with a little vinegar. This mixture is to be taken in doses of 3 grams every hour till relief is obtained.
Paste of cumin seeds prepared with onion juice applied over scorpion sting retards the frequency of upbeats.
Cumin seeds are extensively used as a mixed spice for flavoring curries, soups, sausages, bread, and cakes. It is an ingredient of curry powder, pickles, and chutneys. To some extent, it is also used in Indian medicine as a carminative.
Side Effects of Cumin
All Ayurveda herbs are plant-based and don’t have any side effects, but they may react with some allopathy or homeopathy medicine. It is better to consult the doctor if you are on any medications or have unique health issues.
Excessive use of cumin could be harmful to pregnant women and could even lead to miscarriage, nausea, and mild stomach upsets.
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