Cumin-Cuminum Cyminum, Nigella Sativa
Also known as: white cumin, black cumin
Parts used: seeds
Meridians/Organs affected: liver, spleen, nervous system, heart, digestive
Properties: carminative, stimulant, antispasmodic, galactogogue, tonic, antiseptic, antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-diabetic, aphrodisiac
Cumin is a member of the Carrot family (Umbellifereae). It is a small semi-hardy annual that gets between 6-12 inches tall at most. It has blue green leaves that divide into thread like segments. It has umbel-shaped flowers that can be white or lilac in color and are followed by ribbed green fruits that contain brown seeds that are often mistaken for caraway as they are similar in appearance. It is usually found growing wild in disturbed places in the Mediterranean although it is cultivated there as a crop now as well. It is also grown in Africa, Malta, the Americas and the Middle East.
Cumin is a native to the Nile in Egypt, and has been part of that culture since long before Christ's time. Cumin seeds have actually been found buried with pharoahs in the tombs of Egypt. It was mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments along with mint and dill as items of tithing. It was used by the Hebrews as an antiseptic for circumcisions. Some of the earliest uses were to keep poultry from going bad and as a spice for vegetables and meats. Pliny said that it was the 'best appetizer of all condiments'.
The Greeks thought of cumin as a symbol of selfishness as people became so stingy they even started dividing up their cumin seeds. It was used by the Romans to spice their olive oil and in sauces for fish, bread and a type of cake they used as a digestive aid after meals. They also used it as a substitute for pepper. In Christ's time it had become such a valuable commodity that it could be traded for payment of taxes.
Dioscorides said it was one of the best spices for the digestive system and to relieve flatulence. It also was well known to heavy drinkers and overeaters to help with congestion and as an aid in returning people to their 'normal' selves. Pliny even said that some of his students had used the whitening effects of cumin to make him think they had been over worked in class. (Obviously students back then also tried to pull a fast one on the teachers to get out of doing school work).
In the 'History of Drugs' (1694), Pierre Pomet said that cumin was great for rheumatic complaints when used as an essential oil A decoction of the seeds was used for deafness associated with the flu and Dr. LeClerc stated it was excellent for the nervous system and as a general tonic for the heart. Eugene Perrot found that also to be the case in all his studies. (He also found it to be an aphrodisiac.) Cumin is also quite effective for dissolving cellulite and was used as an infusion for this particular malady. If taken after childbirth it helps to increase the flow of breast milk. It is used in Ayurvedic medicine to help improve liver function and digestion.
A recent study conducted in India found that cumin may be helpful for diabetes. Rats were given a diet of 1.25% ground cumin for eight weeks. There was a reduction in hypoglycemia and glucosuria (when the urine contains too much glucose). Research has also found it beneficial for diarrhea. Cumin stimulates the liver to secrete bile which helps to break down fats and assist with better digestion (healthy intestinal flora make it much easier to avoid bowel issues). In this particular study cumin increased the bile flow in rats by 71%!
There are two types of cumin spice: black cumin, which is very rare and expensive, and white cumin, which can be purchases virtually everywhere. Black cumin (Nigella Sativa) has more medicinal value for rheumatic and arthritic conditions but both are considered medicinal overall.
Studies have also found that cumin improves memory and retention of memory in rats. According to these studies, "...it provides scientific support for the anti-stress, antioxidant and memory enhancing activities of cumin extract and substantiates that its traditional use as a culinary spice in foods is beneficial and scientific in combating stress and related disorders".
Whatever the case may be-this herb deserves a second look. It is a main part of curries and garam masala in Indian cuisine and we would be well advised to add it to our diets more often.
As is customary with my posts I am including some links below for your perusal. May they bring you health and wellness!