It’s always fascinating to me to learn about the powerful health benefits of common kitchen spices. We use ground cumin powder when we make chili, tacos, curry, or fajitas (which is often!). In fact, cumin is the star in a whole host of Mexican, Spanish, Middle Eastern, and Indian dishes.
(In the US, cumin is commonly used in packaged taco seasonings, but please … don’t eat those! Make a quick and easy spice mix (listed later in this post) and skip the sodium and fillers found in those little packets.)
Cumin is so much more than just another spice to add to a spice blend. It has a distinct flavor that makes it a favorite for many, but of course its health-supporting properties are impressive too! I always order Cumin in bulk by the pound and keep a quart size mason jar in my spice cabinet for easy use. Here’s why:
A Little History of Cumin
Like cinnamon, cumin enjoys a long and venerable history. In fact, it’s one of the earliest herbs to be cultivated in Asia and Europe.
Originally indigenous to Egypt (the ancient Egyptians actually used it in their mummification process!), this tiny seed of a small plant belonging to the parsley family became popular in ancient Greece and Rome. Interestingly, in the Middle Ages cumin symbolized love and fidelity, and was often featured at weddings or baked into loaves of bread sent with soldiers into battle. It was Spanish and Portuguese colonists who later introduced it to the Americas.
As with most spices, these and other cultures valued cumin not just for its scent and flavor but for its medicinal properties. Traditional texts describe its use as a diuretic, to settle the stomach, and to stop flatulence. Some cultures have used it for female health and to stimulate menstruation.
Like many herbs, cumin can be made into a poultice, especially for swelling or sore throat. I even found a reference to a remedy of mixing cumin and ghee to relieve hiccups!
Benefits of Cumin
This common spice has many uses and benefits as a remedy and has been well-studied for its effects:
Source of Vitamins
Cumin is considered a good source of iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and other minerals. It also contains Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and B6. as well as beneficial amino acids.
Some research shows that it may stimulate the production of pancreatic enzymes and help digestion. In fact, this Cumin Coriander and Fennel Tea is often used in gut soothing protocols for its ability to improve digestion and easy discomfort. This is my go-to for tummy aches and gas at our house.
Good for the Brain
One study found that it was protective against memory loss and the damaging effects of stress on the body. It stimulates the central nervous system which has sparked studies about its potential benefits in Parkinson’s disease patients.
Rich in Antioxidants
Another study evaluated its antioxidant content of and found it more effective than other common antioxidants including vitamin C. Due to it’s high antioxidant content, some lab research has even found that it might have a role in fighting cancer.
May Help Balance Blood Sugar
Yet another study found cumin effective in increasing insulin sensitivity, thus beneficial for diabetics. In fact, a study looked at diabetic rats given cumin extract. It revealed that cumin was more effective at reducing blood glucose and AGE production than glibenclamide, an anti-diabetic drug.
Yet more research found that cumin extract reduced total cholesterol, triglycerides, and pancreatic inflammatory markers in diabetic rats. It even seems to stop excess weight gain.
Still more research found anti-asthmatic properties in cumin since it works as a brochiodiator and can help asthmatic patients. As an expectorant, it works to loosen phlegm and make it easier to remove.
Mark’s Daily Apple posted a great article detailing its benefits. From this article: Oral doses (25, 50, 100, 200 mg/kg) on consecutive days improved the immune response of mice with compromised immune systems due to restraint-induced stress. These effects were marked by a reduction in elevated cortisol and adrenal gland size, an increase in the weight of the thymus and spleen, and replenishment of depleted T cells. There was a dose dependent response, but all doses had beneficial effects.
Help for Colds
Natural remedies for colds often include cumin for its potential ability to speed recovery. It is a rich source of Vitamin C and Iron, both of which can help recovery. The essential oils in cumin also make it helpful for the body in fighting an infection and some people find it offers relief from coughing and sneezing by drying up excess mucous.
TIP: Mix a little cumin powder with a little raw honey for a quick cold remedy.
Weight Loss + Detox
One reason for this potential effect- the liver boosting properties. Cumin protected the livers of rats from ethanol- and rancid sunflower oil-induced toxicity in one study.
Good for Bones
Cumin had anti-osteoporotic effects on rats that rivaled medication without the negative effects. Osteoporotic rats had increased bone density and improved bone microarchitecture. More research is needed but it is generally considered a safe remedy.
Pretty impressive benefits for an herb found in spice packets at the grocery store! If you don’t already use cumin in your cooking, there are many ways to use it!
Many Ways to Use Cumin
This pungent spice has a plethora of culinary uses but it is so much more than just a spice! Try these many uses to get the benefits daily!
There are endless ways to use this spice in the kitchen. It is vital to these spice blends:
But can also be added to omelets and egg scrambles. Or try it as a dry rub on meats before grilling. Sprinkle on veggies before roasting or add to some rice for a taco-flavored rice blend.
Cumin is even great as a stand-alone spice for making tacos, chili or fajitas if it is all you have. I keep a glass jar of it in my spice cabinet.
It may not be the first thing you think of but this spice is also great in skin care recipes. Specifically, it makes an excellent face scrub when mixed with honey. It is naturally antibacterial and lightly exfoliating to scrub away impurities. A rich source of Vitamin E, it also helps the skin repair damage and stay young looking.
It isn’t one of the most common essential oils with its pungent scent, but this essential oil is also a great thing to keep in the remedy cabinet. Diluted, it can be used externally to calm the stomach. Add a drop to a diffuser blend to ease nausea and purify the air.
Add this CCF detoxification tea to your routine for the digestive and weight loss benefits.
Where to buy Cumin
Of course you can purchase this amazing little spice at most grocery stores, but just make sure it is a high quality one. I normally order it here because it’s organic and tastes great!
Cautions and Risks
Cumin is a culinary herb and is generally considered safe and non-toxic even in moderate doses. I add it liberally to food and the taste buds are generally a great guide on the proper amount to consume.
At medicinal high doses there are some potential effects to be aware of. It may decrease testosterone in very large doses so men may not want to consume large amounts for long periods of time. It is used in high doses to start menstruation so caution should be used with large doses in pregnant women as there may be a risk of miscarriage.
Due to the blood sugar, brain and immune effects listed above, anyone with a medical condition should absolutely consult a doctor before using larger than culinary amounts of this spice.
Do you use Cumin? What is your favorite dish or recipe that uses Cumin? Share below!