Cumin (Cuminum cyminum L) is a leafy plant that grows low to the ground in China, India, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean region. The fruit of the plant is called the cumin seed, and it’s popular all over the world as a spice. Cumin has become the subject of medical research, as anecdotal evidence claims it has all kinds of health benefits.
Most of cumin’s claimed benefits have to do with your digestion, immune system, and circulation. Some benefits of cumin can be demonstrated with clinical studies, while some remain hard to prove.
Cumin seeds contain naturally-occurring substances that work as antioxidants. That means that these substances (called apigenin and luteolin) keep the tiny free radicals that attack healthy cells from being successful. Antioxidants help you feel healthier and more energetic, and they help keep your skin from looking aged.
Has anticancer properties
Cumin appears to have the ability to keep cancer cells from multiplying, according to some experiments. In one study, rats that were fed cumin were protected from colon cancer. Researchers in another study found that out of nine popular herbs and spices, basil and cumin were the most powerful anticarcinogen plants.
May help treat diarrhea
Traditional medicine practitioners have recommended cumin for the treatment of diarrhea for centuries. Western medicine is starting to catch on to this benefit of cumin.
An extract of cumin seeds was given to rats that were experiencing diarrhea. Researchers concluded that the extract helped to cure their symptoms.
Helps control blood sugar
Diabetic animals in lab studies were also found to benefit from consuming cumin. It’s generally accepted that cumin oil is a hypoglycemic agent.
Fights bacteria and parasites
The oil extracted from cumin seeds has been used as an effective larvicide and antiseptic agent. The oil even kills strains of bacteria that are resistant to other antiseptics. Researchers believe that cumin could help kill harmful bacteria that’s trying to attack your immune system. This may explain why cumin has been used as a preservative in food for centuries.
Has an anti-inflammatory effect
The active ingredients in cumin seeds have an anti-inflammatory, antiseptic effect. This means that if you have pain or inflammation that trigger other conditions, cumin in your diet may counter the effects.
The essential oil of cumin alone wasn’t found to have anti-inflammatory properties. But the cumin seeds themselves worked to reduce pain and inflammation in a laboratory study done on rats.
May help lower cholesterol
A hypolipidemic is a substance that helps your body control high levels of fats that hurt your heart and cholesterol levels. Cumin is considered to have hypolipidemic properties.
Aids in weight loss
Several group studies have looked into ways cumin can help you lose weight. More research is needed, but results of these studies is promising. Overweight women that were given cumin powder and ate a healthy diet showed improvement in their weight and vital statistics. Another study showed that a mixed population of overweight men and women saw improvement in their weight equal to taking a popular diet pill.
Improves symptoms of IBS
Researchers have evaluated cumin extract for treating the cramps, digestive spasms, nausea, and bloating associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Cumin extract was able to treat these symptoms for as long as participants were consuming it in one study. It’s so effective that researchers hope cumin might be an effective replacement for people who cannot afford expensive prescription drugs to treat their IBS.
Cumin can help your body by stimulating your central nervous system to be more effective. This can result in a sharper memory and greater control over your limbs. Cumin might even be able to help treat Parkinson’s disease because of its contribution to the body’s central nervous system function.
Risks and side effects
Cumin is considered to be highly safe and generally nontoxic, even in larger doses. But there are some side effects to be aware of if you would like to use it. The typical dose of cumin as an herbal supplement is 300 to 600 milligrams per day.
Researchers have found evidence that cumin suppresses testosterone levels, which means it could make men less fertile if they’re taking it. Cumin has been used by some cultures as a substance to trigger miscarriage, so women that are pregnant or trying to become pregnant should keep that in mind.
Cumin is an incredibly flavorful spice that can be used in many heart-healthy, low-cholesterol recipes. It’s relatively easy to add to entrees, grains, and side dishes for a rich, flavorful dose of cumin. Cumin-crusted salmon is one easy dish. Cumin, paprika, coriander, cilantro, and fresh lemon combine to give baked salmon a spicy kick.
Another option is lemon-cumin rice with chopped onions. This dish is simple and involves preparing rice as you usually would and adding cumin seeds and canola oil into the rice when it’s nearly done cooking. You can even make your own fresh cumin by purchased cumin fruit from the supermarket and drying out the seeds by roasting them in the oven.
For all of its proven benefits, cumin has very few contraindications or risk factors. And in addition to the benefits that are established by current literature, even more benefits of cumin may soon become apparent. Improving blood quality, bone density, and sperm count are just some of the areas in which researchers have done animal studies that seem to show cumin is a valuable supplement.
Always consult with your doctor before embarking on a new herbal supplement routine. Make sure to follow the dosing instructions on any commercial cumin products that you buy.