Throughout the world, cumin is second in popularity only to black pepper. Americans tend to use it mostly for chili, but its pungent flavor is a must in Indian, Mexican, Asian, Northern African, Middle Eastern and Latin American cooking. It is gaining popularity here in America as various international dishes become more commonplace in our kitchens, and our tastes for Mexican foods increase, as both salsa and tacos are heavily seasoned with cumin.
Cumin is mentioned in Isaiah xxvii. 25 and 27, and Matthew xxiii. 23, and in the works of Hippocrates and Dioscorides. From Pliny we learn that the ancients took the ground seed medicinally with bread, water or wine, and that it was accounted the best of condiments. The seeds of the Cumin when smoked, were found to occasion pallor of the face, whence the expression of Horace, exsangue cuminum, and Pliny tells us that the followers of the celebrated rhetorician Porcius Latro employed it to produce a complexion such as bespeaks application to study.
Cumin also symbolized cupidity among the Greeks: Marcus Aurelius was so nicknamed because of his avarice, and misers were jocularly said to have eaten Cumin.
In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, when it was much in use as a culinary spice, its average price in England per lb. was 2d., equivalent to 1s. 4d. at the present day.
The cumin seeds should be sown in small pots, filled with light soil and plunged into a very moderate hot bed to bring up the plants. These should be hardened gradually in an open frame and transplanted into a warm border of good soil, preserving the balls of earth which adhere to the roots in the pots. Keep clear of weeds and the plants will flower very well and will probably perfect their seeds if the season should be warm and favorable.
The plants are threshed when the fruit is ripe and the ‘seeds’ dried in the same manner as Caraway.
The strong aromatic smell and warm, somewhat bitter taste of Cumin fruits are due to the presence of a volatile oil which is separated by distillation of the fruit with water, and exists in the proportion of 2 to 4 percent. It is limpid and pale yellow in color, and is mainly a mixture of cymol or cymene and cuminic aldehyde, or cyminol, which is its chief constituent.
The tissue of the fruits contains a fatty oil with resin, mucilage and gum, malates and albuminous matter, and in the outerseed coat there is much tannin. The yield of ash is about 8 per cent.
Health Benefits of Cumin
The health benefits of cumin include the following:
Digestion: Cumin is extremely good for digestion and related problems. The very aroma of cumin, which comes from an aromatic organic compound called Cuminaldehyde, the main component of its essential oil, activates our salivary glands in our mouth, which facilitates the primary digestion of food. Next is thymol, a compound present in cumin, which stimulates the glands that secrete acids, bile and enzymes responsible for complete digestion of the food in the stomach and the intestines. Cumin is also Carminative, which means that it relieves from you from gas troubles and thereby improves digestion and appetite. Due to its essential oils, magnesium and sodium content, cumin promotes digestion and also gives relief for stomach-aches when taken with hot water.
Piles: The main cause behind piles (hemorrhoids) is constipation added with infections in the wound in the anal tract, which are also caused by constipation. Cumin, because of its dietary fiber content and carminative, stimulating, antifungal and antimicrobial properties, acts as a natural laxative in powdered form. These characteristics are due to the presence of essential oils comprised mainly of Cuminaldehyde and certain pyrazines. Adding cumin to your diet also helps in healing up of infections or wounds in the digestive and excretory system and speeds up digestion as well. That pretty much means that cumin clears up all of the symptoms and causes of hemorrhoids, so keep that it mind when you start itching!
Insomnia: This is a very peculiar property of cumin. It is a stimulant as well as a relaxant at the same time. This property cannot be attributed to a single component alone, just as causes of insomnia cannot be attributed to a single cause. However, studies show that the proper intake of vitamins (particularly B-complex) and good digestion help to induce a sound sleep. Cumin helps in both of these factors. Some of the components of cumin essential oil are hypnotic in nature and have tranquilizing effects, which also help to relieve stress and anxiety that commonly causes insomnia.
Respiratory Disorders, Asthma, Bronchitis: The presence of caffeine (the stimulating agent), and the richly aromatic essential oils (the disinfectants) make cumin an ideal anticongestive combination for those suffering from respiratory disorders such as asthma and bronchitis.
Common Cold: The common cold is a viral infection which affects our body frequently when our immune system becomes weakened or vulnerable. Again, the essential oils present in cumin act as disinfectants and help fight viral infections which can cause the common cold. Cumin also suppresses the development of coughing in the respiratory system since it dries up the excess mucus. Cumin is rich in iron and has considerable amount of vitamin-C, which are essential for a healthy immune system and keeps infections from forming or becoming worse. Vitamin-C is also a natural antioxidant, so it defends against other infections and toxins as well, further boosting the immune system.
Lactation: Cumin is rich in iron and thus very good for lactating mothers as well as for women who are undergoing menses or who are pregnant, since they are more in need of iron than others. Moreover, cumin is said to help ease and increase secretion of milk in lactating women due to the presence of thymol, which tends to increase secretions from our glands, including milk, which is a secretion from the mammary glands. Also, cumin is more beneficial if taken with honey. Cumin has remarkable amount of calcium (more than 900 mg per 100 grams) which accounts for over 90% of our daily requirement of calcium. This calcium is an important constituent of milk and hence cumin is very good for lactating mothers.
Anemia: As stated above, cumin is very rich in iron (more than 66 mg. in every 100 grams) which is more than 5 times the daily requirement of iron for an adult. This iron is the main constituent of hemoglobin in the red blood corpuscles of blood. It is hemoglobin which transfers oxygen (as the oxide of iron) to the body’s cells and whose deficiency causes anemia. So, cumin can be a nutritious additive to daily diet for anemic people and avoid the symptoms of anemia like fatigue, anxiety, cognitive malfunction, and digestive issues.
Skin Disorders: Almost everyone knows that vitamin-E is good for the maintenance of skin and the prevention of premature aging symptoms. It keeps the skin young and glowing. This vitamin is also present in abundance in cumin. The essential oils present in cumin have disinfectant and antifungal properties. This prevents any microbial and fungal infection from affecting the skin.
Boils: Boils are outlets for the removal of toxic substances and foreign matters such as microbes from the body. This means that they are symptoms which show that a high amount of toxic substances have accumulated in the body. In this way, cumin can help you a great deal. Those who regularly use cumin in food have a significant reduction in the occurrence of boils, rashes, pimples, and other signs of excess toxin content. Components such as cuminaldehyde, thymol, and phosphorus are good detoxifying agents which help in the regular removal of toxins from the body. The healthy way of removing toxins is through the excretory system, not through boils.
Immunity: As discussed above, an abundance of iron, the presence of essential oils, vitamin-C, and vitamin-A in cumin boosts our immune system in a number of ways.
Cancer: Cumin itself has detoxifying and chemopreventive properties, and accelerates the secretion of detoxifying and anticarcinogenic enzymes from the glands, as it also does to other secretions. Furthermore, it has beneficial antioxidants like vitamin-C and vitamin-A within its chemical makeup, in addition to those essential oils. Besides having countless other benefits, the antioxidants have anticarcinogenic properties too, and those found in cumin are particularly good for colon cancer prevention.
Other benefits: Even more? Cumin is also beneficial in treating renal coli, weak memory, lack of concentration, insect bites and painful stings. With all of these benefits, how could you say no? Add some cumin to your diet as soon as you can!