“It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know of wonder and humility.”
– Rachel Carson
A popular spice in a variety of cuisines, Cumin has a long standing use in Ayurvedic medicine as well. This plant is native to Levant (the east Mediterranean) and India. This spice was popularized in the Middle Ages and often used in place of Black Pepper because of his accessibility.
There are several herbs that are known as Cumin. This issue of Herbal Roots zine is focusing on Cuminum cyminum, which is also known as Green Cumin, Jira, and Jiraka. Other Cumins include Black Cumin, Bunium persicum and Caraway, Carum carvi. Both are often used interchangeably with Cumin, though Caraway seems to be a closer match than Black Cumin.
Have you had Cumin before in your meals? If you’ve eaten Mexican, Mediterranean, Indian, Middle Eastern, and/or certain Chinese cuisines then you’ve most likely eaten Cumin.
Let’s have a taste of Cumin to discover his energetics. To do this experiment you will need some Cumin, preferably the fruits (which are commonly called seeds) though powdered will work if that’s all you have in your cabinet. Chew some of the fruits in your mouth and notice the flavors. The first thing you will notice is his bitter taste followed by a bit of pungency. How does your mouth feel? Does it seem to be warming or cooling? Views seem to be divided as to whether Cumin is warming or cooling. Most likely you will notice that Cumin does not seem to dry out your mouth or moisten it further because Cumin is neutral.
Nutritionally, Cumin if full of vitamins and minerals: vitamins, A, C, E, K, thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pyridoxine (B6), calcium, choline, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc. Cumin’s main constituent is his volatile oil, cuminaldehyde.
Medicinally, Cumin is an anodyne, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic, emmenagogue, galactagogue, stimulant and vermifuge. Let’s take a look at what this means…
Cumin is best known as his use as a carminative and herbalists of the past deemed it to be stronger in this action than Caraway and Fennel but due to his disagreeable flavor as a tea, the use of Cumin for this practice fell out of favor. By adding Cumin to our food, we are taking advantage of this medicinal action. As a carminative and antispasmodic, Cumin is often added to a colic tea for babies. Adding Cumin to our food has more advantages than just being a carminative. Cumin is also a vermifuge, helping to kill and expel parasites from the body. Cumin is antioxidant, which means he will protect cells against the effects of free radicals. Being high in iron, Cumin is an important herb for those who are suffering from anemia.
Although Cumin is a mild emmenagogue and may bring on delayed menses, many women find Cumin to help with nausea associated with morning sickness and use it with no ill effects. Pregnant women should not use excessive amounts of Cumin because of his emmenagogue actions. Nursing moms may find Cumin beneficial by increasing their milk flow as he is an excellent galactagogue.
Cumin is also a mild diuretic, stimulating the flow of urine.
Cumin is often used to help fight off the common cold. My first experience with Cumin was back in the early 90’s when a friend of mine added a lot of Cumin to my chicken noodle soup when I was sick. I recovered quickly and have been sold on using Cumin ever since! Cumin is also recommended for coughs and fevers though I do not have any experience with him in this manner.
Studies show that Cumin gives promising results in lowering blood glucose, cholesterol, and triglycerides, increasing bone density and protecting the liver from toxicity.
Externally, Cumin can be applied to bruises and swellings to ease pain and reduce swelling. Dr. James Duke, PhD., studied the properties of Cumin and discovered pain-relieving compounds, four of them combatting swelling and seven that are anti-inflammatory. He lists Cumin as an herb to take for those who are suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, along with other herbs such as Chamomile, Cayenne, Willow, Turmeric, and Sage as well as gentle exercises and massage with herbal oils.
Cumin grows well in the garden but does need a long growing season so start your seeds indoors several weeks before your last frost date. There’s nothing like your own freshly harvested Cumin!
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