Cumin has been an integral part of Ayurveda since time immemorial. It is called jeerak in Sanskrit and jeera in Hindi. Cumin has a unique savory flavor and is used as a food ingredient and flavoring agent in many cuisines around the world. While cumin is native to the Middle East and Asia, it is now grown all over the world.
Cumin is an annual herbaceous plant. The cumin plant grows around 20–50 cms (about 8 to 20 inches) tall and is harvested by hand. The inner core of the stem is white and the stem is slender, glabrous, and branched.
Each branch has two or three sub-branches. Since all its branches grow up to the same height, the plant forms a uniform canopy-like shape.
Cumin leaves are hairless, elongated and divided. The leaves are 5 to 10 cms (about 2 to 4 inches) long.
Its flowers are small in size and white or pink in color. The flowers are arranged in umbels which means it is shaped like an inverted umbrella.
The fruit is oval in shape and is achene. This means it comes under the category of dry fruits or nuts. Its fruit is 4–6 mm long. It contains one single seed.
Cumin seeds have eight ridges with oil canals. They are oblong in shape, longitudinally ridged, and yellow-brown in color.
Botanical Name: Cuminum cyminum
Botanical Family: Umbelliferae
Sanskrit Synonyms With Meanings
Jeerak: This word means that cumin has a wide range of effects in the body due to its qualities. It is also beneficial for many health conditions.1
Ajaji: This word indicates that it treats low digestive fire.1
Jaran: It aids in digestion.2
Deergh jeerak: Its seeds are larger and bigger in size.2
Ayurvedic Properties Of Cumin
Rasa or taste: Katu or pungent
Guna or qualities: Laghu or light, ruksha or dry
Virya or potency: Ushna or hot
Vipaka or taste conversion after digestion: Katu or pungent
Effect on dosha: Due to its ushna virya or heatt potency, it is Kapha Vata shamaka which means it pacifies Kapha and Vata dosha and Pitta vardhaka which means it increases Pitta dosha.3
Parts used: Seeds.4
Dosages according to Ayurvedic text Dravyaguna Vijnana (Ayurvedic Herbology): 3 to 6 grams.4
Popular Ayurvedic Cumin Formulations4
- Jirakadi modak
- Jirakadya churna
- Jirakadya taila
- Jirakadya arishta
Cumin Benefits + Cumin Uses According To Ayurveda
In the Charaka Samhita, cumin is included under shoola prashamana maha kashaya. Shoola prashamana maha kashaya is a group of herbs which are helpful in relieving pain.5
According to the Dravyaguna Vijnana, local application of cumin as a paste or cumin-infused water may used in the following health conditions.
- Reducing swelling
- Relieving pain.
- In problems related to discoloration of the skin.
- In skin conditions like itching and scabies.
- For hemorrhoids/piles both topically and orally. When given orally for piles or hemorrhoids, cumin seeds are roasted and crushed into a powder. This powder is then given along with honey.
- Fine cumin powder is used as kohl (mascara).
- It is applied as a paste to treat scorpion stings.
- It helps in disorders related to loss of taste.
- It increases digestive fire (Pitta) and is helpful in treating low pitta symptoms.
- Cumin has carminative properties and relieves flatulence.
- Worm infestation
- Detoxifying the blood
- Cumin has stimulant properties.
- It has diuretic properties.
- It is helpful in relieving inflammation of the uterus.
- It is a galactagogue
- It is useful in postpartum care as it cleanses the uterus, increases milk production, and increases strength and stamina.
- It is a natural aphrodisiac due to its hot potency.
- It is helpful in fevers both acute and chronic.
- It is useful in Kapha and Vata disorders.
- It is helpful in relieving nausea.
- Abdominal pain
- IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
- Cardiac problems
According to Chakra Dutt, cumin has the following uses and benefits.
- It is helpful in visham javar. Visham javar can be correlated to malaria. Cumin seed powder is mixed with jaggery and given for visham javar.
- It also relieves poor digestion and symptoms of Vata disorders.
- It is helpful in relieving pain from scorpion stings. Fine cumin powder mixed with a bit of ghrita (ghee) or clarified butter and saindhava lavana or rock salt is warmed and applied onto scorpion stings.6
According to Shodhal, it is helpful in Vata Kaphaja javara or fever caused by Vata and Kapha disorders.6
According to Vrind, it is helpful in relieving amla-pitta symptoms. Amla-pitta symptoms are closely related to acidity. A coarse paste made from cumin seeds and coriander is cooked in ghrita and the mixture is consumed daily for relief from acidity, low digestive fire, and other Vata and Kapha related disorders.6
The major compounds occurring in cumin are cuminaldehyde, limonene, α- and β-pinene, 1,8-cineole, o- and p-cymene, α- and γ-terpinene, safranal, and linalool.
