Cumin (/ˈkjuːmɨn/ or UK /ˈkʌmɨn/, US /ˈkuːmɨn/; sometimes spelled cummin; Cuminum cyminum) is a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae, native from the east Mediterranean to India. Its seeds (each one contained within a fruit, which is dried) are used in the cuisines of many different cultures, in both whole and ground form. It also has many uses as a traditional medicinal plant.
The English “cumin” is derived from the Old English, from Latin cuminum, which is the Latinisation of the Greek κύμινον (kyminon), cognate with Hebrew כמון (kammon) and Arabic كمون (kammūn). The earliest attested form of the word in Greek is the Mycenaean, ku-mi-no, written in Linear B syllabic script. Forms of this word are attested in several ancient Semitic languages, including kamūnu in Akkadian. The ultimate source is thought to be the Sumerian word gamun.
Cumin is the dried seed of the herb Cuminum cyminum, a member of the parsley family. The cumin plant grows to 30–50 cm (12–20 in) tall and is harvested by hand. It is an annual herbaceous plant, with a slender, glabrous, branched stem which is 20–30 cm (8–12 in) tall and has a diameter of 3–5 cm (1 1⁄4–2 in). Each branch has two to three sub-branches. All the branches attain the same height; therefore the plant has a uniform canopy. The stem is coloured grey or dark green. The leaves are 5–10 cm (2–4 in) long, pinnate or bipinnate, with thread-like leaflets. The flowers are small, white or pink, and borne in umbels. Each umbel has five to seven umbellts. The fruit is a lateral fusiform or ovoid achene 4–5 mm (1⁄6–1⁄5 in) long, containing two mericarps with a single seed. Cumin seeds have eight ridges with oil canals. They resemble caraway seeds, being oblong in shape, longitudinally ridged, and yellow-brown in colour, like other members of the umbelliferae family such as caraway, parsley and dill.
Cumin has been in use since ancient times. Seeds excavated at the Syrian site Tell ed-Der have been dated to the second millennium BC. They have also been reported from several New Kingdom levels of ancient Egyptian archaeological sites. In the ancient Egyptian civilization cumin was used as spice and as preservative in mummification.
Originally cultivated in Iran and the Mediterranean region, cumin is mentioned in the Bible in both the Old Testament (Isaiah 28:27) and New Testament (Matthew 23:23). The ancient Greeks kept cumin at the dining table in its own container (much as pepper is frequently kept today), and this practice continues in Morocco. Cumin was also used heavily in ancient Roman cuisine. In India, it has been used for millennia as a traditional ingredient of innumerable kormas, masalas, and soups, and forms the basis of many other spice blends.
Cumin was introduced to the Americas by Spanish and Portuguese colonists. There are several different types of cumin but the most famous ones are black and green cumin, both of which are used in Persian cuisine.
Today, the plant is mostly grown in China, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Iran, Turkey, Morocco, Egypt, Syria, Mexico, Chile and India. Since cumin is often used as part of birdseed and exported to many countries, the plant can occur as a rare casual in many territories. Cumin occurs as a rare casual in the British Isles, mainly in Southern England, but the frequency of its occurrence has declined greatly. According to the Botanical Society of the British Isles’ most recent Atlas, only one record has been confirmed since 2000.
What is Cumin Essential Oil?
The essential oil of cumin is extracted from its dried and crushed seeds through a process of steam distillation. The oil is colourless, sometimes with a tinge of yellow which, with age, becomes a deeper yellow. The aroma of the oil is very pungent, reminiscent of anise, but with a very spicy, musky note. Cumin is quite popular as a spice all over the world, and it hardly needs any introduction. However, cumin essential oil does. The essential oil of cumin is where all of the good stuff lies. The oil is derived from the seeds but is much more powerful than the actual seeds alone. Whatever the spice does, the oil does better.
Cumin’s distinctive flavour and strong, warm aroma are due to its essential oil content. Its main constituent aroma compounds are cuminaldehyde (a promising agent against alpha-synuclein aggregation) and cuminic alcohol. Other important aroma compounds of toasted cumin are the substituted pyrazines, 2-ethoxy-3-isopropylpyrazine, 2-methoxy-3-sec-butylpyrazine, and 2-methoxy-3-methylpyrazine. Other components include γ-terpinene, safranal, p-cymene and β-pinene.
Cumin essential oil also serves as a rich source of iron, copper, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, calcium, carbohydrates, starch, Vitamin C, A & B1 and glows as a rich dietary fiber.
Chemistry of Cumin Essential Oil
Cumin essential oil consists of numerous chemical compounds and the major ones among them are aldehydes, monoterpenes hydrocarbons and oxygenated sesquiterpenes that include cumin aldehyde, α-pinene, safranol, linalool, thymol, myrcene, limonene, 1-8-cineole, p-menth-3-en-7-ol, p-mentha-1, 3-dien-7-ol, caryophyllene, β-bisabolene, β-pinene, P-cymene, β-phellandrene, D-terpinene, flavonoids, cuminyl alcohol and β-farnesene. It has astonishing medicinal properties and health benefits.
