Cumin (Jeera /Zeera in Hindi) is a spice indispensable to the Indian kitchen. It is also a popular ingredient in South Asian, North African and Latin American cuisines.
Cumin is the dried seed of the herb Cuminum cyminum of the Umbelliferae family which includes caraway, parsley, and dill. No wonder then that cumin is often confused with its cousin, caraway.
Seeds excavated at Syrian and Egyptian archaeological sites date the use of cumin to as far back as the second millennium BC. In fact, cumin was used as a preservative in mummification in ancient Egypt. This tiny little seed even finds mention in both the New and Old Testaments of the Holy Bible.
Cumin is not just a ruling ingredient in many kitchens. This tiny seed holds great potential as a health aid in ways mentioned below:
Uses in Aromatherapy:
The main constituents of cumin are the compounds cuminalldyhde and cuminic alcohol which give cumin its distinctive, strong flavor.It's warm aroma is due to its essential oil content. The essential oil of cumin is extracted from dried and crushed seeds by steam distillation. Cumin oil is not used on its own in aromatherapy because it is so pungent; it mixes well with the essential oils of Angelica, Caraway, Camomile and Coriander and can be used in small doses. The essential oils of cumin are good to allay anxiety and decrease stress. They also tone muscles, tissue, and skin.
Cumin is a very good digestive which stimulates the digestive as well as the excretory systems.It contains Thymol which encourages the secretion of digestive enzymes, bile and stomach acids responsible for the digestion of food in the stomach and the small intestine. Cumin is also a carminative- preventing the gas formation, flatulence, and stomachache.
Useful in Treating Piles or Haemorrhoids:
Hemorrhoids are caused by increased pressure on the veins of the anus and the rectum. The pressure results in swelling, pain and even bleeding. Hemorrhoids are a common discomfort in almost 75% of people who suffer from them due to varied reasons: constipation, pregnancy, obesity or a low fiber diet. Cumin is high in fiber. As already discussed, it is a good digestive. It is, thus, very useful in the treatment and prevention of piles. Cumin is also used in Ayurveda to treat severe digestive disorders which result in piles.
Helps you Breathe Easy:
The richly aromatic and pungent oils of cumin make it a great anti-congestive. They work by acting as an expectorant - they eliminate accumulated phlegm and mucus from the upper respiratory tract through coughing and sneezing.
They are also good disinfectants and help fight viral infections like the common cold. Cumin also contains Vitamin C which boosts our immune systems and defends us from toxins and, thus, infections.
A great recipe for cold and cough relief would be to boil one tablespoon of cumin with a small piece of crushed ginger in 2 cups of water. Simmer and then strain. Sip this decoction a few times to soothe a sore throat or to relieve a cold.
Good for Lactation:
Cumin is a boon to lactating mothers. It contains 900mg of calcium and 66.4mg of iron per 100gm. Calcium is an important constituent of milk and iron is essential for the body to make blood - both of which are important when a woman has delivered and is feeding her baby.
The thymol in cumin stimulates glandular secretions. This includes the secretion of milk from the mammary glands after childbirth. Cumin is good for increasing the quantity and the quality of milk in lactating mothers.
Skin Care Aid:
The essential oils of cumin are good anti-fungal agents and are, thus, good disinfectants. They help to prevent microbial and fungal infections of the skin.
The vitamin E in cumin acts as an antioxidant and is beneficial to skin. It can help in keeping the signs of premature aging like wrinkles and age spots at bay. A face pack made of finely ground cumin and turmeric in the ratio of 1:3, added to honey or yogurt and applied to the face gives you glowing skin. Just keep the pack on till it dries and washes off gently with warm water.
The iron in cumin helps in the production of Haemoglobin, the protein in the blood that carries and transports oxygen to the cells throughout our bodies. Cumin makes a good supplement in treating anemia or inadequacy of red blood cells.
Protects our Kidneys:
Cuminaldehyde, thymol, and phosphorus which are present in cumin are good detoxifying agents. They help to remove toxins from the body through the excretory system and thus aid our kidneys. Cumin oil also protects kidney tissue from free oxygen radicals which might otherwise damage cellular membranes.
The following are some suggestions to help you to magnify the benefits that you can reap by using cumin
1. Buy organic cumin, free from harmful chemical fertilizer and pesticide residues, untainted by preservatives as well. Do not diminish the goodness of this wonderful little seed.
2. Prefer whole seeds over powdered cumin as they keep fresh longer and cannot be adulterated as easily as the powder.
3. Grind lightly roasted cumin at home and then powder. Keep in a tightly closed bottle to preserve the aroma. If your use of the powder is limited, you can even store it in the freezer tightly sealed.
Sow the seeds of good health and well-being: go for organic cumin right away.