Several nutrients (vitamins, amino acids, protein, and minerals), starch, sugars, and other carbohydrates, tannins, phytic acid, and dietary fiber components have also been found in cumin seeds.7
Cumin seeds contain a volatile oil around 2 to 4 % which is responsible for its unique fragrance and flavor.3
Scientific Research On Cumin7
Clinical studies performed on cumin seeds have demonstrated the following properties.
Cumin has antioxidant properties. Cumin products like oils as well as their aqueous and solvent derived extracts have shown significant antioxidant activity in several test methods.
It has the ability to kill hydroxyl radicals and lipid peroxides. Their high antioxidant activity has been attributed largely to the presence of monoterpene alcohols, linalool, carvacrol, anethole, estragol, flavonoids, and other polyphenolic compounds.
The antioxidant activity of cumin has been theorized as the underlying mechanism for its multifaceted pharmacological effects such as antimicrobial, antidiabetic, anticarcinogenic or antimutagenic, antistress, and antiulcerogenic.
Cumin has antimicrobial properties.
It has antimicrobial properties. Many investigations have revealed a potential antimicrobial activity of cumin products like oils and their aqueous and solvent derived extracts.
Its antibacterial action has been tested against a range of pathogenic gram-positive and gram-negative bacterial strains.
Cumin seed oil and alcoholic extract have shown to inhibit the growth of Klebsiella pneumoniae. This property has been attributed to cuminaldehyde present in cumin.
Limonene, eugenol, pinene and some other minor constituents have been theorized to contribute to the antimicrobial activity of cumin oil. Cumin oil has also demonstrated anti-fungal properties.
Due to its antimicrobial properties, cumin has also been used as a preservative for various food items.
Cumin has anti-carcinogenic and anti-mutagenic properties.
It has anti-carcinogenic and anti-mutagenic properties.
In independent studies, dietary supplementation of cumin was found to prevent the occurrence of rat colon cancer induced by a colon-specific carcinogen. No colon tumors were observed in mice receiving cumin.
Dietary use inhibited forestomach tumorigenesis, uterine cervix tumorigenesis, and hepatomas in mice.
In these studies, the attenuation of carcinogenicity by cumin has been attributed to its potential antioxidative action in the target tissues.
Monoterpenes like anethofuran, carvone, and limonene occurring in cumin oil have specifically been tested successfully for their anticarcinogenic action.
Cumin has anti-diabetic properties. In a glucose tolerance test conducted in rabbits, cumin significantly showed the anti-diabetic activity and reduced the hyperglycemia.
A methanolic extract of cumin seeds reduced the blood glucose and inhibited glycosylated hemoglobin, creatinine, blood urea nitrogen and improved serum insulin and glycogen in diabetic rats.
Oral administration of cumin has also shown improved glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity in non-diabetic animals.
It is helpful in hyperlipidemia. Hyperlipidemia is an associated complication of diabetes mellitus.
Reduction In Body Weight, Tissue Cholesterol, Phospholipids, Free Fatty Acids + Triglycerides
Oral administration of cumin in diabetic rats has also shown notable reductions in body weight, tissue cholesterol, phospholipids, free fatty acids, and triglycerides.
Significant decreases in fat accumulation in diabetic rats with fatty pancreas have also been observed.
Cumin has shown to suppress alcohol and thermally oxidized oil induced hyperlipidemia.
During tests, it showed a decreased aspartate transaminase (AST), alkaline phosphatase (ALP) and γ-glutamyl transferase (GGT) activities and decreased the tissue (liver and kidney) levels of cholesterol, triglycerides and phospholipids and prevented the changes in the composition of fatty acids in the plasma of rats administered with alcohol and /or thermally oxidized oil.
It has immunomodulatory properties. In a study, oral treatment with cumin showed immunomodulatory properties in normal and immune-suppressed animals via modulation of T lymphocytes expression in a dose-dependent manner.
It stimulated the T cells expression in normal and cyclosporine, an induced immune-suppressed response mice.