Benefits of Cumin Essential Oil
The health benefits of Cumin Essential Oil can be attributed to its properties as anti-diabetes, antioxidant, antiseptic, anti-spasmodic, bactericidal, carminative, detoxifier, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, nervine, relaxant, stimulant and tonic.
Cumin essential oil has anti-diabetic and anti-glycating properties that assist in treating diabetes and its other associated symptoms. Certain studies on this regard state that rabbits when treated with Cumin essential oil exhibited a significant reduction in the blood glucose level and inhibited blood urea nitrogen along with inducing pepsin digestion and improvement in insulin and glycogen in tissues. The anti-glycating property of Cumin essential oil delays the onset of cataract due to diabetes. It also lowers the cholesterol, fatty acids, triglycerides and phospholipids thus creating a protective shield on the liver, pancreas and the kidneys by lowering the level of toxic substances.
Cancer has now turned as an unavoidable life threat for the whole of humanity. The presence of flavonoids, monoterpene alcohols and linalool make Cumin essential oil an effective extinguisher of free hydroxyl radicals and lipid peroxides that play a major role in oxidation that initially targets in the single cellular death and when left unattended it may lead to fatality. With its rich antioxidant property, Cumin essential oil is widely employed in preventing cancer and other health hazards caused due to cellular oxidation. A 2011 study on the numerous healing attributes of Cumin seed as published in PubMed states that no colon tumors were observed in the rats provided with a dietary supplementation of Cumin, in spite of being subjected to a colon specific carcinogen. Along with this, Cumin seed oil decreases the activity of β-glucuronidase and mucinase enzymes that functions in liberating toxins and enhancing the hydrolysis of protective colonic mucus, either of which leads to the onset of colonic cancer.
The antiseptic properties of Cumin essential oil do not let the external and internal cuts and wounds become septic. Cumin seed oil has an age old history of being applied on wounds, acne, boils and stitches for its antiseptic quality and quick healing attribute.
This oil has very effective anti-spasmodic properties. It can be used in treatment for nearly all sorts of spasms and associated troubles such as cramps, convulsions, non-stop coughs, pains, and cramps.
Cumin essential oil is a good bactericide that can be used in the treatment of diarrhea and cholera, which are caused by bacteria. Furthermore, it can cure internal bacterial infections like those in the colon, stomach, intestines and urinary tract, as well as external infections on the skin, ears, eyes, and in wounds.
Cumin essential oil has strong carminative properties and effectively drives away gases from the intestines. It also prevents any further formation of gases.
Cumin essential oil is an efficient detoxifier. It removes toxins, including those which are produced by the body, such as some excess hormones and metabolic byproducts, as well as those which get into the blood stream through food, such as uric acid, insecticides, synthetic colors, and fertilizers. It promotes sweating and urination, thereby removing the toxins with them.
Cumin essential oil aids in digestion, but should be taken in low doses. High doses can do the exact reverse and can also make you vomit. The oil also promotes the discharge of bile and gastric juices, and stimulates peristaltic motion of the intestines. Its smell acts as an appetizer to stimulate your appetite. The process of digestion starts in the mouth. Cumin aldehyde, the prime aromatic compound of Cumin seed oil triggers the salivary glands in the mouth that results in the proper secretion of saliva with good PH value.
Cumin essential oil increases urination, both in frequency and in quantity. This may sound not that important, but it can be very beneficial for health. Along with urine, fats are lost from the body, up to 4% of the volume of urine. Therefore, it is obvious that the more you urinate, the more fat you lose. Urination also promotes digestion and keeps gas from forming. It removes excess water from the body and reduces swelling. Its biggest contribution is that it helps to remove toxins from the body. What’s more, it also reduces blood pressure. That is the reason that most drugs for lowering blood pressure induce frequent urination. Urination also helps to clean out the kidneys.
As a natural stimulant, Cumin essential oil induces and regulates the secretion of hormones and enzymes especially in women. Flavonoids and monoterpenes present in this oil have an estrogenic effect that corrects hormonal imbalances and cures blocked menses and irregularities in the menstrual cycle. It increases the estrogen levels and strengthens the uterus and ovary which in turn has a positive effect in increasing the immunity. The phytoestrogens in Cumin seed oil strengthens the bones by reducing the urinary calcium excretion and increasing the calcium content in the body thus helping in dealing with osteoporosis after menopause.
Cumin essential oil helps in treating common cold, bronchitis, asthma, coughs and other respiratory tract infections, which are caused by excess of kapha dosha causing phlegm and mucus deposits to block the nasal passages, bronchial tubes and the respiratory tract. Being an antimicrobial agent it kills the harmful viruses and bacteria that cling onto the respiratory tract and its kapha-lowering and expectorant qualities help in loosening even thick deposits of mucus and phlegm thus relieving from cold, cough, bronchitis and other respiratory infections.
