Apr 2 - 8, 20

Cumin is a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae, native from the east Mediterranean to India. Its seeds (each one contained within a fruit, which is dried) are used in the cuisines of many different cultures, in both whole and ground form.

Cumin is a member of the parsley family and cumin seeds resemble caraway seeds. The aromatic seed has a characteristic strong, slightly bitter taste. Traditionally cumin has been used to flavor cheese, unleavened bread, chili, and tomato sauce. Although the small cumin seed looks rather unassuming, it packs a punch when it comes to flavor, which can be described as penetrating and peppery with slight citrus overtones. Cumin's unique flavor complexity has made it an integral spice in the cuisines of Mexico, India, and the Middle East.

Cumin seeds resemble caraway seeds, being oblong in shape, longitudinally ridged, and yellow-brown in color. This is not surprising as both cumin and caraway, as well as parsley and dill, belong to the same plant family (Umbelliferae).

Although, cumin seeds contain a relatively large percentage of iron, extremely large quantities of cumin would need to be consumed for it to serve as a significant dietary source.

Today, this seed of a small flowering herb of the parsley family might not be used quite as much in food preparation as it was 5000 years ago, but it's healing properties are still valued and used in natural and Ayurvedic healing.

Anaemia - Cumin seeds contain a good amount of iron (100g of cumin contain approximately 11.7 mg of iron). Iron is an essential element for the formation of haemoglobin in the blood required for transport of oxygen. Anaemia [lowered levels of haemoglobin in the blood] has always been a concern in women, children, and adolescents. It's a good idea to include jeera in everyday preparations like parathas, curries, cookies, soups, bread, rice, lentil and cheese preparations.

Boils - Externally cumin helps to treat skin problems such as psoriasis, eczema, and dry skin. Beneficial effects are commonly seen in cumin oil. However, adding a dash of ground cumin in your face pack can help you treat skin issues. It can help you get rid of burn marks and wrinkles too. If you are troubled with acne or boils try applying vinegar with ground cumin seeds.

Common cold - Antiseptic properties of cumin can help fight flu, by boosting your immune system. A cup of warm tea [2-3 times a day] boiled with cumin seeds, ginger and honey, can give great relief.

Digestion - One will commonly find people popping in Jeera Goli after meals, as it works well for digestive disorders. Cumin helps control flatulence, stomach pain, indigestion, diarrhea, nausea and morning sickness. In fact, the aroma [due to a compound called cuminaldehyde] activates saliva secretion, which in turn facilitates digestion. Thymol - another compound in cumin - further activates gastric secretion which improves digestion. It can be consumed by boiling one table spoon of cumin seeds in 200 ml of water [later strain the seeds]. 1tsp. of cumin boiled in water mixed with 1 tsp. coriander leaf juice and a pinch of salt can help to control diarrhea.

Fight cancer - Cumin seeds are rich in anti-oxidants like eugenol and limonene, which have strong anti-tumor properties. Recent studies indicate the ability of cumin to reduce the risk of stomach and liver tumors in animals. Black cumin seeds, when combined with garlic, can further boost your immunity. Great taste and flavor makes it a popular spice in every kitchen. Cumin is the most important spice in garam masala. Its distinctive, powerful, and pungent flavor makes it a regular ingredient in many Indian delicacies.

Haemorrhoids or piles - Cumin can be used in the treatment of piles due to its fibre content, anti-fungal, laxative, and carminative properties. The best way to relieve constipation - especially if you are suffering with piles - is to add freshly roasted and ground jeera powder to the flour used for making chapatis.

Insomnia - Some of the components in cumin oil have a tranquilizing effect, hence it can act as a relaxant [It can also relieve headaches].

Jeera helps to strengthen nails and hair, making hair shiny and glossy.

Kidney functioning is improved with the consumption of cumin seeds [increased secretion and discharge of urine].

Lactation - Cumin is a galactagogue i.e. a substance which increases milk flow in nursing mothers (due to the presence of Thymol). Herbal products with cumin should be avoided by pregnant women; they can induce abortion.

Metabolism - If you are feeling cold, opt for some jeera tea or just keep some washed jeera on your tongue. Cumin increases the body heat, making metabolism more efficient.

Nutrient assimilation is usually triggered in the presence of cumin, due to its effect on enzyme secretions.

Oil extract from cumin acts as a stimulant, anti-oxidant, carminative, and diuretic (also useful for hypertensives). It is also used for massage, aroma therapy and scalp treatments [can help you get rid of dandruff].

Pancreatic enzyme secretion is stimulated by cumin seeds. This helps in improving the nutrient absorption in the digestive tract.

Quality check - When opting for cumin, look out for good quality seeds, especially if they are powdered. Cumin doesn't have a long shelf-life in powdered form. Also, watch out for adulteration of cumin powder with sand. Seeds and powder should be stored in tightly sealed glass container in a cool place.

Respiratory system - Black cumin seeds are used as a natural medicine in treating asthma. Studies on compounds from the seed shows that they boost the production of bone marrow, natural interferon, and immune cells, helping to fight diseases.

Symbol of love - In Europe, cumin is considered a symbol of love and fidelity.

Tonic time - Cumin seeds make a great tonic for liver. It boosts the ability of the liver to detoxify the body. In fact, it is a good tonic to boost your memory as well, when consumed with honey.

Ulcers - Gargling with jeera water helps to keep the mouth fresh, heals mouth ulcers, and reduces foul smell. Massaging the gums with ground cumin seeds can also help in preventing bleeding gums.

Vapors of cumin on inhalation can help to relieve sinusitis. [Minimum one table spoon cumin seeds, 3 times a day).

Worms and parasites can be purged by the use of cumin seeds. Anti-microbial properties of cumin help in getting rid of worms in the intestines.

Excellent blood sugar regulator Research has shown that the natural chemicals in cumin reduce blood sugar levels and improve the action of insulin.

Other benefits: Cumin is also beneficial in treating renal coli, weak memory or lack of concentration, insect bites and sting etc.

Cumin is most commonly used to flavor foods and widely available in both seed and powder form. While cumin is a favorite on the spice rack, it has a number of curative properties, which make it a versatile natural medicine. The uses of cumin are practically endless.