Cumin is one of the most popular spices in the world (alongside cinnamon) and is a major flavoring in Indian curries, taco seasoning, and chili. It has a warmth and earthiness about it that makes it a great addition to all kinds of savory dishes.
Of course, like so many other herbs and spices, there's more to cumin than just the flavor it brings to the table. It also has a long history of use for medicinal purposes, dating all the way back to ancient Egypt.
Here's more about this powerful spice, including the top benefits of cumin seed for health and wellness.
All About Cumin Seed
Cumin (Cuminum cyminum) is a plant in the parsley family, which makes it related to vegetables like carrots and celery as well as herbs like parsley, cilantro, dill, and fennel. It's native to the eastern Mediterranean, including countries like India and Syria.
The seeds of the plant are the part most commonly used to flavor food and for medicinal purposes. They have a warm, pungent flavor and feature heavily in the cuisine of many countries.
In fact, cumin is believed to be one of the oldest cultivated herbs, and the seeds are mentioned in the Bible and other ancient texts.
Used to settle digestion and calm respiratory issues, cumin was also once thought to enhance fidelity and was included in an ancient aphrodisiac potion alongside cayenne and honey. (That's one spicy potion!)
Today, cumin seed remains incredibly popular as a spice and is still used medicinally, particularly in the countries where it grows natively.
Benefits of Cumin Seed
The most common use for cumin seed is to aid digestion by stimulating your digestive system and enhancing nutrient assimilation.
Most herbal traditions consider cumin to have a warming effect on the digestive tract, which helps with stagnation and constipation. Cumin is also a carminative, which means it helps to relieve gas and bloating.
By stimulating the digestive process, cumin has a beneficial effect on your liver as well, particularly because it encourages the release of bile (needed to digest fats).
Interestingly, modern studies have confirmed the benefits of cumin seed for digestion and have even found that it may help ease symptoms of IBS. (1)
Rich in Iron and Antioxidants
Cumin seed is very nutritious, despite its small size. It contains various vitamins (vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B6) and minerals (magnesium, phosphorus, manganese).
Where cumin really shines, however, is for its iron content. Just one teaspoon of ground cumin has about 1.4 g of iron, which is 17.5% of the recommended daily amount for adults. This makes is one of the richest known sources of iron!
In addition, cumin is full of antioxidants that help to combat chronic inflammation and may have anticancer properties. (2)
Boosts Metabolism and Fat Burning
Having a healthy metabolism is usually associated with weight loss or weight management, but it's also important for other aspects of health like brain function, energy levels, sex drive, and immune function.
Cumin is one of several herbs for good metabolism that has shown an ability to both increase metabolism and accelerate fat burning. It may also help with weight loss, even if you only take about a teaspoon a day. (3)
Acts as a Galactagogue
One of the most traditional benefits of cumin seed is an ability to promote breast milk supply. This makes it an herbal galactagogue, meaning an herb that can increase your milk supply.
In Ayurvedic medicine, cumin is believed to have this effect because it opens the "pores" of your body, which encourages the flow of milk.
To get the most out of cumin, consume it alongside other foods that increase breast milk supply. This includes "normal" foods like leafy greens and oatmeal as well as other herbs and spices like fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, and alfalfa.
Has Antimicrobial Properties
Today, we most often add herbs and spices to food because they make it taste better. But at one point in time, herbs and spices were used as much to preserve food and keep pathogens from growing as they were to flavor it.
Cumin is a good example of this and has shown antimicrobial properties in studies against specific bacteria and pathogens that cause food-borne illnesses. (4)
Interestingly enough, researchers have also found that when cumin is digested by your body, it releases a compound known as megalomicin, which basically acts as a natural antibiotic to further protect you from harmful bacteria. (2)
Cumin has antispasmodic properties and helps to clear the lungs of congestion and mucus. Traditionally, it has been used to ease asthma attacks and also to dry excessive dampness in the lungs, particularly in the spring.
Cumin seed helps to reduce inflammation as well as relaxing muscles in the respiratory system, which gives it even more potential to help with asthma, an inflammatory lung disorder. (4)
In Ayurvedic medicine, cumin seed is a blood purifier, which means it also helps to cleanse skin by clearing out toxins that may be affecting it. This is mainly due to the bitter quality of cumin and its ability to help open pores.
Cumin is also traditionally used in an Ayurvedic digestive tea known as CCF Tea that cleanses toxins out of your digestive system and helps your body to absorb nutrients better.
The "CCF" stands for cumin, coriander, and fennel (used in equal amounts), which balance each other out to make a tea suitable for all doshas and constitutions.
How to Use Cumin Seed
One of the easiest ways to get the benefits of cumin seed is to simply add it regularly to your food. You can buy cumin as whole seeds or a powder, and either one can be added to curry, taco seasoning, fajitas, eggs, rice, etc.
Or if you prefer, the seeds can be crushed lightly and used to make a detoxifying tea that supports digestion. Use cumin on its own or combine it with coriander and fennel seeds to make your own CCF Tea.
Some people even use cumin powder in their skincare routine as a gentle exfoliator in a facial scrub or face mask recipe.
There are few precautions associated with cumin, and most people can take it safely in food-like quantities. Allergic reactions to cumin are very rare but do occasionally happen.
Theoretically, cumin may interfere with blood clotting or lower blood sugar, so you may wish to consult a professional herbalist or physician before taking large amounts of cumin if you have a medical condition.
Enjoying the Benefits of Cumin Seed
Cumin seed is an ancient spice that has held onto its popularity for thousands of years. Not everyone knows about its health-boosting qualities, but it has many uses for digestion, lung support, and much more.
The next time you enjoy a taco or curry that contains cumin, remember all the benefits you can get from this one spice!
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and should not be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your health care provider, herbalist, midwife, or naturopathic physician before taking herbs, supplements, etc. Here's the link to our full disclaimer.