Cumin essential oil is good for the nerves and helps to cure nervous disorders such as convulsions, anxiety, and stress.
Cumin essential oil is a natural relaxant and with its unique aroma, this oil instills a calming effect on the mind and it acts as an effective stress reducer. The presence of rich nutrients and other therapeutic chemical constituents make Cumin essential oil a powerhouse of energy that reinforces your mind and relaxes your body and results in sound sleep. Studies have also proved that Cumin essential oil possesses anti-stress and memory enhancing activity, making it a must for students with poor memory and weak intellectual skills.
Cumin seed and its essential oil have thymol, which acts as an effective stimulant in inducing the secretion of milk and increasing the quantity and quality of mother’s milk thus proving beneficiary for both the lactating mother and the baby. As a natural source of iron, manganese and zinc, Cumin seed oil helps in transporting oxygen and nutrients to all parts of the body through blood and increases the immunity power of women. It also stimulates the digestive and excretory system and keeps them in order.
Cumin essential oil tones up muscles, tissues, and skin, as well as the various systems functioning inside the body, such as the respiratory, circulatory, nervous, digestive, and excretory systems. This tonic effect helps to retain your youth for a long.
Uses of Cumin Essential Oil
What’s not to like about cumin? Here are some suggestions to get you started on this super-powerful essential oil.
- Dilute and massage onto areas of concern to support the circulatory system.
- Using 3 drops of Cumin essential oil blended with 1.5 ml of sesame oil for massaging your abdomen, aids in stimulating Agni or the digestive fire that helps in alleviating flatulence, indigestion, dyspepsia, diarrhea, intestinal spasms, gastrointestinal infections, colic in infants, nausea and morning sickness due to indigestion.
- Add a drop to your favorite tea for digestive support.
- Add a drop to your DIY Inhaler or diffuse for respiratory support.
- Add 2 drops of Cumin essential oil in warm bathing water or in diffuser for enhancing your appetite and soothing your stomachic disorders.
- Add a drop to your moisturizer or hair care products.
- Open the bottle and inhale to boost the appetite.
- Diffuse 3-4 drops for emotional balancing and a confidence boost. Add in a positive affirmation.
- Inhaling the healing aroma of Cumin essential oil by adding 2 drops of this oil in burner, vaporizer or diffuser helps in controlling blood sugar levels, which is done when the aromatic molecules of this oil reach the limbic system and pituitary gland, the control center of the body by passing on the therapeutic properties of this oil to the entire system.
- Dilute and apply topically to help post-workout soreness.
- Spice up your stews, soups, or curries with 1-3 drops of cumin.
- A decoction of the seeds is good for the deafness that often comes after a bad virus flu infection. Boil a good 15 ml (1 heaped tbsp) of the seeds in 600 ml (1 pint) water for 15 minutes. Leave to cool, then strain. Insert a little of the liquid in the ear and repeat a few times a day. Massage behind the ear and on the neck with a mixture of 5 ml (1 tsp) wheatgerm oil and 4 drops cumin essential oil.
- For a tisane, crush 5 -10 ml (1 – 2 tsp) cumin seeds slightly, and infuse in 600 ml (1 pint) boiling water for 5 minutes. Drink warm after meals, adding honey if desired.
- Cumin is most successful for cellulite. Mix 15 ml almond oil, 2 drops wheatgerm oil, 8 drops cumin essential oil and 3 drops orange or lemon oil together and use to massage legs, thighs, and tummy area.
- Cumin can be bought whole or ground; buy the latter in small portions as the aromatic essential oils fade quickly. To bring out the flavour of the seeds and make them nuttier, toast them quickly in a hot dry pan, this is a common appetizer and digestive in the Middle East.
- Massaging your body with 20 drops of Cumin essential oil mixed with 10 ml of Virgin Olive oil helps in lessening the effects of free radicals and curbs the spread of cellular damage by penetrating through the skin and reaching every cell in the system.
- Mix 2 drops of Cumin essential oil with 1 ml of jojoba oil or your mild skin care cream and lotion and apply it on the skin for improving your complexion, fighting against aging symptoms like wrinkles, healing wounds and curbing the growth of microbes, which causes acne and other skin infections.
- Add 4 drops of Cumin essential oil in warm bathing water or massage your body with 20 drops of Cumin essential oil mixed with 10 ml of coconut oil for effective detox cleansing.
- Add 2 drops of Cumin essential oil in steam inhalation followed by a warm and gentle massage with the decongestant ointment blended with 2 drops of this oil on the chest, throat and back can help in relieving nasal congestion, cough, sore throat and breathing difficulties.
Precautions for Cumin Essential Oil
Cumin essential oil shows photo-toxicity when exposed to sunlight and should therefore not be exposed to sunlight after external application. It should be used in low or mild doses because the very strong smell can cause headaches and nausea. Pregnant women should avoid using this oil as well.
Blending for Cumin Essential Oil
Cumin essential oil blends well with the essential oils of Angelica, Caraway, Camomile, and Coriander.