In stress-induced immune-suppressed animals, the active compound of cumin countered the depleted T lymphocytes, decreased the elevated corticosterone levels, decreased the size of adrenal glands, and increased the weight of the thymus and spleen.
Cumin Use In Central Nervous System Conditions
It is helpful in some central nervous system related conditions.
Administration of cumin oil suppressed the development of morphine tolerance. A study performed on mice showed that cum reversed morphine dependence when given in a dose-dependent manner.
The anti-epileptic activity of cumin oil has also been documented. It decreased the frequency of spontaneous activity induced by pentylenetetrazol or PTZ which is a stimulant and can cause epileptic seizures.
This protective behavior of cumin was measured in a time and concentration-dependent manner.
The oil was found to attenuate seizures induced by maximal electroshock and PTZ in mice.
Cumin oil has also been found to possess significant analgesic action in mice.
It has estrogenic and anti-osteoporotic properties. Cumin seeds are reported to be estrogenic. The presence of phytoestrogens in cumin has been shown and also related to its anti-osteoporotic effects.
In the animals receiving a methanolic extract of cumin, a significant reduction in urinary calcium excretion and augmentation of calcium content and mechanical strength of bones was found.
Animals showed greater bone and ash densities and improved microarchitecture, with no adverse effects like body weight gain and weight of the atrophic uterus.
It is useful for gastrointestinal problems. A study conducted in rats where the rats with aspirin-induced gastric mucosal injuries were given perfusions of an aqueous extract of cumin which showed an increased acid secretion by a cholinergic mechanism.
Aqueous and solvent derived extracts of cumin increased amylase, protease, lipase, and phytase activities.
It has anti-tussive properties. Anti-tussive means helpful in relieving cough. The aqueous extract of cumin was found to be anti-tussive and produced a relaxing effect on a guinea pig’s tracheal chain via its stimulatory effect.
- It has an anti-aggregatory activity. It inhibits platelet aggregation.
- The extracts also inhibit collagen and adrenaline-induced aggregation.
- Acute and subchronic administration of cumin oil decreased WBC count and increased the hemoglobin concentration, hematocrit, and platelet counts. LDL/HDL ratio was reduced to half.
- An aqueous extract of cumin seeds showed protective action against gentamycin induced nephrotoxicity.
- It decreased the gentamycin induced elevated levels of serum urea, creatinine, lipid peroxidation and enhanced the clearance of the drug.
- In some studies, a significant pharmacokinetic interaction of some herbal products from cumin and caraway with anti-tubercular drugs has been observed.
- An aqueous extract derived from cumin seeds produced a significant enhancement of rifampicin levels in rat plasma. This bioenhancer activity was found to be due to a novel flavonoid glycoside isolated from cumin.
- A chemically standardized butanolic fraction of caraway seed enhanced the plasma levels of three anti-TB drugs: rifampicin (RIF), pyrazinamide (PZA), and isoniazid (INH) when co-dosed in combination in rats. The altered bioavailability profile of anti-TB drugs could be attributed to a permeation enhancing the effect of cumin and caraway.
- It’s helpful in weight loss. This study had been performed on 78 overweight people and it showed that cumin is helpful in reducing weight.8
- Aadrash Nighantu, vol. 1, page no.667, by Shri Bapalal Vaidya, Chaukhmbha Bharti Academy, 2016.
- Dravyaguna Vijnana by Aacharya Priyavrat Sharma, Volume 2, page no.365,Chaukhamba Bharati Academy, 2017
- Dravyaguna Vijnana by Aacharya Priyavrat Sharma, Volume 2, page no.366,Chaukhamba Bharati Academy, 2017
- Dravyaguna Vijnana by Aacharya Priyavrat Sharma, Volume 2, page no.367,Chaukhamba Bharati Academy, 2017
- Charak Samhita,Sutra Sathan,4/45, p.no.77, by Aacharya Vidyadhar Shukla and Professor Ravidutt Tripathi , Chaukhamba Sanskrit Pratishthan, 2017.
- Aadrash Nighantu,vol. 1, page no.668, by Shri Bapalal Vaidya, Chaukhmbha Bharti Academy, 2016.
- Johri, R. K. Current Neurology, and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2011.
- Taghizadeh, M, et al. “Effect of the Cumin Cyminum L. Intake on Weight Loss, Metabolic Profiles and Biomarkers of Oxidative Stress in Overweight Subjects: A Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine.